Somebody sent me this rather amazing reply to the True Detective essay so I thought I’d repost it here and answer at length.

We began by discussing the Notre Dame line in TD, which he takes to be very important, because of Rust’s attraction to places of great ritual significance.

The Paris connection is there for anyone who reads Chambers. It isn’t entirely easy to discern, but it is there.

You are correct about it being Notre Dame. Why is this significant? Well for starters it is well known for its Gothic architecture and the Naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass. Naturalism in the arts is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements. Realist works of art may emphasize the ugly or sordid, and deals with the accurate depiction of lifeforms, perspective, and the details of light and color. This is contrasted and a reaction to Romanticism which emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe. Romanticism revived elements of art and narrative perceived to be authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, urban sprawl, and industrialism.

So what you are probably asking. Well, Rust and Marty fit this descriptive contrast. Marty and Rust, Hart and Cohle, or “Heart and Soul”. Marty is all emotion and sentimental. Rust is his opposite introspective and introverted. The way each makes sense of the world have obvious parallels to naturalism and romanticism. And the reason neither could find the clue that was right under their noses was because Rust excluded the supernatural at first and Marty tried to escape the progress of of not only his own life, but all life as represented by the growth of industry, population and urban sprawl. If he doesn’t look down, he can see 40…

The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicism’s most important first-class relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails. The connection here to Rust is obvious. He was the sacrifice. He pondered the nature of accepting that by placing a cross above his bed even though he himself didn’t believe in the supernatural explanation for it. Time is a flat circle, so there is reason to believe Rust was pondering this before we ever see him in the show. Symbolically speaking, a relic is something that has survived the passage of time.

The suicide you mention may have a possible connection as well. The suicide note contained messages concerning the destruction of a way of life, the problems of decadence, and the dissolution of the nuclear family. These themes have an obvious connection to many in True Detective. Perhaps RUst went to the church to kill himself and found he “lacked the constitution for suicide” as he tells Marty.

The North Transept ROse is beautiful stained glass. It also looks remarkably similar to the vortex seen in the finale.

Here is where it gets interesting. The position of titular organist (“head” or “chief” organist) at Notre-Dame is considered one of the most prestigious organist posts in France and the world over. Chambers
wrote of an organ player, or something far more sinister disguised as an organ player. Chambers short story “In the Court of the Dragon” involves a narrator who seeks refuge in a church in France called St Barnabus. Overcome by an unknown fear, he is offended and angered by the Organist’s playing, which nobody else seems to notice. He mistakes the exit of the organ player and assumes this was a mistake in the way he measured the passage of time. He interprets the organ players look as one of hatred, and notices that others in the church are looking at him the same way. He leaves, making his escape back home but realizes he is being followed by the organ player. He decides struggling is pointless and awakens back in the church, deciding it was a dream. He realizes he knew the organ player all along as death or a messenger or deliver of death and realizes he is disguised to everyone else eyes but his own. The church disappears and he finds himself on the shore of the lake of Hali (which runs up into Carcosa in other stories and is mentioned in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos). The story ends with the character dying, and it reads, “Then death seemingly comes, “And now I heard his voice, rising, swelling, thundering through the flaring light, and as I fell, the radiance increasing, increasing, poured over me in waves of flame. Then I sank into the depths, and I heard the King in Yellow whispering to my soul: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”.

So what can we make of this? Here we see, **poured over me in waves of flame**, like we see Rust in the introduction to the show each week. The **flaring light** also reminded me of the shot you linked of Marty on the phone when he calls his mistress. The story ends with “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. How does one fall into those hands? Suffering, sin, punishing oneself ( ever the control freak, Rust struggled with blaming himself for his daughter’s death), eroding defenses by drug and alcohol abuse? All of the above? I think the important thing is that at some point during Rust’s visit to France, he attracted the attention of the Yellow KIng (or his followers or more symbolically, death and madness), just like the main character in this story. The yellow King (or his followers or more symbolically death and madness) has been following him since. An interesting relation and perhaps a less obvious resource for the writers of the show, St Barnabus was a church in Carcosa in Neal Wilgus’ story “The Rest of Your Life” where the congregants chanted “have you seen the yellow sign” over and over just like they did in Chamber’s “The Yellow Sign” where the Church Watchmen and unnamed others chanted, “Have you found the yellow sign”?. Interestingly, in that story which also takes place in France, a man walks alone in the night and finds the streets abandoned, except for a figure on a church’s steps. When he sees the figure he is overcome with anger and confusion, and is compelled to hatred and violence, the same way the protagonist was in “The COurt of the Dragon” when hearing the organists music. And just like the protagonist in that story, this one is also pursued by death who is in the service of the Yellow King. Worth noting is the fact that both antagonists were uncovered in churchs. It would seem that the Yellow King and his servants evidently hide behind the cloak of religion…

