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“This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.”
February 1, 2014 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Last week's episode of True Detective featured a stirring tent-revival sermon from a wildly charismatic preacher. It was heavily edited with dialogue between the stars of the show. Nic Pizzolatto (the writer/creator of the series) thought it so good, he released the full 6-minute sermon for you to enjoy.

The actor was Shea Whigham, from Boardwalk Empire.
posted by lattiboy (175 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 


I seriously got to episode 2 of this thing and my jaw dropped and I was all "what the hell, did they make this just for me?"
posted by Artw at 11:00 PM on February 1 [27 favorites]


I've been enjoying True Detective. It's less a detective show than it is a philosophical discourse on human nature. The dialogue which was edited into the tent-revival sermon of this post was a treatise on the nature of religion and its psychological functions.

Really enjoying this show a lot. And thanks for this post. I'm glad to get the chance to hear that in its whole. Just goes to show how good this multi-layered, slow-burn show actually is.
posted by hippybear at 11:00 PM on February 1


I want to like the show but the first episode was painful for me to watch. Individually I like McConaughey and Harrelson. But together it feels like an absurdist contest as to who can out-act their deadpan, serious character the most.

I'll give it a little more chance. Like I said, only barely just made it through the first episode. Love the premis though.
posted by sbutler at 11:08 PM on February 1


Love the show and am still trying to figure out the twist. It has to be setting up one of the detectives as the actual killer, doesn't it? Including all the extraneous stuff in the debrief doesn't make sense otherwise?
posted by Justinian at 11:13 PM on February 1


I don't know if one of the detectives is actually the killer, but they're sure as hell setting up the modern detectives as strongly looking at Cohle as the killer in the second case.

I do love this show so.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:32 PM on February 1


This is a viral for the next season of Arrested Development, is it not?
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on February 1


"It has to be setting up one of the detectives as the actual killer, doesn't it?"

I'm pretty sure that neither of them is the 1995 killer. And if the new killing is the same killer, than I'm pretty sure that neither of them is the killer. But I'm not sure that one of them isn't the 2012 killer (and, if so, I'm pretty sure which one it is).

"I've been enjoying True Detective. It's less a detective show than it is a philosophical discourse on human nature."

That's how I see it, except insofar as that's true about the characters and not about Cohle, whose musings I find pretty sophomoric and embarrassing. You know how TV scientists aren't really like scientists, but like how TV people (and the public, I guess) imagines scientists? This is sort of the same thing with philosophy. When I'm around people like Cohle, I have the urge to puncture that thin veneer of intellectual pretense.

Granted, there probably are people like Cohle out there working in law enforcement. They'd practically have to be caricatures to have anything remotely like that persona while working in law enforcement. So maybe his character is very realistic.

Which is sort of my point. What Cohle actually says is not even as remotely interesting or insightful as he thinks it is. And maybe there are viewers who are as enamoured of Cohle as Cohle is of himself. But the entire milieu, the pretensions of both Cohle and Hart, the things they present to others and the things they keep secret, has a lot to say about life.

And I enjoy the mood. But I especially enjoy the acting.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:42 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


It's seems to be wandering toward a country fried version of the Wicker Man, and it has my attention.

I'm thrilled to see Shea Whigham show up everywhere. Jesus, he's good on Boardwalk.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:43 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


"It has to be setting up one of the detectives as the actual killer, doesn't it?"

God, I hope not, that would be up there with it being a dying dream or one of the detectives being a Tyler Durden for trite bullshit.
posted by Artw at 11:58 PM on February 1 [7 favorites]


I thought that sermon was weird as hell, in a good creepy way. "He is the stars and the wind between the stars"? "This world is a veil"? That doesn't sound like your average christian revival preacher. The last part sounds downright gnostic to me.


I'm loving the show so far. It's a big dialogue heavy, but it's interesting how they work against Cohle's genius misanthrope philosopher schtick by actively undercutting him and showing how he's mostly full of shit. I think it's part of the point that he sound sophomoric, he thinks very highly of himself (and he's smart, he's just not very sophisticated), and the only reason Hart is flustered by him is that he's kind of a bumpkin.

I mostly like that bleak mood, it's like Lovecraft by way of Cormac McCarthy or something. There's a subtle but pervasive wrongness not about the case they're investigating or the characters themselves, but the whole fucking landscape. It gives me the creeps, and I love it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:00 AM on February 2 [16 favorites]


Oh, and comparing Cohle to Ligotti is actually a really good move. Both superficially seem deep and hyper-smart, but they're really just stuck in teenage nihilism and narcissism, loving their own voice and their extremely florid prose, thinking they're smarter and better than the sheep of this world, but not making a lot of sense when you dig beneath the surface.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:05 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


If the format is an AHC style anthology where the format changes each season then I'm seriously wondering what the hell they are going to do to top this season. Will it become a more normal procedural or will they go full on weird in some other way?
posted by Artw at 12:18 AM on February 2


Artw: "Will it become a more normal procedural or will they go full on weird in some other way?"

Well, I'm hoping for more weird. There's plenty to go around of police procedurals bump up against strange, unsettling American rural horror, if that's what they want to do. The Pacific Northwest a la Lynch, Lovecraft and King's New England, the Ozarks like in Winter's Bone, Southwest desert, Midwestern UFO country... It all depends on where they want to take it, but it doesn't seem like this is the only thing they could do in that mode.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:23 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


The other, related reading of Cohle, of course, is that of a charismatic sociopath a la Charles Manson. I'm pretty sure they're not going to take it all the way down that road, because they don't have to, this is a show about how even the people hunting monsters are themselves at least in part monsters, but he's closer to that archetype every time.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:27 AM on February 2


I started watching this last week because homunculus recommended it in the Hannibal thread and I think this episode is going to be the hook to bring in a fan base. I'm so glad he released this so we can appreciate the sermon in the background of the cracking epistemological debate.

I don't think Cohle will be the murderer, that would be too obvious with all the baggage of this character they've established. I thought he was actually being interviewed in custody until episode 3. It's clear something happened that was so terrible that was beyond the coping mechanisms he'd had to establish in recovery, so, obviously some crazy shit is coming.

I heard they were doing complete one season story arcs in an American Horror Story vein, which would be a cool way to go with this show. I really like that model, as it seems to be attracting A-list movie stars to series TeeVee.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:49 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure, Zira. Cohle was apparently a detective (and partnered with Hart) for something like 8 more years following the case they are recounting. So it seems unlikely to be the sole event leading to his breakdown.

Do we know exactly when Cohle left the job? It's pretty obvious why Cohle and Hart stopped being partners but I can't recall if that's also when he quit the department.
posted by Justinian at 12:55 AM on February 2


I don't think they've established when he left. Here's my current theory: I think the tragic event is going to involve Hart's wife being brutally murdered in a similar MO as the current killer. Maybe they get close to nabbing the current killer but the Bible thumping politicos interfere with the investigation somehow, or the murders got pinned on the wrong man. That would explain why they've got to interview both of them about the former investigation and why the basis for their split will become so relevant... because they'd both be under suspicion for her murder.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:06 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


BTW, the detectives are interviewing Hart after they've interviewed Cohle. It's about five days or a week later, I think.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:15 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


"That would explain why they've got to interview both of them about the former investigation and why the basis for their split will become so relevant..."

No, it's simpler than that. There's been a new murder with the same MO as the 1995 murder, even though they supposedly "got" the murderer in 1995 (I suspect he was killed in a shootout and not tried and convicted).

That's why they're interviewing Cohle and Hart. Because possibly Cohle and Hart had the wrong suspect in 1995. Or possibly because the 2012 murder is a copycat murder and they want to know who might have known details of the 1995 murder and because they also may suspect either Hart of Cohle as the copycat murderer.

I think they suspected Cohle before they began the interviews, but by the time they'd finished with Cohle and looked into more of the backgrounds of the two detectives, they've begun to suspect Hart, who they're interviewing a few days later (and being coy with him when they know that his descriptions of his and Cohle's relationship and his activities are at odds with what Cohle has already told them).

And I think Hart is who killed the 2012 victim. As a copycat, or in an attempt to deflect suspicion. We've been progressively seeing more and more of Hart's problems with women, his insecurities with them and his attempts to bully them. We have no indication that Cohle was ever likely to kill a woman, other than being very odd and antisocial.

