True Detective is an American television anthology drama series on HBO, created and written by Nic Pizzolatto, with the first season directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Season one stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Detective Rustin Cohle and Detective Martin Hart (or "Rust" and "Marty"), two Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division homicide detectives, hunting for a serial killer in 1995 (and sees them being interviewed in 2012, reflecting on the events that happened).
The Carcosa Mythos?Edit
The murder victim, Dora Lange (pronounced 'Lang') found at the beginning has a journal that references the King in Yellow and Carcosa, and related terms are mentioned by other characters as the investigation unravels. It is not clear whether or not these are the products of a deluded mind or a genuine supernatural manifestation (as of Episode 4 there has been nothing weird, save the hallucinations of Cohle).
Is her name a vague reference to Leng?
This clip below is a behind the scenes look at what The King in Yellow means, for those who've been watching the show and are unfamiliar with the Mythos...
A List of ReferencesEdit
- We first see the variant Sign tattoed on the back of the victim, Dora Lang.
- Dora's ex, Charlie Lange, refers to things she'd said in the past, in an apparently delusional (drug induced) state, about how she was to become a nun, and had met a king.
- A girl reports being chased in the woods by a green eared "spaghetti faced" monster. Which doesn't sound particularly like The King in Yellow, but certainly doesn't sound normal either - the identity of this 'monster' will hopefully be revealed at a later date.
- Indirectly, does Cohle's choice of Lone Star beer relate to the stars of the Carcosa Mythos?
- The victim's friend Carla, who tells the detective about the church and "a Spanish lake", has black stars tattooed up the left side of her neck.
- Dora's diary is discovered. It contains the first direct reference to The King In Yellow in the series, even though the "king" was mentioned in the previous episode. Cohle reads a few passages from this aloud, "I closed my eyes, and saw the King in Yellow moving through the forest" and "The King's children were marked; they became his angels." Also see various screen grabs on this site. The first page we glimpse actually states "I closed my eyes... and saw... THE YELLOW KING ...moving through the forest" (though, there's evidence to suggest that certain passages and phrases are repeated, potentially in slightly altered form). Cassilda's Song is also written out, albeit in a slightly altered form, with the words IN CARCOSA repeated several times in the centre of the page. BLACK STARS are also written in upper case, and black stars (and two moons) are drawn in the margins. There are other pages of writing, and further evidence of THE YELLOW KING written in big letters, but we do not know any more about the contents, other than it reading like fantasy. The passage about being marked seems to hint at the spiral Sign tattoo.
- The JESUS CHRIST WILL SAVE YOU leaflet, printed on bright yellow. There's no obvious connection to The King in Yellow, but given that the murdered girl has left it next to a page headed THE YELLOW KING there's every reason to believe she thinks there is. The leaflet also noteworthy for the strange symbol, within a circle, or what looks like a raging fire beneath a sun though, again, no direct link to The King in Yellow as we understand it.
- In the burnt down ruins of the church, an owl is seen in the rafters, neatly parallelling the owl in Bierce's tale, An Inhabitant of Carcosa , which is seen in the ruins of Carcosa (although owls are often used on outdoor sets to keep native wildlife away, this owl does seem to be quite central to the shot).
- The sun, reflected in the waters behind the gutted church, symbolically references the twin suns that set over The Lake of Hali .
- The preacher, talking to his congregation, mentions a few things that might sound as if they had a connection to the Mythos. A snippet of his speech, at the beginning of the episode, reads as follows: "You were blind to him, as your footprints in the ashes, but He saw you... He saw you in those dark corners... He heard you, oh my brothers, He heard those thoughts... You are a stranger to yourself and, yeah, he knows you... and when your heart hardens like unto the stone and broke you from his body - which is the stars, and the wind between the stars - he knew you! (break) ...This world is a veil... and the face you wear is not your own..." Of course, the Carcosa Mythos themes of darkness, of strangers, of stars, of the world not being real, and of people wearing false faces, are not unique in any way. But it's worth noting that the overlap may be for a reason.
- A second spiral, or 'sign', is found in a photograph from an older case, on an older victim previously not connected to the Dora Lange murder.
- Cohle's speech at the end of the episode, talking about how much of a fragile 'dream' life is, all your loves all your hate, all your memory, all your pain, a dream about being a person... "And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it." Again, too vague to be a specific King in Yellow reference, but sounds close enough to what we know of the Mythos to recognise parallels.
- From the opening interrogation with Charlie Lange: "He said there's this place down south, er, all these rich men go to, er, devil worship... He said, er... they sacrifice kids and whatnot, women and children all got, all got, murdered there... and, um, something about some place called Carcosa, and the Yellow King. He said there's all these like old stones out in the woods, people go to, like, worship... He said, er, he said there's just so much good killing down there... Reggie's got this, like, brand on his back, like in a spiral... He said that's their sign..." Note that this is all second hand information from Reginald La Doux, aside from the fact that this murder suspect has a spiral tattoo. This is the first time it is referred as a "sign", suggesting this is indeed True Detective's version of The Yellow Sign. It's worth noting that Charlie mentioned the king during the detectives' previous visit, but did not mention that the King in Yellow by name, nor did he imply that Dora was having anything other than a personal delusion.
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We can see Carcosa...
Although, strictly speaking, Cohle's hallucinations aren't evidence of the supernatural, they do sometimes seem to connect with the weirdness of the Mythos.
In Epsode One he sees his dead daughter standing at the edge of the street.
In Episode Two he sees a flock of birds swirl into the spiralling pattern of the Sign on the victim's back. There are also a couple of hallucinations that are strange effects of the light. In the first instance traces of light appear to Cohle as he drives at night, some of which relate to the steet lights, some of which seem to come along the road without a visible source. The second instance has what appears to be bright wave of colour, yellow and pink, across the sky, towards the horizon.
In Episode Eight he sees a spirally blue/white void in the darkness... a gateway to a genuine Carcosa? Or, symbolically, a whirlpool drawing in something from the real world into some other? (or both) Is it indeed just a halllucination? If so, what does it mean to Marty? Is it the physical representation of the spiralling blue Yellow sign?
These are thoughts that occur after watching the final episode...
It's odd that Rust, in all his years of trying to grasp what it's all about, never seems to find a small collection of short stories penned by Robert W. Chambers in the 1890s. Or maybe he does, but seems to attach no importance to it, doesn't find it worth mentioning it to Marty.
Does this mean that the short stories never existed in the True Detective world, and that the actual reference point for the killer and the cult is a rare 19th century play that drives all those that read it mad, and has those drawn into it assuming identities of characters from the story? A reality where there IS a genuine figure called The King in Yellow, a genuine otherworldly Carcosa? The killer's version of Carcosa, and his reference to removing masks (I half expected Rust to say "I wear no mask") indicates that he's familiar with the fiction of the King of Yellow... but from where?
One other thing:
An incredible show. I didn't know how it is was going to resolve, half expected the conspiracy to be blasted right open, but feel that the series stayed true to what had occurred before (if you'll excuse the pun). It's nice to have a TV show that can complete a stories in eight episodes, and not leave us hanging on for another season, and years of story before we get a sense of closure. That said, if the next season links into this one somehow, and there's a sense of a greater story behind the individual cases, that'd be amazing - that'd genuinely make the conspiracy/cosmic horror angle work.