When I first tuned into “True Detective” I did so mainly because of the two leads, Harrelson and in particular McConaughey whom I enjoyed immensely in Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall St. as well as the fact that I heard it would be similar at least in plot to one of my favorite 90’s shows, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”. As strange and unsettling as “Twin Peaks” got (BOB, the Black Lodge, The Log Lady, etc.), “True Detective”, in my humble opinion, has proven to be even more unnerving. I say that because the fears explored in the dense themes of this show are proving to be some of the most horrifying to human beings and the human condition in general.
I, like many fans of the show have had my fascination grow exponentially as the show gets more and more metaphysical. There were only so many mentions of “Black Stars” “Circular Time” and “Carcosa” I could take before I had to do a little digging of my own. So, presumably also like many of you, I started to read deeper into the mythos surrounding the major themes of the show, namely the “Yellow King” which is taken from Robert W. Chambers “The King in Yellow”, a surreal collection of short stories published in 1895 which revolve around a mythical play that drives anybody who makes it to Act II completely insane due to the brutal cosmic truths it apparently contains. This type of knowledge is crucial to watching the show as it becomes clear that clues and references pertaining to this mythos have been present since the very first episodes. Dora Lange’s notebook not only contains drawings of black stars, a yellow crown and the words “The Yellow King” it even contains a passage taken verbatim from the collection:
“ Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
Strange is the night where the black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
—The King in Yellow, Act I, Scene II
In his review of last night’s episode, AV Club Reviewer Erik Adams pointed out that the show itself is playing a cosmic joke on its rabid viewers: turning us into ravenous seekers of new information in much the same way that Cohle seeks out clues in his attempt to find his monster (and, of course, also echoing the theme of the play within “The King in Yellow”). This show has certainly made an impact on me as I eagerly anticipate Sunday at 9:00 (I can’t believe there’s only two episodes with this cast left). For anybody who hasn’t read into the influences on the show I strongly suggest taking some time to at least get the basics (when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you) that can be found in the fantastic i09 piece which I have linked at the end of this post. Anyway, onto the latest happenings in episode 5, “Haunted Houses”.
Marty continues his self-sabotaging, family disintegrating, Jimmy McNulty-esque philandering, this time with Beth, the (now obviously older and pretty damn gorgeous) girl that he and Cohle had previously attempted to “rescue” from the Bayou Brothel earlier in the season (repeating, circular themes, anyone?). No matter how much he tries to walk the straight and narrow (the man was carrying boxes of tampons for crying out loud) he just can’t seem to stop himself from falling back into the same habits that already very nearly destroyed his family. Despite Beth’s glowing praise of him being a “good man…despite his flaws” we unfortunately know that despite his occasional half assed efforts, Marty is many things but I’d certainly stop short of calling him a “good man”. Of course, his wife finds out, because Marty left his phone lying around and also Snapchat didn’t exist in 2002. This finally pushes Maggie to her breaking point and before she lets Marty know that she’s keen to his latest infidelities she shows up drunk at Cohle’s place after a failed attempt with a stranger at a bar and seduces him into having sex with her. It’s only then that she spills the beans to Marty that not only does she know, but that she fucked his partner (Gotta love how Marty, ever the keen observer, still leans in for the “loving kiss” even after seeing his wife drinking alone in a dimly lit room staring blankly at the wall.) This, it turns out, (as I miraculously predicted out of sheer dumb luck) is what ultimately irreparably broke up Cohle and Marty’s professional and personal relationship (and led to a brutal fist fight between the two detectives right outside of the station).
To the dismay of his superiors (Rust has a bit of McNulty in him as well) Cohle has been spending his time personally investigating missing women and children cases that have been closed in some instances for years. This includes visiting the Pastor, (who it looks like I incorrectly predicated would be at least one of the “monsters” in this story) who is now a drunken shell of a man who no longer preaches due to the fact that he found child pornography at his former site and when he reported it nothing was ever done to follow up. All of this, of course, supports Cohle’s conspiracy theories of an even larger scale cover up.