I didn't want to spell this out because I think that this is how the show is trying to be clever, to get the audience to begin to wonder about the detectives, then to suspect Cohle, and then to surprise them with it being Hart, but having previously laid the groundwork for his plausibility as the murderer. I didn't want to mess up anyone else's suspense. But you guys are already speculating. :)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:26 AM on February 2 [8 favorites]


Yeah, that's my sense too of the timeline.
Also, re: your comment upthread about the pretensions of the characters, I think you're spot on. I was kind of turned off by the first episode, because initially it just seemed like masturbatory writing and acting. However, after the scene in the second episode between Hart and the madam, it started to click for me, as I started to get what Woody Harrelson was doing with Hart. At that point, Cohle started to make more sense, which is why the dialogue between the two of them in the sermon scene really excited me. The writing and the acting creates a layer of these characters that is very true to the sense of hubris and entitlement of some state and local law enforcement officers in the conservative South (for Hart) and addicts working at self actualization (for Cohle). These Texas boys are doin' this up right.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:36 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Also, with the appearance of gas mask guy, I feel like we're in a weird crossover universe of Breaking Bad and Hannibal but this is the darkest timeline. It's saying something about a show that can portray landscapes in Louisiana as creepier and more sinister than a Thomas Harris universe, but there you have it.
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:59 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


The darkest timeline would include Woody Harrelson singing Roxanne.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:01 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I like this show so far. My SO and I have been calling it things like "No Twin Peaks for Old Sherlock." The King in Yellow reference got my attention, though.

Contrarian time: I thought the revival scene was a weak way to start that episode. A few too many dips into Cohle's ramblings, and the sermon wasn't really creepy enough until the end. Maybe it's because I'd seen the previous episode just before and, since they didn't have any other leads, I knew they had to find something at the revival. I was thinking, "Oh just get on with it," for most of the scene. If there were hooks in there, I swam past them with a hmph.

I was kind of turned off by the first episode, because initially it just seemed like masturbatory writing and acting.

Personally I like that they laid it on so thick. I think I've gone the opposite way where—as they've devoted more time to things like Hart's family problems or Cohle's Navy Seal Ph.D. in Ninja Studies—I worry that it's not going to be weird enough. If I want to see interesting premises squandered on character studies, I can watch AMC.

So far so good though. They are good at remembering to dip back into the weird. For example, the daughter's drawings: when they are first mentioned, it's a standard horror trope and you have to wonder, okay, did she draw a demon? When they eventually show the drawings, they are creepy in a parental concern kind of way, too sexual, like the shot with the dolls. It's creepy and worrying enough, but it seems like trope averted. However, the last drawing is actually extra-creepy and back into weird horror, even though Hart doesn't notice it. (Of course.) I thought that was a good example of them walking the line the show is trying to walk.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:07 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


ain't Shea Whigham phenomenal?
posted by lapolla at 3:42 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I think the tragic event is going to involve Hart's wife being brutally murdered in a similar MO as the current killer.

This makes sense in McConaughey's darkest vision of the world because Hart lectured his wife on perceived self-importance and how she has no idea what goes on in his life, what misery victims suffer and by extension how much more painful his existence is compared to hers. And of course Cohle has been pointing out his hypocrisy and adulterous behavior and has a nice list of "I told you so's" that will be growing with time, finally culminating here.

Additionally, Hart takes his wife and kids (do we have any indication that they're alive eight years later?) for granted as people he must cope with by cheating and drinking to excess. Even if he was entirely right about everything according to a cosmic scorekeeper and his wife simply made his home life too hostile to spend very much time around and his vices were really helping the family in the long run (he says that straight faced at one point, that cheating is just a healthy blow-off valve of sorts for the family's health), he would completely invert this perception once she and/or his daughters were victimized and he has to deal with them as clinically dry crime scene evidence.

It's like the nightmare scenario of having an argument with your spouse before leaving for the day, refusing to hug or kiss them goodbye, ignoring their "I love you," and then having them die in a car wreck later that day. Your average decent person is going to feel terrible that they took this moment for granted and missed one last chance, and that their last mutual feeling was anger. And then, some percentage of people are going to think "and probably that extra time would've changed events around such that they'd also be alive, just by delaying this or that or whatever."

Except Hart is pretty fuckin' far from halfway decent, he's over the top out of control after getting away with things for too long; I love the show but his character almost jumped the shark in my eyes on the last episode. That's probably more of an attestation of the powers of alcohol once one has committed themselves to regular drunkenness but he's quite a fuck-up in many ways and probably also has a pretty empathetic / conflicted back story that we'll get more into... But hardcore drunks often know that their night will be full of "are you sure you want to do that?" moments and "should you really have anything more to drink?" moments so they load up on alcohol fast and let it press the "Y" for "Yes" key in their brain until the "bad choice often leads to more" game stops asking.
posted by lordaych at 3:52 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


The "masturbatory" thing is part of the trick, since it's the characters in-story that are masturbatory, not the actual writing. They lay it on thick, but it works because you believe the characters are like that, and because they show you that 90% of it is bullshit.

Now that I think about it, Cohle isn't 100% bullshit, once in a while he hits on a truth, like the "monster" line at the end of the last episode.

I'm basically entirely sure that Cohle being the current-day murderer is a red herring, though. I agree it's possible they're going to make it Hart, but I suspect it might be even more complicated than that.

And the show walks a lot of lines, it basically exists in a huge genre gray area where it's almost horror, but not quite, suggest something supernatural and pulls back, you think Cohle is a genius Sherlock type, but he's mostly just the sociopath part of that, and his damaged brilliance takes him all the way to the bottom, Hart seems the bumpkin with a heart of gold, but actually kind of hates his family (or at least his family life, and possibly his wife) even though he insists he loves them, and so on.

I enjoy that balancing act, it keeps me on my toes.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:56 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


Or to put it another way, they both suffer from existential crises and I think the show has clued us in that they're extremely similar in a lot of ways and just have to differentiate themselves to take appropriate sides but with Hart still exhibiting a "people like this are like this" defensiveness without really saying "and I'm offended

What I started another comment to say though, is that to the alcoholic existentialist, the problem of free will is solved by getting near blackout drunk and spawning a new thread of yourself that has your permission to fuck up your life if it makes enough bad decisions it feels impervious against
posted by lordaych at 4:04 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


And it just struck me reading the comment above that a stroke of brilliance would be that the sophomoric just-discovered-atheism dialog is really just Cohle trying to get into the mind of Hart and draw him out whether because he thinks he's guilty or complicit in something important, or because he wants to get to know Hart deeply enough to confirm that they're quite similar and that he has something to offer Hart that will make him a better person despite being an atheist.
posted by lordaych at 4:08 AM on February 2


lordaych: "And it just struck me reading the comment above that a stroke of brilliance would be that the sophomoric just-discovered-atheism dialog is really just Cohle trying to get into the mind of Hart and draw him out whether because he thinks he's guilty or complicit in something important, or because he wants to get to know Hart deeply enough to confirm that they're quite similar and that he has something to offer Hart that will make him a better person despite being an atheist"

That's kind of a cool idea, but I don't think so, because Cohle is possibly even more insufferable with Gilbough and Papania, the two detectives taking his statement in the current day.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:18 AM on February 2


I identify with Cohle so much that it would be devastating for me if this goes the wrong way.
posted by dhoe at 4:25 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Lovecraft by way of Cormac McCarthy or something
posted by humanfont at 7:05 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]


For once, I'm enjoying not speculating about future plot twists, character development or where the story will go. We're taking a stroll down a particular lane of fiction and I'm liking the view.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I like the way it's taking it's own damn time coming to the point where they have a suspect or even a second body for serial killer. Contrast with Nic Pizzolatto's previous TV work, the American version of The Killing, which was basically False Lead of the Week until it reached the point of self parody.
posted by Artw at 7:50 AM on February 2


Liking the show but sometimes it seems a little too much like a bit of a contest between McConaughey and Harrelson to see who gets the acting Emmy. The makeup jobs to distinguish between now and twenty years ago are pretty impressive though.
posted by octothorpe at 7:50 AM on February 2


True Detective Creator Inks 2-Year HBO Deal, Making Season 2 Likely

Which makes the McConaughey and Harrelson match-up essentially “the True Detective version of a buddy‑cop movie hunting for a serial killer. And there could be a season that’s much more of a widespread conspiracy thriller, a season that’s a small‑town murder mystery, a season where nobody is murdered and it’s a master criminal versus a rogue detective or something.”
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:58 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Possibly because I've just started re-reading The Religion before embarking on Twelve Children of Paris but I've realised True Detective reminds me of Tim Willocks early novels, in terms of marrying southern gothic with existential terror
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:02 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


And I think Hart is who killed the 2012 victim. As a copycat, or in an attempt to deflect suspicion.

