The Yellow King
by DICK CHENEY
creator Nic Pizzolatto
Despite taking place in Louisiana, there were no non-drug dealer, non-minister African-American characters in True Detective until last night, which I regard as quite a feat. Perhaps predictably, this auspicious debut included an old woman's wacky, spiritual wanderings of color as she explained that after death, time goes on. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) started in disbelief at the old black woman's exhortations, which was more than a small irony. We can't rule out the possibility that McConaughey died in 1997 and James Cameron has been digitally reconstructing every single one of his roles.
It is downright chivalrous of the Yellow King to target only white women and children. The erstwhile serial killer has been the focus of Rust's obsession, even after he quit the police force as a result of being goaded into a two minute sex scene with the wife of partner Marty Hart, portrayed by a downright luminous Michelle Monaghan. Marty (Woody Harrelson) had other fish to fry. His by far favorite thing to do besides hunt serial killers is to recreate the wonder of the first years of his marriage by pursuing mistresses who resemble his wife at a much younger age. There is actually a name for this practice, it is called nostalgcourse.
One such conquest, Beth, is suitably impressed by Marty's role in the investigation. She calls him to tell him that all week she has been thinking about letting him fuck her in the ass. "Oh Beth," Marty responds while licking his lips, one of the only times he is guilty of understatement.
To someone who is never really offered anything by the world, one super sweet invitation to an evening of anal sex and recrimination feels like a vacation in the Bahamas. We should thank God for such things, True Detective implies, since they are most definitely temporary. Twenty years later we see Marty eating TV dinners and surfing match.com. There is justice, but only the small kind.
True Detective's most exciting scene came at the end of its fourth episode. A six minute orgy of places and events involved Rust infiltrating a biker gang robbing drug dealers in the projects. The exhilaration of the scene, how everything went bad at once and Rust was at his absolute best, led us to admire the sort of dedication such a person must have for his job, to go to a place so chaotic and horrible it overwhelms every part of the soul. It must be how the people who work in Joe Biden's office feel every single fucking morning.
Some of the writing on True Detective is maybe a bit heavy-handed, such as when Rust starts to whine about how time is a circle with the same things happening again and again. In one of the show's best scenes he interviews the slimy head of a local ministry. (Did you know a group of ferrets is called a business, and a group of ministries is called a porridge?) Rust is the well-known master of interrogation, as his partner Marty opines to everyone who will listen at any given moment by beginning half of his sentences with the phrase, "Say what you want about Rust..." which is incidentally the same way domestic abuse is often described by the victims, or being with Angelina Jolie is often described by Brad Pitt.
This creepy minister, however, takes Rust's measure in a mere moment, suggesting that it's hard to trust a man who can't trust himself in the same room as a drink. Rust sort of blanches before accepting this faithful appraisal of himself, and we are disappointed, watching our nihilistic detective-hero. Even he must bow down to someone.
Recently God gave me a mission. (It was to find a way to coat David Axelrod's glove compartment with the semen of a stag, and I declined.) I asked if I was to receive help in my task. God explained I was the help.
Most disturbing and unusual in the serial killer mythology of True Detective are the small wooden art projects the killer leaves at the scene of his crimes. I think it gave God an idea to try to get me to leave a Lego version of the Constitution in the backseat of David Axelrod's car, but if I listened to every single voice in my head, I guess I'd be Ezra Klein.
There is something aggressive and domineering about crafting superstition and hate into a tactile form. It is ironic that True Detective replaced the most racially diverse show on television, Treme, although it is no surprise that audiences did not fully take to a drama in which nearly half the cast seemed to be perishing of cancer or Katrina at any given moment. The hurricane's effects are given short shrift in True Detective; Rust explains that it must have been fantastic cover for the killers to take children, and everyone moves on.
Treme was actually quite a hopeful story, in the end, even though that white woman did not get to keep the name of her restaurant and everyone that had cancer died, and the after-school music program got cut for budgetary reasons. OK, actually, the non-saxophone parts of Treme were a bit dispiriting, but at least there was a lively, vivid, fully realized world at its center. True Detective, as Rust says of a parish he visits in the show's pilot, is just someone's memory of a place rather than the thing itself.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer residing for the most part in the spirit world, the rest of the time you may contact his wife Lynne for his exact whereabouts. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.
"The Well of Youth" - Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson (mp3)
"A Fall of Sleet" - Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson (mp3)