“You’re in Carcosa now … with me. He sees you.”
From the instant I saw a disheveled Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) in a dingy interview room, lighting a smoke and tapping the ashes into the Big Hug Mug, I knew True Detective was going to be a killer watch. What I didn’t realize was what a fucking tour-du-force it was truly going to be. With complex references to Robert W. Chambers’ collection of short stories titled “The King in Yellow” and the nihilistic philosophical ambiance as the under current of the storyline, this viewer finds herself re-watching episodes and taking notes. It’s no secret there is tons of speculation on who the killer is and why. While some are compelling and thought-provoking; some wade into the pool of WTF. But as a classic bandwagon jumper, I thought I’d through my two-cent opinion into that pool.
Yellow King Revealed
The first reference to the role of the Yellow King in “True Detective” is when Rust Cohle and Martin Hart obtain Dora Lange’s journal. Dora was the murdered girl staged with a crown of antlers, satanic-like figures (later referred to as “devil nets”) around the scene, and a swirl drawn (branded?) on her back. It was this ritualistic murder that brought Cohle and Martin Hart together as partners. So, what role does the Yellow King play? Dora speaks of him to her ex-husband, Charlie Lange, telling him “she met a king” and in her journal she wrote, “The Yellow King” and “In Carcosa. In Carcosa. Strange is the night where black stars rise.” Chambers’ supernatural, two-act is believed to drive readers of it to madness. In the play, he writes about a place called Carcosa, a mythical place where black stars rise. In the explosive episode 5, when Marty and Rust find themselves face-to-face with the gas mask wearing Reggie Ledoux, we hear the reference again. When Ledoux is in custody, hands cuffed, kneeling at Rust’s feet, he says, “You’re in Carcosa now … with me. He sees you,” before Hart silences him forever. Like Chambers’ “King in Yellow,” True Detective’s The Yellow Man may not exist, yet he may have the power to drive people to the brink of madness.
Who wears the crown of the Yellow King?
It’s called “True Detective” not detectives. Does this indicate that only one of these two is the real detective? It is implying they are two sides of one? There is certainly a dichotomy between the two men. We see this in personality. We see this in their perspectives. We see it in the choices they make. Rust is methodical, disciplined, single, troubled, realistic, nihilistic, philosophical, anti-social. He sees. He “gets a read.” Hart admits that Cohle has the “sharpest eye for weakness that I’ve ever seen.” Flip the coin and we have Hart. A man prone to weakness, a guy’s guy, married with kids, football hero, explosive temper, manipulative, afraid of the unknown. He describes himself as a “regular type dude with a big ass dick.” In Episode 3 “The Locked Room,” the two have a conversation in the tent of preacher Joel Theroit that demonstrates their contrasting views of the world.
Marty: “Can you imagine if people didn’t believe, all the things they’d get up to.”
Rust: “If the only thing keeping a person from being decent is the expectation of divine reward, then that person is a piece of shit.” (Exactly!)
We have two characters that seem to make up one complex human being. Each of us has all these qualities. Some of which show up more than others. For good or bad. It’s what we decide to show that make us who we are. Some of us are just cleverer at hiding that which we don’t want to be. With this in mind, who’s doing the hiding? Is it Cohle who says, “I know who I am and after all these years, there’s a victory in that” or “You take your release where you find it or it finds your. In the end it’s better for the family,” as Hart see it?
A case for . . .
- The poster of True Detective that at first glance makes you think there was some kind of mistake. It cuts off Harrelson’s head at the hairline, or crown if you like, and adds it at the bottom of the poster. Is this little nugget a clue, perhaps foreshadowing who the killer may be. It seems a little obvious to me. Nonetheless, it’s a interesting visual clue about something?!?
- Which brings us easily to the next clue about Marty. His blond/yellow hair. In 1995, his mop of hair is blond, a colour that a child may call yellow and depending on his role over that child could become the hair of a king in the child’s world. For instance, there is the scene where his daughters are playing on the lawn with a princess crown; he laments in a voice over that his “true failure was inattention” as his girls argue about the crown. He was the king of his daughters’ worlds, but spent his time looking at the wrong things; we saw him focus on infidelity, alcoholism, and work. What else drew his attention? Is there another world where he was king?
- We see antlers throughout the series–figuratively and literally. Dora Lange’s crown is our first introduction to antlers. We see them later during an argument between Martin and Maggie where he raises his hands in frustration above it head, creating a visual impression of antlers – ten point to be exact. It comes up again in the scene where Cohle asks Hart if he has ever hunted and Hart tells him he once “got a ten point buck.” The same number that made up Dora’s crown. Finally, this may be a bit of a stretch, but Hart means stag in Old English. We’ll see!
- The swirl pattern found on Dora’s body is also present in Marty’s home as a child’s drawing. Along this vein, there are also his older daughter’s graphic drawings that may indicate possible molestation at some point in her life. Marty? Her grandfather?
- There’s discussion around the scene where Rust loses it when Guy Leonard Francis mentions the Yellow Man during a standard interview. There’s so much going on in this scene. If the case was closed, why was Cohle so enraged by the reference? Later, after a phone call, Francis slit his wrists on a jagged metal bed frame in his cell. Who called Guy? Investigation led them to a telephone booth in the middle of nowhere.
- He his prone to hallucinations; his dead daughter on the side of a street; strange cloud transformations; birds spiral in the same shape of the brand on Dora Lange’s back. Is he flashing back? Traumatized? A good detective? A bad man?
- Rust has the knowledge for a crime such as this. He understands the metaphysical and philosophical; the satanic; and the dark recesses of man. He understands.
- Hart’s father-in-law. He was certainly introduced for a reason. Is he the killer? Did he molest his granddaughter? He’s the kind of rich, white guy that may fit Charlie Lange’s description:
Or maybe he’s just a red herring.
- How about the two Tuttles (governor and preacher)? They seem to have some pretty strong connections, money and interest e.g., the school and the task force.And again meets Charlie Lange’s description.
- Of course there’s the Lawnmower Man, who may of may not be the green-eared spaghetti monster referenced early in the series. Is the man anything more than a worker instructed by those whom is employed by (the Tuttles?). Or his he involved in a sinister cult in the business of ritualistically killing children and women???
Rust & Marty
It’s clear these two characters are two sides of a coin. Does that coin make two sides of a complete killer? A perfect killer. One whom hunts and kills in a pack. And then works as a detective on the very crime he/they committed? Seems pretty messed up.
Or is it?
Can’t wait for the next three episodes!
What are your thoughts on “True Detective”?