Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rust Cohle in True Detective. HBO/Sky Atlantic
"A dream that you had inside a locked room. A dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams there's a monster at the end of it."
These words back in the third episode from detective Rust Cohle neatly summarise the stunning first series of True Detective, and the heady crescendo it reached in the season finale, Form and Void. For eight episodes we've followed Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson's characters in this southern gothic odyssey through the murky swamps of Louisiana, a malarial dream full of darkness and degradation.
Standard Serial Killer
With all the hints of state-wide corruption and unreliable narrators, you might have expected a more show-stopping finale with a sting in the tale. But what was most surprising about the episode was just how simple and straightforward it all was. Writer Nic Pizzolatto might have filled out his canvas with ambitious ideas about savagery in the south, the treatment of women and the hypocrisy of religious institutions; but in the end he was mainly focused on the battle between good and evil, and how two men of different mind-sets can develop a bond over the years
It means that despite all the build-up about Tuttle's schools initiative being related to disappearing children across the state, the big baddie of the season, the Yellow King, is just one psychotic caretaker, played with chilling menace by the aptly named Glenn Fleshler. The episode starts at his ramshackle bayou abode, a serial killer's lair with hallmarks to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs.
North by North West
Watching Hitchcock's classic North by Northwest, there's something undeniably creepy in watching our psycho switch between his natural southern drawl, and the clipped British accents of Cary Grant and James Mason that he impersonates.
The fact that he has sex with his mentally challenged half-sister, and has the corpse of his dad tied up in a shed, are even more repulsive. But perhaps most unnerving is when director Cary Juji Fukunaga employs POV shots from Childress as he looks on at children playing in a field whilst he paints the walls nearby.
It's his paintwork that leaves a trail of sorts for our two detectives, as Hart has a rather contrived epiphany that the "spaghetti monster with green ears" that one child spotted in 1995, actually was green due to a local paint job Childress was involved in. They make their way out to his house, where Rust says he knows it is the right place.
This is all build-up for what is the most breathtaking part of the episode, the near wordless pursuit of Childress by Rust through the labyrinthine old Spanish colonial fort that is Carcosa. It's another summation of the cinematic confidence of the show as we have a six minute sequence of horror-movie tension created by a torturous febrile atmosphere.
Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light's winning.
The only dialogue comes from Childress, as his echoing devil's voice lures Rust in to his Satan's pit, saying, "Come die with me, little priest". Rust reaches the bottom, where above him lies a 'flat circle', before a terrifying vision of a vortex appears. It's a stunning moment, one where, like Rust, I was so swept up in the nightmarish atmosphere that had been created that when childress comes rushing out and stabs Rust, it took me completely off guard.
Rust had pointedly mentioned earlier in the episode that the visions, "never stop, not really," and it would have been no surprise if Childress, the Yellow King, and Carcosa had all stemmed from his demented mind.
But in the end we were served a straightforward action finale as Childress was shot, Rust was stabbed and Marty got an axe to the chest. The fact both survive, and that the loose threads involving Tuttle and what Rust has been up to all these years remain a mystery, is both frustrating and slightly disappointing in its ordinariness. It's an ending which is both ambiguous and formulaic at the same time.
But in boiling it down to its most basic elements, this finale showcased the bromance between Hart and Cohle that lies at the real centre of True Detective. At the very end it's not Hart with his family, or Rust by himself, but the two of them talking outside Lafayette hospital, a bond that even the darkness around them can't break.
Hart's breakdown in front of his family might have felt hastily sketched, but it is enigmatic antihero Rust Cohle who gets closure. His speech to Hart at the end, of being wrong about the finality of death and the warmth he felt of his dead daughter in the darkness when lying in a coma, is a beautifully delivered scene. And their final exchange is so good that it bears repeating here:
Rust: "It's just one story. The oldest."
Marty: "What's that?"
Rust: "Light versus dark."
Marty: "Well, I know we ain't in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory."
Rust: "Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light's winning."