This is what I thought most likely... except why the hell would Hart kill the 2012 victim in a fashion which he knew would cause the case to get all sorts of attention? Not to be awful about it or anything but a dead hooker in a ditch is not going to get anywhere near the police attention that a ritualistically killed prostitute which is either the work of a previously thought to be caught serial killer or of a copycat gets? If it's Hart he killed her in a way guaranteed to get the case looked at with a magnifying glass.
posted by Justinian at 9:56 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


This show is truly excellent. I hope they can maintain that quality for the whole run.

I'm annoyed that there isn't a new episode on tonight. I wonder if they wanted to avoid competing with the Superbowl, or maybe just to give people more time to catch up.
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Wanted to love the show so hard, but it doesn't work for me, so far. Too much schmalz for my taste, looks like they're acting on stage, with a crowd of 5000. Will continue watching, hoping to be bowled over at some point.
posted by ouke at 12:19 PM on February 2


I'm annoyed that there isn't a new episode on tonight.

You need to make a TV out of twigs and hallucinate one!
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on February 2 [8 favorites]


I'm annoyed that there isn't a new episode on tonight.

They're not idiots, no one would watch it.
posted by octothorpe at 12:38 PM on February 2


Artw: "You need to make a TV out of twigs and hallucinate one!"

What do you mean, "hallucinate"? My twig TV works perfectly, I'm watching it right now.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:42 PM on February 2 [6 favorites]


We'll probably end up watching Top of the Lake, AKA Peggy Olsen Investigates, the other crime drama we've discovered lately.
posted by Artw at 12:43 PM on February 2


Top of the Lake is very good, highly recommended.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:45 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's the random Scottish guy but something feels very non-M Banks about it.
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Shows like this that work to make the protagonists' choices almost seem arbitrarily good because they happen to be made by people with badges makes for chilling viewing. If everyone has terrible secrets that they work to hide from everyone else for fear of imprisonment, then where is the measure or standard of how well a society is doing if we're all just waiting to be found out?

The end of this episode gave me chills. I honestly wasn't expecting to cut from Cohle's metaphorical monster to...that.
posted by hgswell at 12:50 PM on February 2


My wife and her friend get together to watch TV once a week. They love "Girls" and "American Horror Story" (which I enjoy too), but I had the first two episodes of True Detective recorded and demanded we watch that first, sight unseen. Two hours later, it felt like we'd been in a cave for a week. We walked outside and just sat around drinking a beer and said variations on, "woah...."

I love this show.
posted by lattiboy at 12:53 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Wait what no new episode tonight. Fuck this Super Bowl.
posted by humanfont at 3:08 PM on February 2


I'm annoyed that there isn't a new episode on tonight.

Thank you for posting that. It would have made for an even harsher surprise later tonight.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:12 PM on February 2


Interested in why so many folks find Cohle adolescent or bullshit, Hart's read on him, too. To my mind the man had to work everything out from the ground up, more than once, and he speaks of the grimness of life with some real authority.

Specifically his concept that the human consciousness is a mistake, that the separation we have from the undivided nature is illusion, is error -- there is a lot to this, I think. He's like the anti-Pema Chodron... a good buddhist except for the part where he doesn't think that there is a reality outside of this world, that there is innate good. His world is a dark place and he fully inhabits it.
posted by n9 at 5:23 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]


The Ligotti connection.
posted by unliteral at 7:24 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Interested in why so many folks find Cohle adolescent or bullshit, Hart's read on him, too. To my mind the man had to work everything out from the ground up, more than once, and he speaks of the grimness of life with some real authority.

The thing about a character like Cohle is that he demands a pretty good writer and actor, because a bunch of us went to college with guys who did a penny-ante version of this stuff. Tortured white guys sucking down generic cigarettes and coffee and writing their narcissitic bullshit in notebooks and gazing into the void but actually really just spewing their "look at how goddamn smart I am, I've cracked a book in my lifetime, EVERYTHING IS BULLSHIT" early-20s kind of stuff across the landscape (fellow philosophy majors, high five).

Writing and acting a guy like him without falling down that particular eye-roller of a well or spinning the Wheel of Tortured Genius Tropes takes some skill, and IMO so far they've been more or less pulling it off, but it's too soon to tell whether they'll keep it up. It's not exactly brain surgery, but it's a stunningly rare accomplishment.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:27 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


It's not exactly brain surgery, but it's a stunningly rare accomplishment.

And no offense meant to brain surgeons, but brain surgery is done every single day.
posted by el io at 8:14 PM on February 2


I mostly like that bleak mood, it's like Lovecraft by way of Cormac McCarthy or something.

The Ligotti connection.


Mad Speculation and Absolute Inhumanism: Lovecraft, Ligotti and the Weirding of Philosophy
posted by homunculus at 8:16 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


The other, related reading of Cohle, of course, is that of a charismatic sociopath a la Charles Manson.

That applies to Hart too; his argument with Michelle Monaghan in the last episode where they end up screwing could be part of a course in manipulation of others.

except why the hell would Hart kill the 2012 victim in a fashion which he knew would cause the case to get all sorts of attention?

Because he thinks it would be easy to deflect that attention onto Cohle, because Cohle is a freaky weirdo constantly spouting atheist bullshit and the other side are Louisiana cops.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:11 PM on February 2


I suppose. I can't help but feel, if that's what happened, that he would have been better off simply following the advice given in the famous HOW TO HIDE A DEAD BODY AskMe. It's a shitty world and nobody is going to look very hard for the random killer of an unidentified and unidentifiable prostitute. They're going to look very hard for a ritualistic copycat serial killer type.

But we'll see what happens.
posted by Justinian at 9:16 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


"The thing about a character like Cohle is that he demands a pretty good writer and actor, because a bunch of us went to college with guys who did a penny-ante version of this stuff. Tortured white guys sucking down generic cigarettes and coffee and writing their narcissitic bullshit in notebooks and gazing into the void but actually really just spewing their 'look at how goddamn smart I am, I've cracked a book in my lifetime, EVERYTHING IS BULLSHIT' early-20s kind of stuff across the landscape (fellow philosophy majors, high five)."

Heh.

I like what n9 wrote, but I guess my complaint is that Cohle's philosophy is pretty shallow. And by "shallow", I don't mean trivial. I mean it in the sense that the things he says are engaging with these issues in a sophomoric way — that he's begun to engage with them, but there's all sorts of stuff out there, both by philosophers and writers and by his own sustained contemplation, that goes into this much more deeply and substantively. He hasn't done that and my response to that, especially when it's someone who isn't actually a sophomore, is that they aren't interested in engaging in these issues more seriously, and with more effort, because to some degree it's a pretense — they're not actually seriously interested in these ideas and exploring what they mean for how to live a life, they're interested in them as a way to perform their life. And, as an intellectual, that annoys me. The other possibility is that they're just not equal to the material, they're not bright enough, or hardworking enough, to engage with ideas that are this challenging.

Another comparison to being a sophomore is that there's an aspect of having only been exposed to survey class presentation of these ideas. That's a pet-peeve of mine, as someone who primarily reads original works. Cohle isn't actually a sophomore, but if his erudition isn't a product of a formal education, it sounds like the product of a lot of popularized philosophy coupled with his own idiosyncratic interpretation. And, frankly, I'd be willing bet good money that this is true of Nic Pizzolatto.