He also visits the poor girl who was abused as a child by Ledoux in a haunting scene with terrific acting by both. The look on her face when she started talking about “the man with the scars” was terrifying. Confirming Cohle’s suspicions, the real monster was not killed on that fateful day in 1995, and has been free to kill and rape and do whatever other horrible things he wants for years. Of course, Cohle being Cohle, continues to follow his own leads, in direct violation of his boss’ orders and ultimately quits after being suspended (and punched repeatedly in the face by his former partner, “Nice hook, Marty”).
One of those leads is Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle who started several charitable organizations including the Wellspring Program, a group of private Christian schools that were completely shut down amidst shady circumstances in the early 90s and now have very little records of people involved with the programs. The Reverend attributes this to the fact that, being a religious affiliated group of programs has no tax records and gives a half-baked, mumbled excuse of physical records being destroyed in “some flood” but offers Cohle a chance to look through the little they do have. Now it doesn’t take Rust Cohle levels of detective and people reading skills to see through Tuttle’s bullshit and see that there’s something sinister lurking beneath the façade. The mood of the conversation takes a marked shift when Cohle brings up a former deacon named Austin Farrar who was fired after “embezzlement” that was internally investigated and then was met with an “accident” that the viewer is to surmise means (at least apparent) suicide. All of this plus the fact that Cohle’s bosses got extremely pissed about this little visit AND as we learn later Tuttle himself died under suspicious circumstances only adds to Cohle’s cover up theories.
The show ends with present day Marty and Cohle (who couldn’t find time to fix the tail light that was broken during their skirmish while he was off the grid) finally meeting up. With only two episodes left and still so many mysteries left to unfold I know that I’ll be delving further into the abyss (the preview looks unreal). I can only hope I don’t start constructing little people out of Lone Star tallboys and chain smoking.
A few stray observations:
-“If you ever get the opportunity, you should kill yourself.” Damn, Cohle. He dropped that bomb AFTER holding the woman’s hand and sharing the loss of his own child, by the way.
-That building that the meeting between Cohle and the Reverend took place in is a VERY nice looking facility (even with multiple Segways!). This only adds to the growing feeling that this possible cover-up goes VERY high to wealthy and powerful people. Also, if the name “Tuttle” sounds familiar it’s because the Reverend is the same Governor who seemed mighty intent on sending that task force in to get Marty and Cohle off the Dora Lange case in ’95. Hmm…
-I, like I’m sure the majority of viewers at this point, continue to sense impending doom for Marty’s eldest daughter Audrey. I initially thought she may have even been the victim in the latest, Dora Lange style murder and Marty just hadn’t been told yet. But the more I think about it, the more I think she was involved in one of these sick pedophile rings that Cohle is trying so hard to get to the bottom of. Remember when she and her sister when they were VERY young were staging little Barbie and G.I. Joe orgies? Or the fact that she got in trouble at school, again at a very young age, for drawing pretty graphic sexual pictures (let alone, how sexual and hateful of her father she’s become as a teenager). There’s no way that all of that was added purely coincidentally.
-To continue The Wire-isms, Cohle should have heeded some words of wisdom Freamon once gave to Jimmy McNulty: “The job will not save you, Jimmy It won’t make you whole” or the one about “giving a fuck when it’s not his turn to give a fuck.”
-“You two fucked each other up pretty good.” He doesn’t know the half of it…
-“I’m the last person in this fucking state that needs counseling” God, I’m actually starting to believe that. This show IS messing with my head!
-“Rust…you change your hair?” Once again, Marty’s keen eye for detail is enough to put even the Tax Master to shame.
-Here’s the i09 link about The Yellow King and some of the other mythology: http://io9.com/the-one-literary-reference-you-must-know-to-appreciate-1523076497