Whilst I've immensely enjoyed True Detective, it's fair to say it never quite reached the dizzying heights its early episodes suggested. It's a show that never felt more than the sum of its parts, spellbinding though some of those parts were. The writing, direction and two lead performances contributed to what will be one of the most memorable shows of 2014, and whoever steps in for McConaughey and Harrelson for season two has some very big shoes to fill indeed.
The opulent five star Hotel Du Palais is the perfect retreat for the heir to the throne.
Jenner, 60, reportedly suffered a broken wrist in an accident near her Californian home on 3 August.
Perry had recently sparked engagement rumours after she was pictured sporting a mysterious band on her ring finger.
And Heavy D's feud with Chloe continues during the shopping task.
Initially glimpsed in concept art at Anaheim's Star Wars Celebration last year, it can now be seen in full.
The last time numbers were this low, R1 switched breakfast DJs from Sara Cox to Chris Moyles.
Actress says high-end fashion brand told her 'you're not the sizes we have'.
Gisele took centre stage at the Rio Olympics open ceremony, which failed to live up to London's 2012 extravaganza.
Biggins was ejected from the show over concerns that his comments may 'cause great offence to the viewing public.'
Hosts Discuss Episode 6 "Church In Ruins"
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Hosts @joeKBraswell @JoeFlipo @JuliaCearley @BenBatemanMedia with special guest @TheJonLindstrom discuss episode 6!
AFTERBUZZ TV -- True Detective edition, is a weekly "after show" for fans of HBO's True Detective. In this episode hosts Ben Bateman, Joe Sanfelippo, Joe Braswell, Julia Cearley with special guest Jon Lindstrom break down episode 6. Engineered as an anthology, each season of True Detective will introduce new cast ensembles, characters, settings, and self-contained narratives. The show's first season is set in Louisiana and follows a pair of Louisiana State Police homicide detectives—Rustin "Rust" Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin "Marty" Hart (Harrelson)—and their pursuit of a serial killer over the course of seventeen years. True Detective 's second season takes place in California, and follows the interweaving stories of several police officers (Farrell, McAdams, and Kitsch) and a criminal-turned-businessman (Vaughn) after the body of a corrupt city manager is found on the side of a highway with occult symbols etched on his chest. Pizzolatto initially conceived the series as a novel, but later, as it began taking definite form, felt it was better suited for television.
For more of your post-game wrap up shows for your favorite TV shows, visit http://www.AfterBuzzTV.com
The two stars are for a) revealing who the birdman was, b) editing: as Ray and Ani start with their depressing pillow talk, that cut to their love making and other sequences overlapping, c) for Nic's attempt to bring back some of that 70's style of filmmaking..and he just came up short this time around.
I must clarify by saying that I really liked the plot, convoluted as it was, it intrigued me certainly. This followed by a 'but the dialogue execution or rather the dialogues seemed messed up' statement is something most people will agree with me. This season had much more commonalities in storytelling terms as Nic's novel Galveston than season 1. Nic's LA corruption and redemption story was too boilerplate neo noir and a mixture of different cinematic styles: Raymond Carver, James Ellroy, David Lynch, Michael Mann's Heat, Clint Eastwood's Mystic River. Again, everything except dialogue and plotting was done exceptionally well.
Omega Station revolved around loss,redemption and retribution. In Ani's word ''a (dark) fairy tale", where almost everyone dies. In that opening scene, where Ani and Ray talk about their past, if you may have noticed they never do so by looking in each other's eye; neither of them trying to seek absolution from each other. Added to this montage were various symbolic shots of Ray kneeling at the end of the bed for a prayer and Ray covering Ani's sleeping form with a blanket.
I have nothing else to write about in this review, other than Ray's final moments:
“Trees. A little place in the rock, in the trees..A cave, that’s how I remember it. It’s like a fairy tale.” Ani's description of her childhood trauma, was a foreshadowing in describing Ray’s last moments as he flees through a redwood forest. This tied up brilliantly, in my opinion.
To conclude, Nic's a talented voice in this genre and maybe failure was necessary for him to hone that voice and become a true auteur and eventual director, I hope that's where the road will ultimately lead.