All that said, the show still works for me because even if Pizzolatto intends for the audience to take Cohle more seriously than he deserves, it's nevertheless the case that there's many people like Cohle and being that person is just as interesting in the context of the show as it would be if Cohle were the person that I think Pizzolatto intends him to be. Because in either case, Pizzolatto is showing us someone who isn't really who he thinks he is; Cohle's philosophies are often a bit incoherent, Cohle has in some sense intellectualized his agony and is in that way alienated from it. He doesn't really know who he is, even as he believes himself to be one of the only people with true sight. He sees Hart quite clearly, but he doesn't see himself clearly at all. Meanwhile, as n9 wrote, Hart, despite that grating "I ain't got much book-larning, but you're messed up, brother" stereotype, he's also right.

Also, one thing I've been thinking lately is how truly weird and arguably revealing it is that so many human cultures have traditions of fictional narratives about murder. These narratives are to actual murder what roller-coaster rides are to falling off a mountain cliff, and while on the one hand that makes some sense (sublimating our fears and whatnot), on the other hand it's pretty fucked-up. Almost nothing about our murder stories are realistic and therefore almost none of them offer much insight into actual human character. They offer insight in the roundabout fashion in the same way that all of our very stylized narratives do. But what's remarkable is that murder narratives are about people in extremis, people bumping up against the horror that is always just a few steps away, waiting, but which we mostly try to ignore.

Detective stories about catching murderers rarely show us what it means to be an investigator that lives in that reality every day. Because these narratives are in some sense designed precisely to shield us from the reality of it, making the reality into something more palatable with which we can keep the true terror at bay. So detective protagonist who are deeply scarred and unable to live in the normal human world are usually the exceptions, not the rule, and when we do see them, we see them in some romanticized ways.

There's romanticization in Cohle, less so in Hart, but one of the things the show is trying to do is explain to us that having to look at those photos of murder victims, day in and day out, means that one becomes, necessarily, someone who cannot function in normal society because they don't really live in normal society. They face every day the ugliness that we pretty much try very hard to ignore.

And so that's a pretense. Hart and Cohle have pretense, the murder genre has pretense, how we think about detectives and murderers is a pretense, nothing is really what it is. Including Cohle, even as Cohle is obsessed with seeing reality as itself.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:24 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]


Interesting. Ivan, I really like your take.

Proposed: there are two Choles. Young, raw, fresh. A man encountering the darkness, but connected in a meaningful way. Then the other one: drunk, lost, bullshit, but with a glint of the younger self.

This would imply there are two Harts.
posted by n9 at 5:37 AM on February 3


even if Pizzolatto intends for the audience to take Cohle more seriously than he deserves

Maybe I'm giving the show too much credit, but though I agree that it takes Cohle himself seriously, I don't think that necessarily extends to his ideas. Pizzolatto has created a man who's depressed, miserable and traumatised by the death of his child, the failure of his marriage, his struggles with substance abuse, and the world full of killing he lives in, a man who's swimming in darkness but too bright, too proud, and too wedded to his identity as a thinking person and a competent man to give up on trying to make sense of what has happened to him. My favourite exchange from the last episode was:
Hart: (guiltily) Hey. You think a man can love two women at once? I mean, be in love with them?

Cohle: (bleakly) I don't think that man can love. Blah blah blah the inadequacies of reality blah blah blah this place is going to be underwater in thirty years.
LOL, come on. I just don't believe the content of Cohle's ideas are the point, nor are they intended as props to illustrate that he's a deep thinker, just that he's a hopelessly sad old bastard. No, he's not really interested in what the history of human thought has to offer; he just wants a little bit of comfort in a a form that's palatable to him. He wants religion that's the opposite of the kind of religion that surrounds him. That is, instead of wanting to be told that all this suffering means something in the end, he wants to hear that nothing ever meant anything, and that everything that is lost and inaccessible to him is an illusion, anyway. Which is pretty gaptoothed philosophy, but coming from a serious, painful place, and IMO that's what Cohle's characterisation is really about. But we're only three episodes in, so maybe I'll change my mind about that.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:50 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


The commenters over at The AV Club compared Cohle's episode-opening rant to Reddit-quality atheist rant and I think that's about right. I don't think he's supposed to be a truly wise philosopher. If he isn't, regardless of the reason, it's one of the things that makes the show so good for me. He's an incredibly unreliable narrator: as suggested above, he might be a suspect in whatever is going on in the newer timeline— even if he isn't, he's not impressing the other cops in spite of the fact he seems to have grown up since his life really went to shit. But this mess of a guy is our lifeline in the story's world. The more upstanding and solid Woody Harrelson character has already been revealed to be a dick who's broken by neuroses.

I realize it's pretty lame but I assume what happened Hart's wife is that she went off with Cohle.
posted by yerfatma at 7:59 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


And while I'm stealing things from The AV Club, there's a suggestion the show is referencing Kingpin on a regular basis. At least the mower scene.
posted by yerfatma at 8:05 AM on February 3


I think the writing on the show is smarter and wilier than we know yet. As the first few episodes have unfolded, I think we were very clearly meant to suspect at least one of the detectives (Cohle being the obvious one), but we're being led away from that with each subsequent episode. Or are we?

There are some very subtle visual tricks that they're playing. At some point, after a sufficient number of flashbacks depicting his marriage, we see that Hart, hands folded, is no longer wearing a wedding ring. In the latest episode, there was a follow-up -- a brief glimpse that Hart is in fact missing the top half of his ring finger. He was in the middle of talking; attention was meant to be on his face.

So I think they're setting us up for some surprises, and doing it very subtly.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:44 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


I read another interesting theory on some other message board: that the show's focus on partnerships (detective and marital) means that the 2012 killer could have been a partner of the original 1995 killer. Given that the 1995 killer apparently recruited/brainwashed his victims first, it is likely that he was some kind of cult leader, and what is a cult leader without at least one faithful disciple?
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:21 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Hot damn. From Natalie Zea's Twitter:
I'd like to welcome Michelle Monaghan to the "Underwritten Wife Character on an Otherwise Brilliant TV Show" club. #TrueDetective
(Zea played ex-wives on Justified and The Following, but of course The Following doesn't count because I don't think anybody would call it "otherwise brilliant".)
posted by kmz at 4:56 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


That's a zinger, but there's a difference between "peripheral character" and "underwritten character."
posted by uberchet at 9:38 AM on February 4


That would be a more compelling distinction if the primary role for women in these sorts of shows has long tended toward "peripheral character."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:33 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I'm not convinced Winona was underwritten. Certainly there's a big similarity between her and Zea's character on The Following.


They're both very fucking annoying.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:50 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


This discussion convinced me to watch the show, so I saw all three episodes last night, and now I have to wait in real time with the rest of you assholes thanks a lot.
posted by tzikeh at 8:48 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]






I was going to post about the long take, and didn't realize there was already a thread.

I don't know that Cohle is necessarily full of bullshit, it's just that his world isn't the same as ours or Harte's. Is his philosophy really that silly when you've been doing what was shown in last night's episode for an eleven year stretch? This is a story that's about narratives, and Cohle's narrative is the one that he's constructed to deal with his bleak reality.

I did think it was interesting how he went out of his way to protect women and children during the shoot-out in the projects, which was one of the more telling parts of that episode for me.

Something which hasn't been brought back up are the occult task force or the governor, which was hinted at with the jail-house interview in last night's show when Charlie mentioned a place where the rich and powerful go to worship Satan and kill people. I feel like the 1997 detectives are going to realize that Ladeau is only half of the equation, and when they get too close to the truth Cohle gets drummed out of the force and Harte is promoted in exchange for silence. However, having gotten their man in the meth-farm shoot-out, the case is closed and the true killer is able to operate at his leisure.

Regardless, I'm really happy that they seem to be done with the set-up and Cohle's monologues, and have started to apply to the gas for the final half of the series.
posted by codacorolla at 2:42 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


"You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch." --Det. Hart to Cohle

Entire series has been worth it for that line.
posted by humanfont at 5:47 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Holy crap has there ever been a better action scene on television?
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:05 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Also: Could someone on the Internets do a Wes Anderson version? You know, for kids.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:07 PM on February 10


That long take was outstanding. And, like any great oner, felt like an eternity. It reminded of the tracking shot that closed out the final action sequence in Children of Men.
posted by Token Meme at 1:06 AM on February 11


I almost never watch things multiple times (especially so soon after seeing something), but I watched it at work yesterday and immediately went home and watched it again.

