Shyamalan twists, unless you can really pull them off artfully, are a cheap gimmick. They are a bullshit magic trick that gets in the way of real storytelling. Certainly, being surprised by plot elements is great — it is preferable that the audience cannot see what is coming. But more important than clever plot mechanics is the way the story affects the characters — what the narrative does to them, how it changes them, what it teaches them, and what they gain or lose in the process.
I see so many people combing through True Detective and creating these incredibly elaborate theories about the show. While it is very fun (and I have been party to it myself) I think it is largely missing the point. We do all this, in large part, because we have been conditioned by puzzle shows, Lost being the perfect example, to take all the esoteric material we've been given and formulate grand hypotheses, going frame by frame through each episode and making connections the writers didn't even dream of. Do you remember how Lost turned out when it's writers tried to outsmart the audience? They failed miserably. It was an abomination. I would have rather had it be predictable than the bullshit ending they tacked onto that once wonderful show.
True Detective is compelling but it is not trying to fool you. Andrew Romano over at The Daily Beast has an excellent write up about tonight's episode and speculation going forward which includes quotes taken from an interview with show creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto that clearly demonstrate these hyper-driven attempts to extract ultra-secret, enigma-inside-a riddle, clues from each episode and concoct all manner of twisted plot convolutions, while deeply enthusiastic, are a bit misguided. Romano confirms this in his interview with Pizzolatto:
"I've enjoyed reading people theorize about what's going to happen because it's a sign that you're connecting," Pizzolatto told me. "But I'm also sort of surprised by how far afield they're getting. Like, why do you think we're tricking you? It's because you've been abused as an audience for more than 20 years. I cannot think of anything more insulting as an audience than to go through eight weeks, eight hours with these people, and then to be told it was a lie—that what you were seeing wasn't really what was happening. The show's not trying to outsmart you."
It's not The Sixth Sense
"It really isn't. Exactly. I knew the guy was dead as soon as he showed up after being gut shot in the second close. It was the same thing with The Usual Suspects. It was like, "Wait a minute. Don't tell me this whole thing is just a lie. Because if it just a lie, what parts of the movie were true? Maybe none of it. What did we just sit here watching?"
Please remember, the Breaking Bad finale was not all that surprising in terms of plot. Walter White essentially wrapped up all his unfinished business but also paid the ultimate price for his crimes. What was surprising is that Vince Gilligan found the happiest ending for Walter he could in spite of what a monster he became. We were both happy he got the job done and happy that he died. Gilligan didn't try to fuck around with you. He gave you what the story needed.
I imagine True Detective will be the same. If you are looking for Lovecraftian monsters or either Rust or Marty as being one of the killers, I think you are going to be really disappointed. This is a story about deeply flawed men hunting human evil. The city of Carcosa, the Yellow King, all of this stuff is creepy window dressing for the terrible fact that some humans do extremely hideous things to other humans in the name of perversion and power and that the gaping abyss of darkness it creates eats the souls of everyone who looks inside it.
(But if something really crazy happens like we find out that Marty's ex-wife was the cult leader or something, you can come back to this article and post a GIF of Nelson pointing his finger at me and laughing. "Ha ha!" )