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Unless you’ve been watching TV under a rock, you probably know that HBO’s dark and gritty True Detective is the best show airing. The series, which may be the most gorgeously shot TV show of all time, follows detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they try to solve a case of brutal murders with occult overtones in Louisiana. The show is fairly unique in having only one director (Cary Joji Fukunaga) and one writer (Nic Pizzolatto). This has allowed the show to be more stylistically daring than even other great HBO shows, and has allowed Pizzolatto to infuse his Southern gothic noir narrative with two literary traditions that rarely make it to the mainstream: weird fiction and pessimistic existentialist philosophy.
Viewers and critics have been puzzling about the strange references to “Carcosa,” “the yellow king,” and “black stars,” as well as Cohle’s rambling depressing comments about the horror of existence and the aberration that is humanity. The former are direct references to a book called The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers that was a huge influence on writers like H. P. Lovecraft. The latter are not, as some critics have said, incoherent freshman dorm-room nonsense. Instead, Cohle’s comments are infused with a strain of existentialist philosophy that runs from Friedrich Nietzsche to E.M. Cioran to Thomas Ligotti.
Below, I recommend readings to understand the mythology and philosophy of True Detective. as well as some other works in the Southern gothic, noir, and/or weird fiction vein that fans might enjoy.MYTHOLOGY The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
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This cult classic of supernatural horror is the source of the cult references on the show. The interlinked stories circle around a fictional play, titled The King in Yellow. which drives its readers insane. There is also a creepy supernatural entity referred to as the King in Yellow and references to the mysterious city of Carcosa. Attentive True Detective fans will recognize those names from the show. Ledoux’s rambling comments about “black stars” and “twin suns” are also taken from the fictional play. The crooked spiral tattooed on the back of the murdered Dora Lange is likely an interpretation of the “yellow sign” of the King in Yellow. This is the center of the weird fiction mythos that haunts the edges of True Detective. (For longer literary analysis of how The King in Yellow relates to True Detective. check out these essays on io9 and ThinkProgress .)The Complete Short Stories by Ambrose Bierce
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Chambers himself borrowed elements from the great American satirist (The Devil’s Dictionary ) and story writer (“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”) Ambrose Bierce. Specifically, he borrowed the names Carcosa and Hastur from his haunting “An Inhabitant of Carcosa ,” which you can read online. It is really only that one story that ties into Chambers’ mythology, but Bierce’s fiction is well worth your time.H. P. Lovecraft: Tales by H. P. Lovecraft
As Chambers borrowed from Bierce, Lovecraft borrowed from both. Lovecraft’s famous Cthulhu mythos was heavily influenced by Chambers. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft, he is the central figure in the genres of cosmic horror and weird fiction. He wrote tales of horrific alien gods, demented cults, insanity, and the horror of the cosmos. (BuzzFeed published an essay on his influence, and his troubling racism, recently .) Although not terribly famous in his life, his influence has grown to cosmic proportions in the greater genre of horror fiction. Everyone from Neil Gaiman to Stephen King counts him as a major influence. King called him “the 20th century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” If you have any interest in the genre, Lovecraft is a must.The Imago Sequence & Other Stories by Laird Barron
Lovecraft’s cosmic horror has been kept alive by a whole school of writers. One of the best, whom Nic Pizzolatto frequently cites in interviews. is Laird Barron. Barron’s dark and haunting fiction also frequently draws on the tradition of hard-boiled detectives and noir that are clear influences on True Detective. The Imago Sequence. his first collection, is a great place to start.PHILOSOPHY The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti
Thomas Ligotti is the bridge between weird fiction and Rust Cohle’s existential philosophy. Ligotti writes both Lovecraftian horror and existential pessimistic philosophy. As I said above, Cohle’s aphorisms are not random ramblings but references to actual philosophers and thinkers, especially Ligotti. At one point, Cohl says, “We became too self-aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.” Compare that to Ligotti in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. “We know that nature has veered into the supernatural by fabricating a creature that cannot and should not exist by natural law, and yet does.” Pizzolatto has talked openly about the influence of Ligotti on Cohle, and noted that, “Next to The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Mickey Spillane seems about as hard-boiled as bubble gum.”The Temptation to Exist by E. M. Cioran
