In my “bold prediction” series of posts (and by ‘series’ I mean this is the second one so far…) I try to guess the most outlandish plot points of a running series and see how accurate I can be. If you will allow me to boast for a moment, I was dead-on with this past season of SONS OF ANARCHY. If you won’t allow me to boast for a moment, then our blogger-reader relationship has been irrevocably strained by your lack of appreciation.
My current favorite show on television is also firmly entrenched on my all-time favorites list: HBO’S TRUE DETECTIVE. The incredible and thought provoking narrative is eclipsed only by the monster performances by two of the best actors in the business, namely MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY and WOODY HARRELSON. The show basks in the storytelling through the not-so-reliable viewpoint of antihero Rust Cohle and his nihilist philosophies. The dialogue points and minute references are starting to shape themselves toward the season’s endgame more in the fifth episode than any other. At this point, I can confidently say that I have my bold prediction solidified.
Many spoilers to follow.
Off the bat, Cohle is not the killer. He just can’t be. That move would be entirely too simple for the show. While he doesn’t necessarily play it straight and talks a lot of crazy, I think we get a glimpse into his true psyche when he protects the kid while on the biker gang raid in the fourth episode. He went out of his way to do so, and he really has no psychological need to commit ritualistic murder.
So if Cohle isn’t the killer, then neither is Woody HARRELSON. After all, he’s just the stereotypical flawed cop who likes to drink too much and run around on his wife with large chested women. To each their own.
So who is committing the murders? Way more than once we have seen mention of the devil worshipping cult and the Yellow King in his city of Carcosa. Io9 has a terrific article about the literary significance of these things but it is all summed up by a descent into madness, or more appropriately “darkness becomes you” as the tag line of the show. Cohle experienced a profound life changing event that forever altered his path from successful/famous police interrogator to a (seemingly) broken alcoholic waste of a man. Certainly not for lack of intelligence as we can clearly see from his discourse. I think it’s something else entirely as we saw in the split second shot after the detectives left the room for a moment and he threw his head back. The purely crazed look on his face when he brought it back up shows that he knows something that nobody else does. Call it an inside joke with no discernible punch line.
Did you notice that the first time he became genuinely agitated in the whole show so far is when they mentioned looking inside of a storage unit that he owns. The mere thought made him so upset that he ended the whole interview right then and there.
Let’s compound this with a few more points. The secret cult of wealthy devil worshippers is presumably headed up by the backwoods preacher who suspiciously made a backwards sign of the cross at his sermon. Did you notice the face of the prisoner that Cohle was interrogating? It looked like it was starting to somehow deform. Cohle himself suffers from ‘hallucinations’ due to his excessive drug use while undercover. Are these simply hallucinations or is it peering through the veil? I thought the shift in Cohle’s narrative from past to present day was interesting as it became much more cosmically and metaphysically oriented than his former existentialist-troubled self. Do you also remember in the second or third episode when they were interviewing the prostitute at the backwoods brothel and she told a story about being chased around by somebody with a face that looked like spaghetti?
Let me posit that both The Yellow King and the mythical city of Carcosa, in this case, are to be taken as real places.
Reflecting on the nature of the show, it is oddly Lovecraftian in tone and even in narrative structure. Depending on how weird you think TRUE DETECTIVE is capable of getting, I would like to boldly predict that it is Lovecraftian Cthulhu-mythos horror in a cop drama clothing.
Much of HP Lovecraft’s material revolved around somebody in the wrong place at the wrong time who stumbled upon the great secrets of the cosmos in one form or another whether it be monster or aliens or the great Cthulu himself. The truth is always too much for one man to fathom and drives them to insanity. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, THE DUNWICH HORROR and THE HORROR IN THE MUSEUM are all good entries into his works. I have always found his writing to be fascinating, but it is way too rarely adapted in popular culture nowadays. Is this one of the first bold moves into the territory of Lovecraft-esque works?
I think that it wasn’t just his falling out with WOODY HARRELSON that messed him up, I think he happened to find something that he should never have found while he investigates the satanic cult. Whatever he finds drives him to the brink of madness and is able to lock it away in his storage unit to never be found again. If the show remains smart, they really only ever need to allude to it, not actually show the ‘monster’ it as that might lessen the show as a whole. I think the grandfather is part of the cult as is HARRELSON’S wife and daughters. That is what leads Cohle to the truth and what splits their oddball friendship.
My prediction is that the show will culminate with the present day investigators getting their warrant to search the premises and finding Cohle there looking not to protect the contents of his storage unit, but to protect the cops from whatever is inside. The ensuing confrontation will see Hart shooting and killing Chole, breaking open the door to his unit, seeing whatever is held inside and realizing that Cohle was right all along, changing him in many more profound ways than could ever have happened to Cohle. In fact, I could see Hart in such a depressed state that he shoots himself at the finale.
Then again, I might be reading way too much into it. Maybe Cohle really is the killer and the story really is more straightforward than it lets on. But this last episode alluded very strongly to a much deeper mythology surrounding the detectives and creater NIC PIZZOLATTO is a big fan of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.
A show is in many ways only as good as its conclusion. A weak ending can really make all for naught, although each and every spoken word of dialogue is so strong in TRUE DETECTIVE, I’m not sure it matters how it ends… it’s just one hell of a good show. Three episodes left!
Fans of TRUE DETECTIVE… what are your theories? Do you agree with me or think I’m full of it? Please discuss below!