With True Detective‘s 8-episode first season wrapped, we at Psycho Drive-In thought we’d take some time to look back at the series and try to tease out some meanings and explore some creative interpretations of what has been laid before us. Some are deadly serious. Some are inventive and bizarre. Some are straight-up reviews. Here’s your first Post Mortem. By Geoffrey D. Wessel. Last week, in the moments before the penultimate episode of True Detective was broadcast, one of the major themes of the series amusingly spilled into the actual real world. Matthew McConaughey, he what plays the fatalistic insomniac alcoholic Rustin Cohle, won Best Actor for his starring role in Dallas Buyer’s Club and… thanked God. In that moment, the entire Internet (well, OK, my section of it) screeched out in pain, anguish and anger at the notion that Rust Cohle, chaser of the Yellow King himself, gave thanks to a deity he doesn’t believe in! Or… rather, the Internet forgot that Rustin Cohle, and the actor who mouths his dialogue, may in fact be two different entities altogether. Fiction and reality crossed over, leaving devastation in its wake. The emergence of a 2010 interview with series writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto (which I will take no small credit for helping to spread, though in truth, I nicked it from Lance Parkin initially myself, fully credited) revealing that the author’s interest in writing first burst forth due to reading Alan Moore and Grant Morrison comics really shouldn’t have come as any surprise to analysts of the hit series. Moore and Morrison, though both will be loathe to admit it, travel similar circles at times, and both Morrison and Moore have made fiction becoming reality a theme of their works at varying points. (The Invisibles, The Filth, Neonomicon, and “The Land of Do As You Please” portions of V For Vendetta… just off the top of my head) Right from the first episode, the series has been an exercise in trying to separate the lines between Fiction vs. Reality, and more importantly, where they blur and cross over. “Start asking the right fuckin’ questions,” says Cohle to Detectives Papania & Gilbough. Is he trying to lead the two detectives in 2012 to the Reality of the situation? Or is Cohle trying to keep his Fictional narrative alive? The reveal of Robert W. Chambers’ “The Yellow King” in episode 2 is what really brought this aspect to the forefront, what with Dora Lange’s diary, complete with quotes from the infamous story-within-a-story. But it’s unknown if there really is some Lovecraftian force at work here in the series, or if (assuming, as Cohle has, that the ritualistic killings are at the behest of the Tuttle family) this is just a game played by the upper crust against the worst off in this society. Entirely possible; the deer-antler dressing on women does have roots – take Stagman magazine, taken from the 1970 novel The Muller-Fokker Effect by John Sladek (referenced in Moore/O’Neill’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier), or, indeed, these photos from a 1972 Rothschild party which… speak for themselves [http://www.hangthebankers.com/photos-from-a-1972-rothschild-illuminati-party/]. Even then, those are the more obvious bleedovers of Fiction and Reality. What about the stories Cohle and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) were telling others, and themselves, in 1995? Hart and Cohle, both, tried to cast themselves as the heroes of their own story. Bravely withstanding a firefight from Reggie & DeWall Ledoux, being good cops, good husbands & fathers, and good Men in general. The truth is, of course, Reggie Ledoux was summarily executed in cuffs. Hart sleeps around and, as a police officer, beats the piss out of two teenage boys who have sex with his daughter rather than charge them with statutory rape. Cohle lost his daughter and wife, went off the edge, killed four others in the line of duty (a methhead and three cartel members), faked evidence of the Ledoux gunfight, and tried to coerce a child murderer into committing suicide. One of the biggest mistakes I see in criticism of True Detective is assuming that because Hart and Cohle are the protagonists — this is their story — that they are the Heroes of the series. The series takes a misogynist tone, because Hart is a misogynist and Cohle is a misanthrope in general. It’s their story, but they’re hardly heroes. Indeed, in plain terms, they are crooked cops and narcissistic sociopaths, trying to rewrite Reality to fit their narrative. Perhaps that’s why, in 2012, we see them both as broken men, living on the memories of what was in the past. Reality finally caught up to them. The Fiction may live on, in the official versions, but both Hart and Cohle know the Reality of themselves. It was all a Fiction. And they know it. Surely, Cohle at least researched what “The King in Yellow” was all about. Search engines did exist even in 1995. A quick search on AltaVista could have shown the story-within-a-story nature of Chambers’ book. Cohle, at least, would see it for what it was, and how it was becoming his and Hart’s lives as well. Maybe even Hart has figured this out too. That’s why he said goodbye to Maggie in episode 7. It’s not that Hart knew he was going to die, though that was a real possibility. It’s that he knew, finally, his story was coming to an end. Of course, their stories didn’t end the way either of them thought… or hoped. Cohle even says, “I shouldn’t be here.” Marty bald-faced lies to his gathered family that he’ll be alright. Both men have had their planned endings, their personal cosmologies ripped away from them. The grand finale came to this: no grandiose Yellow King, no cosmic horror, no Cthulhoid Spaghetti Monsters — Just a weird dude who affects many voices, in an incestuous relationship, murdering children and dressing them up with deer antlers, playing at being a divine terror. But as always, it was just another story within this story. Any horror, any darkness, or light, was within just plain human beings all along. If it was any comfort to Marty or Rust, it’s that they, at least metaphorically, got to ride off into the sunset. But they knew it’s only temporary. The sun still rises, and heroic deeds notwithstanding, they still aren’t heroes. Rust needs clothes and a place to crash, both need lives. In the end, they accepted that like Rust lying under the stars in Alaska, everything’s one giant story. The story-within-the-story has concluded, for Cohle and Hart. They’re in the epilogue, and may not even be more than a cameo in their own lives now that the Yellow King has been dethroned. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses “Stories Within Stories” – A TRUE DETECTIVE essay | March 17, 2014 […] Paul Brian McCoy and Psycho Drive-In have run a piece I wrote called “Stories Within Stories,” about the nature of Fiction vs. Reality vs. Real-Reality in TR…. […] Log in to Reply A Psycho Drive-In True Detective Round Up - Psycho Drive-In June 20, 2015 […] First up we had Geoffrey D. Wessel with “Stories Within Stories: Fiction vs. Reality vs. Real-Reality in TRUE DETECTIVE.” […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.