For my tastes, the finest writer of pessimistic philosophy is the great Romanian thinker E. M. Cioran. His aphorisms could easily come out of the mouth of Cohle, such as his famous question “Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?” Cioran viewed existence as fundamentally pointless and urged us to resist the “temptation to exist.” At the same time, Cioran’s writing is very funny and treats life as humorously absurd. Allegedly Cioran’s mother once told him she would have aborted him if she’d known he would have such depressing views, which prompted Cioran to take the attitude that “I’m simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?” Here’s True Detective ’s Nic Pizzolatto on Cioran: “I’d already been reading E.M. Cioran for years and consider him one of my all-time favorite and, oddly, most nourishing writers. As an aphorist, Cioran has no rivals other than perhaps Nietzsche, and many of his philosophies are echoed by Ligotti.”Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
You can’t really talk about existential philosophy without talking about Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a major influence on Cioran and one of the most important philosophers of the 19th century. His philosophical novel Thus Spake Zarathustra contains a lot of elements that seem to influence True Detective. The central concept of this work is “eternal recurrence,” the idea that existence occurs over and over again and we will be forced to make the same decisions and suffer the same fates for all eternity. Rust Cohle paraphrases this exact idea in the series’ fifth episode.OTHER READING Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
If you are looking for fiction similar to True Detective. Pizzolatto’s own novel seems like the right place to start. Pizzolatto employs a similar dual past-present narrative to True Detective in this noir-influenced novel. Mystic River author Dennis Lehane called it “the best roman noir I’ve read in a decade.”The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
A classic work of hard-boiled detective fiction. Chandler totally changed the crime writing world with his Philip Marlowe. And the film version with Humphrey Bogart is pretty great too.Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
Pizzolatto has called Jonnson one of his all-time favorites, and Jesus’ Son is his masterpiece. This series of interlinked short stories about a heroin user (the title is a reference to the Velvet Underground song “Heroin”) is written in dreamy, surrealistic prose that might recall the beautiful landscapes and dreamy Rust Cohle hallucinations on True Detective .I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay
If you like your Southern gothic tales as dark and thick as molasses, you can’t do better than the late William Gay. “The Paperhanger” in particular is one of the greatest and darkest short stories ever written.The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits
Last year’s The Vanishers is a great detective novel with supernatural overtones. Karen Russell called it “One of the best novels I’ve ever read, delivering all the immediate pleasures of mystery, horror, and satire while exploring grief in language that is as shocking for its originality as its precision.”Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Speaking of Karen Russell, her novel Swamplandia! is a good choice for readers interested in contemporary Southern gothic with supernatural aspects. The story follows the journey of a 12-year-old gator wrestler searching for her lost sister. While hardly as dark as the bleak world of True Detective. it shares a swampy setting and Southern gothic sensibility.Big Machine by Victor LaValle
Big Machine. LaValle’s fantastic second novel, follows an injured junkie ex-cultist who gets sucked into a supernatural investigation. Publishers Weekly compared him to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole, and Edgar Allan Poe.Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
O’Connor is the grandmother and unsurpassed master of American Southern gothic fiction. She is probably the greatest American short story writer ever, but her first novel — about false prophets, twisted religion, a blind preacher, and a gorilla costume — is also essential.2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Bolaño’s posthumous masterpiece contains a lot of things: a mysterious German novelist, romantic literary critics, a murderous ex-boyfriend, and people who hear voices. However, the heart of the novel is a cataloguing of the brutal murders of female factory workers along the U.S.–Mexico border that is as bleak and nightmarish as anything on TV.The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
Few writers have the gift for bringing terror out of everyday life like Shirley Jackson. Like O’Connor, she is a master of the grotesque. The titular story, “The Lottery,” caused a huge scandal when it was published and over 60 years later is still one of the most anthologized short stories in American letters.Last Days by Brian Evenson
Brian Evenson is another writer who combines noir, horror, and philosophy. I could list a lot of his books here, but his great novel Last Days seems most appropriate. It follows a disfigured detective who investigates a murder in a bizarre religious cult that views amputation as a means to enlightenment.Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
Rust Cohle’s monologues also remind me of the dense, biblical lyricism of early Cormac McCarthy. While most famous for Blood Meridian and The Road. Child of God ’s dark and twisted tale of Appalachian necrophile Lester Ballard is closest in feel to the show.