The fact that the scene was a true one-take is nothing short of astounding. The obvious break-point with the chopper overhead was only used in case the scene didn't work. The most impressive bit might have been when the steadicam operator went up and over the fence with them and maintained the whole shot. Whoever was manning that camera is officially the best.

Children of Men is one of my favorite movies, but that end scene is not actually one shot. It's CGI'd and pasted together quite a bit. Still an absolutely amazing scene, but not nearly as impressive as this.
posted by lattiboy at 10:09 AM on February 11


The most impressive bit might have been when the steadicam operator went up and over the fence with them and maintained the whole shot.

They hooked up up to crane like jib and lifted him over. Amazing.

They shot the scene seven times and had several break points in case they needed to edit it together, but the final shown scene was indeed a single take. I loved it, feels like the series has been building up to this chaos and things becoming undone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on February 11


This show is getting better with each episode. The last one was heart-pounding, crazy stuff. Wow.
posted by cell divide at 10:33 AM on February 11


This was (roughly) from episode 2:

"I think about my daughter now. About what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. Drs said she didn't feel a thing, just went into a coma. And in somewhere in that blackness she slipped off into another...deeper kind. Isn't that a beautiful way to go out? Painlessly? As a happy child. Trouble with dying later is you've already grown up. Damage is done. It's too late.

You got kids? Three? I think of the hubris it must take to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this…..MEAT. To force a life into this.....thresher. My daughter spared me the sin of being a father."

I work in tv, I'd like to think of myself as pretty jaded. I've worked tons of pilots, I've seen shows come and go over and over again. The show I am working on is really (by all accounts) good, and in the hews daily. I'm jaded. But between Breaking Bad, this, The Wire....we are really in a Golden Age of tv. I like to say I don't watch TV unless I'm paid, but man...this shit is GOOD. I'm actually not liking that weeks are 7 days long. There is amazing work being done.
posted by nevercalm at 2:41 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


So it looks like they are indeed trying to pin the murders on Cohle as suspected. And his breakdown happened because he's become obsessed with finding a serial killer nobody else believes exists (or rather that everyone else believes is dead). And who is apparently well connected?
posted by Justinian at 12:12 AM on February 17


I finally watched episode four in preparation for watching tonight's episode five (queued up and ready to go).

That long take was incredible. I mean, seriously, it was so good. And T. Bone's music choices and the sound design were outstanding, especially during that scene. If you've already watched the scene several times for the direction, you should watch it again just for the sound.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:15 AM on February 17


Anyone enjoying this show ought to do themselves the favour of watching the movie Kill List. Wicker Man was mentioned above, and Kill List is in the same vein, although I would argue a damn sight more effective.
posted by cthuljew at 3:19 AM on February 17




The King in Yellow By Robert William Chambers.
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]






From an interview with Pizzalatto:
Pizzolatto took a bite of his branzino. "Now, think about all the things Cohle is talking about," he said as he finished chewing. "Is he a man railing against an uncaring god? Or is he a character in a TV show railing against his audience? Aren't we the creatures of that higher dimension? The creatures who can see the totality of his world? After all, we get to see all eight episodes of his life. On a flat screen. And we can watch him live that same life over and over again, the exact same way."
...which makes Cohle's nonsense-physics totally excusable, as far as I'm concerned. Not that I'm not still annoyed. I was reading the thread at TWoP and at least two different people tryied to explain how Cohle was talking about garden-variety relativity (um, no) and actual physics.

No, it was some misunderstood mash-up of brane theory and probably Pizzolatto's hazy memories of someone telling him about Flatland.

I dunno. It's a toss-up whether the superficial and confused existential nihilism or the superficial and confused cosmology are more like fingers on a chalkboard for me.

It would be so much more comforting to believe that Pizzolatto is deliberately presenting Cohle this way. And, if we wish to take a hard line against the intentionalist fallacy, we can just decide that Cohle's bullshit science and philosophy are entirely organic to his character and don't worry about the fact that Pizzolatto probably thinks it's meaningful.

But, I don't know. I want to live in a world where quality writers are not so frequently terrible, terrible philosophers and utterly ignorant of science.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:19 PM on February 17


Sticks.

Sticks.

Coincidence? Or is this guy the true villain?
posted by homunculus at 1:21 AM on February 18


If Cohle knows he's a character on a teevee show, it explains why he has been making and posing his own little tin can cast throughout the series.

I kind of like it. Witnessing the King in Yellow is supposed to drive you mad. What could be more maddening than discovering you're just a prop for storytelling, and that the most terrible thing you ever experienced can be repeated any time an audience is curious to see it, and you must go through it again as though it was the first time?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:45 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I don't know how I'd feel about breaking the fourth wall, but it would make Harte's line to the Bartender character played by Pizzolatto ("Why are you making me say these things") make a lot of sense.
posted by codacorolla at 7:58 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


All right, thinking on it more, I wonder if the plot of True Detective is following the King in Yellow, with the first act being sort of appealingly banal (in this case, in the sense of following the conventions of a supernaturally themed procedural, but with all sorts of kitchen sinky dramas, such as the affair and the family crisis, which is very common to police dramas), and the second act stripping away that veneer of normalcy to reveal madness underneath.

If that's the case, it would be an astonishing trick to pull off. But I kind of think that is what is going on. We've established a lot of conventions and expectations in act one that are being reversed in act two. I was growing irritated at the languorousness of the framing interview -- so Cohle is a suspect, I get it! -- but (SPOILER) now it comes out that Cohle was actually using the interviewer to fish information out of the detectives interviewing him. It turns out that he wasn't covering for his own misbehavior so much as he was covering for Harte's homicide of one of the cooks. It also turns out that Cohle suspects there is a larger scheme afoot -- and perhaps suspects or knows that this is an entirely fictional construct.

This past week's episode had been clearly established as the moment when we meet the monster, but it was another bait and switch -- the man in his underwear and gas mask hasn't appeared yet. The structure of the show seems to be metamorphasing, and growing darker and weirder -- the storyline about Harte's troubled daughter is, at it's very starting point, a lot more troubling than Harte's infidelities in the first half. It seems very possible that the story we are told about Cohle, about him being a burnout who lives at the back of a bar and is drinking himself to death, may be the man in deep cover, something we already know he's capable of doing for years. Based on the number of deleted files and the double-homicide suspect's suspicious suicide, there is no doubt somebody in the department has started covering things up (and we're told that this involves men in high places -- we have already met Jay O. Saunders as a politician, and I don't think he would be introduced and then just dropped.

I'm very interested to see what happens in the rest of the series. The show has implicitly promised real madness, and that's the sort of promise I usually wouldn't expect to have delivered, but the steadycam scene in the mid-season episode had me thinking that maybe we're in the hands of somebody who can take us someplace we haven't seen before.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:22 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I agree with your assessment Bunny Ultamod in terms of how the story is structured. Even though the writer has said there are three acts, it seems to me that we are really looking at two parts. Part 1 the ordinary serial killer detective story, and part 2 where it descends into madness and depravity.

I've been rereading the Chamber's book. It seems to me that a common theme from the book, The King in Yellow, is the struggle between reason and insanity. The notion that in this modern age the most informed, smartest and intellectual are above the silly superstitions of the masses. The story advances as the protagonist is forced to face the "weird" reality. Their faith and arrogance must be tested and in the end they are left insane. As the audience we are made to jump and suffer with them, and if the story is successful we are left spooked.
posted by humanfont at 9:39 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


If Cohle knows he's a character on a teevee show, it explains why he has been making and posing his own little tin can cast throughout the series.

I did like how the closing shot has Cohle framed by a broken window, with black stars drawn on the remaining panes of glass, like the vision Ledoux had. (It also kind of looks like a crazy smiling face.) Cohle's being viewed from a mysterious outside place. So maybe Ledoux is watching the show.

