I was intrigued by True Detective when it has Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as the leads, and it was an anthology series, so next year (or 2), you would get a different cast and a different story, meaning these eight episodes were supposedly be good…and it has exceeded those expectations.
When I heard the premise about two detectives investigating a murder, I would imagine lots of character development as the investigation change their lives. I was mostly right, but I had no idea it was more philosophical until I saw the opening credits:
Notice the opening has a lot of crosses, so this has a religious theme. What I didn’t expect was the eight episodes was more about the journey of Rust Cohle than the Dora Lange investigation itself.
One hint was the viral post that went around spotting Yellow King, aka Errol, riding a lawnmower at the school with the words “Notice King.” Sure enough, mostly everyone was right and writer and creator, Nic Pizzolatto, never disputed it was a basic storyline. Then, why the fuss about who the Yellow King was and how the story should end?
This leads to the title of the show, True Detective. At face value, the title could of mean the true detectives are the audience who saw the clues form the Dora Lange murder, while the detectives, on screen, are still searching, hence Marty’s line, “the solution was right there under my nose—under all our noses…” However, that would undermine the onscreen detectives and since the audience see the clues, why not them?
If you want the real meaning of True Detective, notice True Detective is singular, not plural. While the hype of the show was about both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, the real true detective on the show was McConaughey’s character, Rust Cohle. Marty’s (and Rust’s) job was to investigate, but for Rust, the Dora Lange investigation was his journey. Why you think he was philosophical about life? Rust is still trying to discover who he was after the lost of his daughter, got divorced and never founded a life partner, had a huge fight with Marty Hart, quit his job and went into a cocoon for nearly ten years. Rust’s story was trying to escape darkness in his past and meet head on. That’s why Carcosa plays a huge role in the last episode because Rust had to conquer his darkness and succeeded and saw that lightness won.
The last episode of season one reminded me of the last episode of Breaking Bad, where Walter White job was to make amends for turning bad and help his friends before he passes away. When Rust and Marty solved the investigation, the only thing to do is meet the Yellow King to conquer their demons, externally and internally. Why I’m comparing the two because I felt the ending of Breaking Bad was unjustified because Walter White turned bad was more about the job and that was the end of it, unlike Rust, who lives on trying to answer life’s mysteries and answered most of them and you felt great because he accomplish something.
If there is going to be a season 2 (which likely will happen), look beyond the actual investigation and see which character is examining themselves. That’s the True Detective.
- I need to examine this show again as this show deserves repeat viewings.
- True Detective will win multiple Emmys, but the only mystery is which category they want: Drama or TV Movie/Miniseries?
- Additional reading material: read Alyssa Rosenberg’s post on the Mythology and Symbolism of True Detective.