Lincoln Michel’s fiction appears in Tin House, Electric Literature, Unstuck, NOON, and elsewhere. He is a co-editor of Gigantic magazine and Gigantic Worlds , a forthcoming anthology of science flash fiction. Sometimes he draws authors as monsters. He tweets at @thelincoln .
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If you had told me at the beginning of this season that TRUE DETECTIVE would lead to Vince Vaughn dressed in black leather gear, mowing down gangsters with a heavy machine gun than I wouldn’t have believed you.
But that’s exactly what Frank’s vendetta against the people who betrayed culminated to; him and Velcoro storming their hideout up in the woods and massacring everyone inside. We’ve had two episodes worth of build up to this moment and it was over in an instant, like a lot of things in the final episode of TRUE DETECTIVE, the moment just came and went, with no real impact.
After a slow start, a frustrating middle and what was looking to be an uphill sprint to the finish line, TRUE DETECTIVE instead burns all the bridges it had started to build over the last couple of episodes. All the questions that had been waiting to be answered since Ben Casperes body was found were instead thrown away halfheartedly; his murderer was an individual who after years of bad upbringing was left unhinged and murderous but some reason had the brains to shoot Velcoro with riot shells and keep him alive. It was a disappointing revelation that I didn’t really care for, I had long before become bored with the hunt for Casperes killer and found it to be one of the least engaging aspects of TRUE DETECTIVE’s narrative.
It also showed a habit the show had in this episode of bringing back really minor characters who weren’t memorable in the slightest, only for them to play a big part in the end. We had the siblings from the movie set who played a part in Casperes murder, Vecoros dad popped up at the end because we’ve only seen him once, the scarred bar owner turned out to be a person smuggler and Tony Chassani, who turned out to be the shows big bad this season, didn’t even appear this episode until the end. This season was ambitious, there’s no faulting that, but it’s in its ambition that it failed, it aimed high but achieved little. This latter half of the season promised to go to some weird and different places with its story, especially with Ani’s hallucinatory sequence at the party in episode six, but instead this season ended in an uninspired fashion.
Paul Woodrugh is dead and the group is mourning. Velcoro laments his “friend”, even though Paul’s place as the outsider of the group meant him and the other two never really interacted much or bonded at all. Frank meanwhile tries desperately to get his wife to leave, even going so far as to fake outrage at her inability to conceive a child. She tells Frank that he “Can’t act for sh*t” and it’s hard not to take the comment as being directed at both the character and the actor. Poor Vince Vaughn was saddled with some of the most hackneyed and clunky dialogue in the show, and his limited ability as an actor meant he struggled with it a lot of the time. As soon as him and his wife repeatedly reassured each other they would meet up again in two weeks, it was obvious Frank wasn’t getting out of this alive.
His story concluded with him being stabbed and left to die in the desert, before forcing himself to slowly walk across it so he could see his wife again, before being greeted by his own personal hall of fame, filled with faces from his past. It was a sad and surreal end to Frank’s journey but one that Vaughn comfortably handled, showing that it took time for him to settle in the role but perhaps if he was given more time he could have shown his true potential. However the reveal that Frank had already died and that he was having some kind of out of body experience was tonally off. As mentioned before, this season struggled to mix all of its ideas into one end result, instead feeling like a jumbled mess of genres.
Ray and Ani have bonded after sleeping together, instead of treating it as a tender moment between two lost people it somehow balloons into a fully fledged romantic relationship, while it’s obvious the two had feelings for each other this sudden development felt like an afterthought, a cheap way to raise the stakes for the characters. The idea that Ani than had Velcoro’s baby after that one night together came across as a rush attempt at a bittersweet ending, one that the show arrived at with no hint of logic. They both share a moment in the car where it seems like Velcoro is about to say he loved her and it felt so forced, perhaps an eight episode season wasn’t enough for the story Nic Pizzolatto really wanted to tell.