The quote from the title of this thread fits this idea pretty nicely too. Maybe soon Cohle is going to realize he's actually McConaughey and chase a villainous politician off set, Blazing Saddles style.
posted by bleep-blop at 10:55 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


the man in his underwear and gas mask hasn't appeared yet

Perhaps I'm reading this too literally, but I assumed that was Ledoux wearing the mask coming out of the lab after a cook. Otherwise, yeah, I agree.

I don't know how I'd feel about breaking the fourth wall, but it would make Harte's line to the Bartender character played by Pizzolatto ("Why are you making me say these things") make a lot of sense.

I did not know that was him. I love it. Now I'm practically waiting for Deadpool and Animal Man to show up.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:58 AM on February 18


*Sweaty hands grip the bong tightly* It turns out the True Detective was us
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


Wait, wait...what if the victim was the killer????
posted by middleclasstool at 11:05 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Oops sorry, that thin monotonous piping driving mortals to madness is my ring tone.
posted by bleep-blop at 11:06 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


Perhaps I'm reading this too literally, but I assumed that was Ledoux wearing the mask coming out of the lab after a cook.

Yeah, looking at the photo of the monster, it's clearly the fellow that Cohle executed -- there's the hangman's noose tattoo.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:08 AM on February 18


The monster was inside us all along!
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


it turns out the real monster ...IS MAN
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


The monster was inside us all along!

No one calls my beloved Joachim a monster, you jerk
posted by middleclasstool at 1:42 PM on February 18




"I don't know how I'd feel about breaking the fourth wall, but it would make Harte's line to the Bartender character played by Pizzolatto ('Why are you making me say these things') make a lot of sense."

Yeah, to echo middleclasstool, I had no idea that was Pizzolatto. That's utterly brilliant. I love it. Wow.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:45 PM on February 18


It's taken me way too long to find a metafilter thread for this show (which my husband and I call "mumble detectives" and I wish would be adopted by everyone) and I am so glad to see that Ivan F. espousing a version of my own theory about the show, and so early on, too. He's sharper than I am.

All right, thinking on it more, I wonder if the plot of True Detective is following the King in Yellow, with the first act being sort of appealingly banal (in this case, in the sense of following the conventions of a supernaturally themed procedural, but with all sorts of kitchen sinky dramas, such as the affair and the family crisis, which is very common to police dramas), and the second act stripping away that veneer of normalcy to reveal madness underneath.

Here's what I think: Hart's father-in-law is deeply connected with the cult, hence the elder daughter's sexual obsessions and proclivities as well as that spiraly thingie showing up in one of her drawings. I don't think Hart knows this in 1995; I think that Cohle will learn this in 2002, leading to their fall-out. And I suspect Hart committed these murders with a (perhaps misguided) hope at getting his wife and family back. Hart being the copycat killer seems pretty clearly telegaphed to me in the 2012 interview scenes. Almost all of them can be read two ways, with either Cohle or Hart as the killer. but Cohle is too obvious--it feels like misdirection, and everything we've learned about him points to him being someone who is deeply moral, though idiosyncratic in his morality. Hart, meanwhile, looks socially acceptable but at his heart (heh) is kind of this jealous creep with a bunch of weird beliefs about women and how life falls apart without family.

I dunno. We'll see.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:23 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Oh man I love this show and even more learning about the weird cult stuff underlying it. I doubt the ending of the season will be as rewarding and subtly twisted as folks in this thread think it will be, but for now, the anticipation is delightful.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:24 PM on February 19


as that spiraly thingie showing up in one of her drawings

Jesus Christ, I'm gonna have to do a frame-by-frame on this goddamn show to catch everything.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:32 AM on February 20


I've been refraining on commenting on this thread until I got caught up, but I wanted to come in and say that I'm loving this show, and I will love it SO HARD if they go completely off the deep end into Lovecraft-precursor territory. I will be forced to give HBO ALL THE MONEY.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:21 PM on February 20


Also, over on Television Without Pity, they have in their infinite wisdom chosen as the True Detective recapper Jacob "Look How Nice I'm Writing" Clifton, the overblown and florid metaphor that walks like a man. He very visibly hates the show. Hates it.

Why? He thinks Cohle's philosophical digressions are sophomoric, ill-understood, and pretentious.

The irony is both so hilarious and palpable that I could put it into a forge and hammer out a serviceable clown car.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:26 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I don't think he hates it. He has given every episode an A+ so far. Snarking is just part of the scenery at TWoP.
posted by Justinian at 3:01 PM on February 20


Jacob gives an A+ to every episode of pretty much every episode of everything these days, though, with the notable exception of The Blacklist--I guess not even he can justify that.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:26 PM on February 20


I enjoyed the recent mod note in the True Detective TWoP thread, apparently in response to a deleted post, where the mod says (nicely, surprisingly) that TWoP has never allowed any negative comments about recaps or recappers.

I think I remember who Jacob is, back years ago when I read recaps. He's the guy with a lot of academic experience with theology, right? My recollection is that he definitely knows his stuff, so I don't compare him to Cohle in that regard and I can understand his irritation with Cohle (which I share), but, on the other hand, he was painfully, relentlessly pretentious and flowery. So, yeah, irony.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:46 PM on February 20


Hey now, The Good Wife deserves an A+ for everything. It's wonderful. The others... point made I guess.
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on February 20


Don't mind me, though. I'm just feeling cranky because I'm coming off a couple of weeks of binge-watching Deadwood, and the idea of having to wait three more weeks just to see the conclusion of True Detective is leaving me twitchy.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:01 PM on February 20


"I'm just feeling cranky because I'm coming off a couple of weeks of binge-watching Deadwood..."

You hadn't seen it before? That was such a great show. One of those cancellations that really hurt.

What I always think about it, though, is that it was on Deadwood where I first saw Kristen Bell, playing "Flora" in two episodes, and that formed my indelible impression of her. I've loved her in Veronica Mars and the other stuff she's done, but as "Flora" I first knew her as an incredibly talented actor, and that's how I most think of her.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:24 PM on February 20


No, I somehow missed it the first time around, and both I and Mrs. Example were in a TV lull with nothing to watch and had heard how good it was, so we gave it a try. Man, it was good, and you're right--it was canceled too soon.

(If nothing else, I wanted to see what happened to E.B. Farnum. I like to think I'm an Al Swearengen, but I strongly suspect I'm one of life's E.B. Farnums.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:31 PM on February 20


What I always think about it, though, is that it was on Deadwood where I first saw Kristen Bell, playing "Flora" in two episodes, and that formed my indelible impression of her.

Holy shit, I did not realize that was her! I've got to watch those episodes again.

...then again, maybe not, considering how that arc concluded.
posted by homunculus at 5:27 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, I'm gonna have to do a frame-by-frame on this goddamn show to catch everything.

Yep.

(This show is super meta.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:20 PM on February 20


Aha! I think we may have located Carcosa: A Monumental Land Art Installation in the Sahara Desert
posted by homunculus at 10:57 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]






True Dog… Detective
posted by homunculus at 6:51 PM on February 21


Something I didn't realize before (ironically the True Dog link made me think of it) is the importance that Yeats put on the gyre in his poetry and his metaphysical mucking around. Yeats was also in deep with Crowley (at least for a bit) in the golden dawn, which has been paralleled to the cult of the Yellow King from the show.

I'm pretty sure the gyre in Yeats is similar to the flat circle in Rust and LeDoux's mumblings: a symbol for eternal recurrence.

I doubt it will play directly into the plot, but I do wonder if it inspired the symbolism at all in the show.

Also, this has reawakened my desire for a movie / book / game about Crowley and Yeats' antagonism while they were both in the Golden Dawn.
posted by codacorolla at 9:08 PM on February 22


I thought one of the best bits of the show was when Rust told Reggie, "Shut up, Nietzsche!" while he was handcuffed.

Kind of goes along with the whole "meta" bit of the show. Rust being the jaded audience of his own show.
posted by lattiboy at 12:20 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]




A few metaphorical nods to weird fiction do not indicate that Yog-Sothoth is about to crawl out from the banh mi stand [...] Will the eventual revelation of the killer’s identity (or identities! You don’t know!) be a crushing disappointment because of the mythological/extratextual/impossibly heightened hopes some of us have heaped upon what might otherwise be just a very well-executed detective show?

