Sunday, January 26, 2014

The King in Yellow

We need to talk about True Detective.

It’s an HBO show, penned by a novelist who was a finalist for the Edgar Allen award. (So Wikipedia tells me.) It stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan. The third episode airs tonight; I’ve just finished watching the first two.

The show reminds me strongly of Twin Peaks: the first episode begins with the unusual murder of a woman. In Twin Peaks it was of course Laura Palmer, dead and wrapped in plastic. Here in True Detective it is a prostitute named Dora Kelly Lange, her body blindfolded, bound, decorated with strange symbols with a crown of antlers placed on her head.

And then it gets weird.

The show centres on two detectives - Harrelson and McConaughey - both in 1995 when the murder occurs, and in 2012 when they are individually questioned about the events due to another murder occurring that is very much like the one they investigated. Both actors are fucking fabulous, and the time difference structure actually works really well.

The location - Louisiana - makes a perfect backdrop for the show, and the music is what you would expect. The visuals are stunning, gritty but rich, and everything seems subsumed with a desperate, desolate feeling.

There’s no real spoilers to be had yet, but I’ll put more details about the weird shit and my own suspicions under a cut.


Religion plays a part in the story already - this is the deep South, and McConaughey’s Decetive Cohle is wonderfully out of place as the misanthropic non-believer. The murder of Dora Lange has people convinced Satanists are at work (which is kinda timely for me since I did  post on my blog yesterday about the Satanic Panic) and they put the pressure on for a special task force to be created to investigate “anti-Christian” crimes.

There’s definitely a cult at work here, but it’s not Satanists. In the diary of Dora Lange we see the words The King in Yellow, and the following snippet of poem:

The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise

This means nothing to a lot of people. But for anyone up on their Mythos it is a holy fucking nerdgasm. Robert W. Chambers’ book (and fictional play) The King in Yellow inspired none other than good ol’ H.P. Lovecraft himself, and the poem is from the fictional play in one of Chambers’ stories.

You guys. It’s entirely possible we’re gonna see Hastur on TV. The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named. AKA (at least by August Derleth) as The King in Yellow.

Whether or not that’s what’s going on remains to be seen. What IS clear is that we have a legitimate horror story in a well made detective show. It’s a smart, riveting program so far and I encourage anyone who likes mysteries, Twin Peaks, Lovecraft, or just the supernatural to check it out. It’s truly fucking amazing.

Have a trailer.

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