Everything this episode felt like an afterthought, a forced attempt for emotion in a cold, lifeless season. Velcoro’s goodbye to his son, who wasn’t exactly the most likable child, was an obvious way to get Velcoro to mess up and get discovered by the people looking for him. Likewise Velcoro’s decision to relax in the woods and stare up into the sky and ponder his existence, while being shot at by corrupt cops, was purely odd.
Ani was completely sidelined this episode and her final action, to give all the evidence the group had procured about all the corruption in Vinci to a journalist, was intended to make sure the legacy of three cops and a businessman struggling to leave the gangster lifestyle was passed on. Unlike Ani, this season struggled to leave behind a legacy that this epic story inspired to, only ending with the smallest of whimpers and leaving people wishing there was more. “We deserve a better world”. Ani narrates. We also deserved a better second season.
Overall Season Verdict:
by: Michael Shields
In the closing moments of True Detective, a premise we never considered imaginable manifested itself, and a frenzied manhunt evolved into so much more…..
T hroughout the entirety of this jaw-dropping inaugural season of True Detective. we kept harking back to Marty’s discussion about “The Detective’s Curse.” We knew it was poignant, that it possibly disclosed the fundamental truth about the story being ultimately told. We considered this idea about the answer being right in front of your face, while paying attention to the wrong clues, was not solely about the hunt for the killer. Yet, it is fascinating to think about the fact that the Spaghetti Monster was just sitting right there the whole time (“that’s whats bugging you?”), ready and willing to talk to the detectives as long as they wanted. And the hot-shot duo of detectives (both pairs) were always in a rush, their thoughts elsewhere and with presumably bigger fish to fry. This idea, a distant cousin of the reminder to always stop and smell the roses, isn’t solely a condemnation of Hart and Cohle, or Gilbough and Papania, but about people in general. About the tunnel vision that absorbs us as we become consumed in our daily routine. Everybody’s best opportunity in life has possibly walked right past them at some point, while they were too busy with something else. Rust and Cohle risked everything, to the point of becoming fully engrossed by their hunt for The Yellow King. And all the while the jester, the knowing fool, sat out in the open on his lawn mower and watched.
But it turns out that “The Detectives Curse” exemplified so much more. We spoke at length over the last eight weeks about what True Detective actually was. At its core we assumed it was a show lamenting on the numerous existential horrors of our reality. Many condemned the show as atheistic and misogynistic 1. with a tone that was impossibly pessimistic. But it turns out they, like so many of us, were looking at the wrong clues. Because in hindsight, after an unanticipated turn of events to close out the first season, it is now evident that True Detective was about the last thing we expected – hope! And about a burgeoning, yet complicated, friendship.
Noir storytelling is unique in that there is always great despair in the heart of its heroes. For one reason or another, the protagonist of the story has been broken, losing hope and the belief that good can exist in our world. This despondency suggests that our hero did in fact once believe in something, but life’s anguish (Rust losing his daughter – the pain that fashioned the man we came to know) has hijacked their soul, and in some ways their will to live. True Detective delves into the idea of humanity’s colossal fall from grace, and the notion that those damned to misery desire to transcend their loss, and perchance find a measure of redemption. And as Rust came face to face with death, he finally found atonement in the form of a love he hadn’t felt in decades. Brilliant.
“F orm and Void,” the title of this concluding episode, is a reference from the “Book of Genesis”: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” I can hardly think of a more poetic and delicate way to describe nothingness, and it was this nothingness, this territorial darkness, that existed before all things. A darkness that manifests itself in the monsters who walk our Earth to this day. The Spaghetti Monster we became all too acquainted with in this finale, Father Billy strapped to the bed, lifeless and with his mouth sewn shut, and Errol’s half-sister who was evidently raped in her childhood by their grandfather. The sins of the fathers being repeated by their sons. “You know what they did to me?” Errol asked. “What I would do to all the sons and daughters of man.” “Form and Void” brought us to a season’s conclusion without corralling the five horseman, or bringing down the Tuttle family and their monstrous traditions, but as Hart suggested in a moment that felt, once again, as if he were talking directly to the audience – “we ain’t gonna get them all – that’s not the type of world it is – but we got ours.”