I think the above two quotes sum up what is going on. The story will end up being more conventional than a lot of people hope and expect.
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Yeah on one hand I'm enjoying the mood and performances on the other hand some people are wound up into such a froth they're going to be let down.

Like its obviously "From Hell In Rural US South." right?
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on February 23


I'm holding out hope for Animal Man in the rural south.
posted by codacorolla at 3:08 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Rust actually steps out of the TV to yell at you.

Then you just kinda hang out.

(1995 Rust occasionally throws these little expressions and gestures I only associate with like, gay cowboys from Texas and I wonder if that's just a ranching country thing.)
posted by The Whelk at 3:12 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


Interesting speculation from reddit today. This is speculation but might be a spoiler so read on at your own risk.

Go back and watch the very first scene up until we see circle of the camera lense starting to focus and record Marty. Maybe that scene isn't showing us the murder from. 1995 or from 2012. Maybe that is the last scene chronologically.
posted by humanfont at 3:20 PM on February 23


I was thinking the same thing rewatching it today. It'd be a nice way to bring in the idea of eternal recurrence.

Also I thought I posted to this thread earlier, but I guess I didn't?

The camera that Rust and Marty are talking to resembles the flat circle that Cohle talks about last episode, while also resembling the sphere (if you think about the overall shape of a lens). The way that a lot of shots are blocked positions the camera fairly prominently, including a really cool one where the audience can see the LCD screen on the camera showing the same scene that they're seeing on their screen. It reminded me a little bit of Twin Peak's show within a show, Invitation to Love. Probably not a central part of the plot, but a nice little metatextual flourish.

Plus a pretty funny joke theory: it's all in the ties.
posted by codacorolla at 3:30 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure we all saw Russ and Maggie as the final catalyst for Marty/Maggie's marriage breaking up. But it went down in a far grosser and ugly fashion than we usually see on TV which seems quite appropriate for this show.

At least Michelle Monaghan had a bunch of lines in this episode. Even if it didn't come anywhere remotely close to passing the Bechdel test. I love it anyway.

So a second reference to a tall man with scars.
posted by Justinian at 7:52 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I had almost written off Maggie and Rust sleeping together, thinking it was a false lead. But, nope, there it was. Not sexy or erotic at all... shot from a distance, with a minimal amount of skin. Very unlike your typical HBO gratuitous sex scene (although they still put one of those in there). I like the fact that Maggie wasn't just an innocent victim. Revenge sex with Rust showed agency and complexity. Great performance by Monaghan, too.
posted by codacorolla at 8:07 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Woops, Rust not Russ. I knew that. Promise.
posted by Justinian at 8:27 PM on February 23


So... many... theories...
posted by ocherdraco at 10:14 PM on February 23


Ok, so rather than any sort of supernatural King in Yellow stuff going on I think after the last few episodes it's likely that there's a much more earthly horror here; a child sex ring, probably being covered up by Powers That Be. Was Tuttle running the show or simply covering it up? Not sure. Usually I'd think the murders are to cover up the ring... but you don't do everything in your power to maintain a low profile and then stage ritual murders.

So how are the murders connected to the child sex ring? A psycho involved with both? How did whats-her-name the former prostitute Marty hooked up with this episode get out of the situation, since one assumes the "bad place" she was at before the trailer park was part of it.

I hope I'm wrong but there are obviously hints that at least the older of Marty and Maggie's daughters was caught up in the situation. Maybe that's a red herring. It'll be pretty awful if it is not.
posted by Justinian at 10:47 PM on February 23


I think the above two quotes sum up what is going on. The story will end up being more conventional than a lot of people hope and expect.

So it's not a police procedural remake of Cabin in the Woods?
posted by octothorpe at 3:47 AM on February 24


I think after the last few episodes it's likely that there's a much more earthly horror here; a child sex ring, probably being covered up by Powers That Be

I expect something ambiguous -- a child sex ring, but also connected to a cult where there are some elements of reality to the cult.

Like, I dunno, Cohle is doing his no-sleep thing again in the last episode and so while he sees supernatural events happen when he and Marty ride in and save the day, we don't know whether they're just him hallucinating again or real shit going down. Or that he has to take meth+LSD to infiltrate the cult/sex ring, to the same effect.

They've been leaning in this direction already -- the meth cook seeming to know things ahead of time, but on the other head he might just be a crazy tweaker.

there are obviously hints that at least the older of Marty and Maggie's daughters was caught up in the situation

I'd put more money on the docile younger one.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:01 AM on February 24






Quite a stark contrast between those two characterizations.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:10 PM on February 24


Perhaps unsurprisingly I agree more with the first one. This season of TD is obviously in large part about the ways in which men treat women (and children) badly, from the large and terrible to the small and banal.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on February 24


Is it me, or was the ex-hooker's line to Hart about "there's nothing wrong with the way he made us" almost the same as what Cohle was telling a suspect to make him confess a couple of episodes back?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:06 PM on February 24


I don't think it's a cult, I think it's just a human trafficking ring. I think the murders were made to appeal to the "satanic panic"/cult angle which is why a task force was so quick to try and jump on the case, but I think that's part of the conspiracy.
posted by windbox at 8:21 PM on February 24


Are The Female Characters On True Detective Supposed To Be Invisible? - might be spoilery for those who don't want to know theories/crazy clues sharp-eyed viewers have picked up on.
posted by primalux at 9:24 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


I dunno, windbox. I've objected to that before on the same grounds I'm going to object to it now. Murdering people almost no-one will miss or look for and then making it look like a occult ritual serial killer is abjectly stupid. Because if you just killed them and threw their bodies in the Gulf nobody would look for them and no resources would be spent finding the killers. That's awful and sad but it's true.

There is either a cult or a bunch of people too stupid for life.
posted by Justinian at 10:27 PM on February 24


primalux: I have been tempted to go back and see how many of the girls in the "Light of the Way" yearbook photo show up as women in the show but I'm leaving that to the even more obsessed fans on the internet, of which there are many.

I did notice the Munchausen-by-proxy woman was one of the kids in the yearbook photo but I missed one of the others in your link.

In any case it's obviously not a coincidence that at least 4 and probably more of the 9 girls in a single yearbook photo from one of Tuttle's schools ended up dead, missing, or so messed up they would repeatedly murder their own infants.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 PM on February 24




primalux article makes a great point, that there is a second, submerged narrative going on throughout the show, where women interact with each other in a way that is either unseen or unacknowledged by men. Watching the seven minute continuous take, I was struck by a few things. The first is, during this house invasion, one of the bikers is taking the trouble to brutally harass a woman. Later, when Rust makes his escape, he's actually seen running away by another woman, who alerts her friends -- who ignore her.

I feel like I need to go back and watch for this hidden narrative, because if they have taken the time to show women being mistreated and ignored in such a complex scene, then I suspect they have placed it throughout the show (and the link suggests they have).

I'm starting to think that this show reverses the King in Yellow. The honey pot in the original was a rather ordinary story that drew people into occult madness. I think the occult stuff is the honey pot here -- that the real madness is that we're living in a world where any power at all is a mechanism for almost unconsciously exploiting and abusing women and children.

Marty and Rust are engaged in chasing people who murder, torture, and sexually abuse people for some obscure occult reason, but they are almost mirror images of what they are chasing. Both have amply demonstrated their willingness to murder and then cover their tracks, and Marty has relentlessly sexually exploited the women in his life (while ignoring clear indications that his daughter is being sexually abused), and sex to him is intimately linked to violence -- he has abused and threatened anyone who engages or refuses to engage in sex that he approves of. Rust, in the meanwhile, is a babbling mad scientist with a history of drug and hanging out with murderous bikers. They're just variations on Billie Lee Tuttle and Ledoux.

I don't think the climax is going to be that Marty or Rust is the actual monster -- I hope it isn't. But they are nonetheless exactly like the monsters, just at a lower pay grade.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:52 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I'm certain that neither Rust or Marty is the killer. Marty walks in the same neighborhood as the monsters at best, but neither is a monster, though they do have monstrous qualities.