I could make other connections but for now, that is the best I have to offer. I do have some questions though and would like to pick your mind!


First, what are your thoughts on the mask? Childress says” Take off your mask”. I can make several connections to Chambers, Maupassant, and Poe, among others, but I don’t have a grasp yet on what was being said and why.

The second Childress says that he’s screwed, because Rust wears no mask.

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed it’s time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Rush “knows who he really is.” He’s the exact opposite of Childress, who is nothing but mask upon mask — he never even talks the same way twice. This makes him the Monster at the End of the Book for Childress.

This is another reason why I think Pizzolatto read House of Leaves — the awareness that, to the minotaur, Theseus is the monster.

And then he “uses his head,” by headbutting Childress.

Second, have you noticed the way sex is shown with the main characters? Marty, a slave to his emotions, is on bottom with both mistresses (and bound by one of them) while Rust, ever vigilant to not lose control as you pointed out in your essay, mounts Maggie from behind? The closest we see to two character making love, we get a quick shot of missionary before the shot fades away. What are your thoughts on this and do you think it is significant?

No, I never noticed it, and yes, it’s definitely significant. I think it’s part of Marty’s essential immaturity that he always wants to be punished — he’s a Bad Boy. It’s deeper than that, though. There’s a lot of stuff about the job of policing and the police department that goes unnoticed, but Rust and Marty are shown to be thoroughly bad rotten no-good cops who abuse their power in every conceivable way. Marty likes to be handcuffed because he knows he deserves it.

What happened between Rust and Maggie barely qualifies as sex. It’s more like some weird ritual.

Third, when Rust goes to the payphone to look for clues about who called the prisoner that killed himself after promising to tell of the yellow King, did you notice the lone yellow Lilly? Rust looks right at it. What is your take on this?

No, I did not notice that, but it’s a really interesting point as well. Does that happen before or after the scene in the sanitarium? Maybe by that point Rust understands that the flowers mean that he missed something….

Lastly, you seem to hint in your essay that you don’t buy into any type of larger conspiracy in the storyline. What are your thought on the elder Tuttle moving from governor (local) to senator(senator)? What was the purpose of the cultlike activities being covered up? Do you have any thoughts on the theoretical idea of a psychosphere? And do you think Rev Tuttle meant something more when he said, “There is a war going on behind the scenes”?

I bet he did! There are a few things that he could have meant there. One interesting point for me, and something that I think Pizzolatto was talking about in the series, is that there were a LOT of powerful-people-running-child-pornography rings that were discovered and rolled up in the early 1990s. The most famous are of course Louisiana and Omaha (the Aksarben scandal), but there were also ones in Austin Texas (the Kallisted ring) Seattle Washington (whatever was going on with the orphanages), Belgium, and of course the Catholic Church. I think I remember others as well.

I think that local businessmen running sex rings was a very common byproduct of the Western system until the 1990s, when some essential tipping point was reached and they were all (most? Some?) wrapped up and brought down. I think this is one of the main things TD is about.

That might be what he meant, or he might mean the impulse of good and evil, or he might just be talking about power in general.

As to a conspiracy, obviously the Tuttles are related. What I meant is that no grand manipulator was abusing Marty’s daughters just in case he was some day assigned to a case, and the woman in the Fox and the Hound is not a spy. As a matter of fact, she’s probably a direct outgrowth of a character in NYPD Season 2 episode 21. A whole lot of this show comes from NYPD Blue. For example, lighting the cigarette and being told to put it out in the very first scene with Rust.

But I digress. What I meant is that there are conspiracies but they are not magical or all-powerful, and they are not behind every single thing that happens in the story. I don’t think Papania or Gilbough are in on it, for example. I’m sorta hoping to see them again.