With fervency, the dial was amped up on spine-tingling suspense as our manhunt approached its zenith 2. but “Form and Void” was also rife with more subtle and telling moments. The Spaghetti Monster demanded of Cohle to “Take off your mask!” Berating him to embrace the substance of who he is, to accept the darkness that is Man. But there was always good in Cohle, it was just cloaked by years of anger and hurt. And when his mask was finally excised, we were introduced to the man Cohle may have once been. And it wasn’t Cohle alone, we witnessed Marty change too, finally shedding his tough guy swagger, that vicegrip that prevented him to grow, as he let go and embraced all his emotional hurt, and in one of True Detective’s most affecting moments, wept in front of his family.
While distressing to some that Carcosa revealed itself as a series of twisted catacombs littered with lifesize stick sculptures, devil traps, and the clothing and bones of those murdered 3. we should have seen the writing on the wall 4. It was on us that we leapt down the speculative rabbit hole with reckless abandon. Nic Pizzolatto, the sole writer of the show, always declared his appreciation for a proper conclusion, and he professed his confusion about the theories running rampant on the internet…..
“I’ve enjoyed reading people theorize about what’s going to happen because it’s a sign that you’re connecting. 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.”
But he did have an ace up his sleeve. Although he left numerous loose ends dangling haphazardly about, he had a resolution in store for us that was unexpected, and positively beautiful.
“Form and Void” embraced within its climactic moments a montage that whisked us back, in reverse order, to the pivotal junctures of the series. From Errol’s frightening house of horrors, to Reggie LeDoux’s meth lab and dungeon, through the swamps and bayous, and ultimately back to the tree. The tree where it all began. A conscientious reminder of the magnitude of our travels, the scope of time we covered, and the emotional scars we amassed along the way. Like Rust declared, it has always been just one story. The story of light versus dark. But within that framework existed a multitude of narratives, a deluge of ideas and imagery that will titillate us and persist long after the show is done 5 .
W ith the culmination of True Detective. it was interesting to behold a story so aware of itself as a narrative. Where True Detective punctured the genre it embodied and became something so much more was in its exploration of storytelling itself. Rather than existing simply as a gritty crime drama where the core of its magnetism was weighed on its unexpected turns alone, it was an existential and philosophical anecdote about storytelling. The true reason for The King in Yellow’s inclusion wasn’t to heighten the intrigue in the whodunit, to reveal subtle clues and make us mad with inquiry. But rather, in the words of Nic Pizzolatto, it was there…..
“because it’s a story about a story, one that drives people to madness. Everything in True Detective is composed of questionable narratives, inner and outer, from Cohle’s view that identity is just a story we tell ourselves, to the stories about manhood that Hart tells about himself, to the not always truthful story they tell the detectives investigating them. So it made sense to me, at least to allude to an external narrative that is supposed to create insanity, or as I prefer, deranged enlightenment.”
True Detective’s self consciousness became most evident in Rust’s quasi-metaphysical interrogations and Hart’s excuse-laden accounts of the way things occurred. “You know why the story’s always the same 17 years gone? Because it only went down the one way.” And it was in the discussions amongst our heroes where we learned the most about the true design of the show, culminating outside the hospital under a star-filled sky. Where two friends spoke and bickered like an old married couple. And where clairvoyance struck a man so overcome with a stinging apathy towards humanity that death’s cold grip would have been a welcome release (“My life’s been a circle of violence and degradation, as long as I can remember. I’m ready to tie it off”). He spoke of one story, the oldest one ever written. Light vs. Dark. Good vs. Evil.