If you've watched the preview for episode 7, it seems pretty clear where things are going. Rust and Marty find out secret going ons have been closer to home than they ever thought. The solution to all their problems has been right under their nose. SPOILER OBSERVATIONS HERE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:06 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


I pretty much abandoned my theory after seeing the writer gabbing in the show post-mortem for episode five about how neither Rust nor Marty is an anti-hero but just a straight hero.

How Marty can be seen as a straight hero when he treats women like such a shit, I have no idea. But then, I'm not a dude.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:33 AM on February 25


PhoBWanKenobi, your theory is at least partially correct, I"m sure. Marty's Father-in-law is probably involved in the secret cult somehow.

The idea of Marty being a straight hero makes sense, in that he's clearly fucked up, but society views him as a good man. A slap at society's idea of what a hero is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:30 PM on February 25


Yeah, but this wasn't society saying he's a good man. This was the person who writes him, you know? I don't doubt that Nic Pizzolatto views him as a hero but he embodies some loathsome stuff which goes beyond "normal human foibles."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on February 25


Haven't seen the interview, so I'm not totally sure of the context. Just meant that I can see how Pizzolatto's view of him as hero is reflective of how society views such things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 PM on February 25


I think it depends heavily on context. There are plenty of people we consider heroes or at least having done heroic things who are huge dicks in their private lives. It's one of the reasons we tend to draw distinctions between public and private lives in the first place.
posted by Justinian at 6:23 PM on February 25


IIRC, it was in the after-show "making of" on episode 4 or 5. It was pretty much, "I don't understand those who see Marty and Rust as anti-heroes. To me, they're heroes." That was the gist.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:12 PM on February 25


That does indeed sound bizarre. Almost clueless.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:27 AM on February 26


I won't know what to think about that until the show is over. The writer seems to be playing an especially complex game of cat and mouse with his audience, both in the text of the show and in interviews outside the show. He has explicitly stated that one of the themes of the show is the way women are ignored and minimized by men -- which holds up when you look at the show itself -- and the characters might be heroic because they solve the problem in a heroic way or they may be heroic because the story is following a traditional hero's journey narrative, but constantly, and quietly, subverting it.

I mean, the story does present itself as a "great men do great things" structure, and Marty's many abuses are things he excuses away as being something that goes along with having a heroic job, even if the show itself doesn't excuse that behavior.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:46 AM on February 26


Yeah, but this wasn't society saying he's a good man. This was the person who writes him, you know?

I wonder what he meant though, because the person who wrote him has written a number of scenes where people declare them heroes when we clearly don't see them that way. Most relevant/ recent being the young victim Marty wound up sleeping with this week. She declares him a hero then he shows himself to not be one.
posted by yerfatma at 7:27 AM on February 26


Let me say that I really appreciate the discourse in this thread compared to other places discussing the show. The difference here is that people are talking about the craft of the narrative, direction and acting, and in other places it's like the show is nothing more than a puzzle box to be solved (usually with incredibly poorly thought out theories). I think that LOST broke people's brains, and now they feel like they have to out-theorize every show that uses mystery as one of its central conceits.
posted by codacorolla at 10:47 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]




Oh yeah, for people looking for a mystery show that centers on a well developed female detective I would recommend The Fall in addition to Top of the Lake (which has been mentioned). The Fall stars Gillian Anderson delivering a great performance as Stella Gibson. Gibson is a complicated person, and very well rendered in the show's writing. The main plot sometimes tends a little bit too close to typical serial killer stuff, but like True Detective I feel that it's able to subvert and reexamine the underlying bones of the genre to do some really interesting things. The first season is on Netflix, so it's absolutely worth checking out.
posted by codacorolla at 11:21 AM on February 26


Seconding The Fall as really, really good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:43 AM on February 26


I wonder what he meant though, because the person who wrote him has written a number of scenes where people declare them heroes when we clearly don't see them that way.

I re watched the first episode last night, just for fun. It's was great to see how much of Rust and Marty's relationship was established, right down to Rust doing the casework and leaving Marty to do the paperwork. What's particularly clear is the almost instant bond that Rust and Maggie developed. In that initial dinner scene, once Marty is out of the room, it's almost as if Maggie and Rust are on a first date. It's probably why Rust decided to stay, rather than leave as Marty intended, due to Rust being drunk.

It's also much clearer that Rust is manipulating the detectives that are interviewing him and also pumping them for information. He's knows why they're questioning him and digs for information in multiple ways/levels.

The interesting thing about Marty is that despite all his obvious flaws, he stands up for and respects Rust's abilities as a cop. Part of may be his desire to use those skills for his own gain, but there's still the respect for that, despite not liking pretty much anything else about his partner.

Did anyone find Maggie's insistence on meeting Marty's partner to be a bit odd? Does she ever tell Marty that Rust's daughter died in an accident? I can't remember how Marty found out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:17 PM on February 26


I am curious about the death of Rust's daughter. There's been strong hints that Rust somehow had an accidental hand in it. I wonder if it is another case of women and children being damaged by men's violence or inattentiveness.

I can't believe his daughter is just there as background. But, then, I won't mind if it is, because not everything needs to be explained. He's just another man with a child's death behind him, in a show full of them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:25 PM on February 26


I see his daughter's death as a catalyst for who his is now and part of the reason why he's particularly driven about this case. Someone going around killing kids is going stay on his radar, especially when he discovers how prevalent its been.

The character has echoes of Bayliss from Homicide: Life on Street and how the unsolved murder a child, Adena Watson, shaped him as a detective. There's a similar dynamic going on with Rust, except it was his daughter's death that shaped him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:00 PM on February 26


In that initial dinner scene, once Marty is out of the room, . . .

I remember it being like he lit up (and sobered up) and became a more engaged person.

It's also much clearer that Rust is manipulating the detectives that are interviewing him and also pumping them for information

I think it was over at The AV Club (highly recommend the episode threads there) someone pointed out Rust drinking immediately makes anything he says inadmissible in court. What would be interesting is if the current detectives realize that.

Did anyone find Maggie's insistence on meeting Marty's partner to be a bit odd?

No, I took that as sort of de rigeur police procedural where the wife insists on knowing what's essentially a new extended family member. Didn't she explicitly say she wanted to meet the guy watching Marty's back? If so, that's a loaded line.

I am curious about the death of Rust's daughter.

Same here. I think that could be part of the twist.
posted by yerfatma at 2:24 PM on February 26


I think it was over at The AV Club (highly recommend the episode threads there) someone pointed out Rust drinking immediately makes anything he says inadmissible in court. What would be interesting is if the current detectives realize that.

Pizollatto has said as much in interviews. Although, according to actual law-type people I've read the comments of this isn't really the case.

No, I took that as sort of de rigeur police procedural where the wife insists on knowing what's essentially a new extended family member. Didn't she explicitly say she wanted to meet the guy watching Marty's back? If so, that's a loaded line.

Yep. The first girl that she tried to set Cohle up with said that the last guy was a drunk, and I think that indicates that she has a stake in who Marty is partnered with. Speculatively, it's because she wants someone who will be a good influence given Marty's propensity for drinking and sleeping around.
posted by codacorolla at 4:10 PM on February 26


Same here. I think that could be part of the twist.

I would be absolutely shocked if that were true.
posted by Justinian at 4:20 PM on February 26


I think it was over at The AV Club (highly recommend the episode threads there) someone pointed out Rust drinking immediately makes anything he says inadmissible in court. What would be interesting is if the current detectives realize that.

Rust actually says this. When the detectives hesitate in getting him the beer, he says something like "What, you want this to be admissible?"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:53 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Which is a good way of showing that Rust was only there to get a read on those detectives and to scoop up as much data as possible. Their hesitation or lack thereof gives him a good deal of information as to whats going on.
posted by Justinian at 7:06 PM on February 26


Pizollatto has said as much in interviews . . .
Rust actually says this.


I think the one definitive conclusion we can draw is that my powers of observation won't crack this case.
posted by yerfatma at 9:55 AM on February 27


If it makes you feel any better, I've somehow ended up watching the series three times.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:25 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


New thread.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on February 27


PhoBWanKenobi: “If it makes you feel any better, I've somehow ended up watching the series three times.”
Yeah, after seeing this Reddit comment, I think I'm going to have to go back and watch the whole thing again while sitting on my hands so I don't futz with my phone or otherwise distract myself.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:02 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


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