And it was in that revelation, that reckoning, where a story so riddled with skepticism, with despair, and disenchantment became a narrative about hope. A tale about perception, wherein it simply comes down to how you choose to look at things 6. It is often so hard to see any light, any good in the world when a vast blanket of darkness is all that surrounds. But once upon a time, as Cohle so precociously declares, the universe was only darkness. But now, spread throughout that void is the warming glow of light. And there is victory in that, and ultimately a reason to believe.
What was so confusing, and inherently compelling, about True Detective is that we weren’t exactly sure the true aim of the anthology. We appropriately threw the word noir around. We discussed its merits in relation to crime dramas that preceded it, but that description was hardly adequate. There was something more here. It could be argued that True Detective is a horror story wrapped up in noir clothing. That it’s a trapped-in-time tale structured much like the spiral on Dora Lange’s back. An anecdote about two men who are doomed to tell and relive the same stories they’ve told themselves over and over again, with the answers never seeming to be found because much like the city of Carcosa, if they were to be found, they would vanish. The levels of complexity within the framework of True Detective was, in a word, astonishing.
True Detective rewrote the rules, altered the blueprint on what a great detective story could be – all while deceptively appearing as something that felt familiar. Comparable more to timeless literature than to traditional prime time television, True Detective was essentially an 8 hour film, a decidedly self-aware, periodically metafictional drama that achieved the impossible – it lived up to the hype. The project’s splendor substantiating the decision by a team of prodigious talents, from an astounding writer and director, to two actors at the peak of their talent and careers, all convening passionately upon its development.
With staggering intensity Cohle justified all his actions to Hart by stating, “I won’t avert my eyes.” This is true with True Detective as a whole, as it held its gaze steady, taking an uncompromising look at the seedy underbelly of our country. A world where gross misconduct runs amok and the powers that be just sweep hideous evil under the carpet. Never shying away, too, from the distress of humanity, the happy accident that we all found ourselves experiencing together. A joy deviously coupled with a life so often inflicted with unimaginable pain and heartache. Never shying away from the darkness that it attempts to shine a light upon, True Detective unveiled what lies just beneath the surface, as grotesque as it may be.
It wasn’t just that Cohle’s space-time speech echoed Nietzche’s eternal recurrence 7 or that the series delved head first into Brane Cosmology. Or that True Detective explored in frightful detail the idea of Cosmic Fear 8. It wasn’t that Nic Pizzolatto introduced so many of us to a compelling canon of weird fiction that has been influencing authors for a century now (Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow ), that he brought to the mainstream Schopenhauer’s faith in “”transcendental ideality,” or that you could literally see the influence of such modern masters as David Simon (The Wire ), David Chase (The Sopranos ), and Michael Mann 9. It’s that True Detective did ALL of this within the arc of an eight week show that remained captivating in a classic sense as well. Incredible.
True Detective was never an ensemble drama. It was never simply a whodunit crime parody. If we infatuated ourselves in the manhunt, and the often misleading clues, we could have potentially missed one of the most interesting character studies to ever grace the screen. One where the uttering of the words, “Fuck you man” (when Hart cracked the case) was a compliment of the highest order, and where the tax man, fittingly, got his man by perusing IRS records. And where two men with every reason in the world to not be friends, or successful partners, became just that. In the closing moments the premise of the show finally manifested itself. The narrative was never about more than the journey of two broken men, who railed against the injustices that some god or the world or whoever was in charge thrust upon them. Two men who picked each other up, and through each other, and the extraordinary experiences they shared, instead of becoming further jaded and damaged by the sickness that they witnessed, found redemption and a reason to live.
Who would have thought, that after all the discussion about The Yellow King. after all the theories and Easter egg hunts – at the core of True Detective was a story about two ordinary, yet inconceivable with in the scope of the narrative, concepts this entire time: It was about an unlikely friendship, and about a man overcome with despair finding a reason to believe. “Form and Void,” the culmination of this triumphant anthology was as creepy, introspective, suspenseful, and as riveting as any episode that came before it – but it was also beautiful, something True Detective had yet to be – and it was certainly worth the wait.
We were mislead. Darkness doesn’t become you. It can be conquered. In fact, the light’s already winning. If Rustin Cohle can find hope, perhaps the rest of us can as well.
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