The Mythos of True Detective

True Detective, season 1 was amazing. Blow my socks off, amazing. I initially was intrigued when I first saw the billboard with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey over Christmas in LA. Then I forgot about it, until I people started talking about it on my facebook. Then, I heard it involved things from The King in Yellow. “Lovecraft?” I thought, hell yes! And so I watched, and got hooked. I think I watched the whole thing in one weekend, with breaks in between episodes, cuz goddamn, were those needed.

Anyway, after watching, I needed more closure and further reading. So I read other blogs and articles here and there, trying to extract more information. And all I found was disappointment, for the most part. I found maybe one blog total that “got” it. Everyone else speculated, and just, did not seem to understand what I understood. So, here goes.

First off, my initial reaction of “Lovecraft?” was wrong. I am a Lovecraft fan (Cthulhu fhtagn, and all that.) and have played Call of Cthulhu, the roleplaying game, read many stories, watched several movies, and played a whole hell of a lot of the board game Arkham Horror (we even had a campaign going at one point,) which is where I heard of The Yellow King, or The King in Yellow, and Lost Carcosa before. (In the board game, you can get “lost” in Lost Carcosa — it is another dimension that your character can explore, it’s pretty cool, trust me.) Until I read the initial article about The King in Yellow and True Detective, I was unware that it was a book, and a book not by Lovecraft. The book, by Robert W. Chambers, was first published in 1895, and was a huge inspiration and influence for HP Lovecraft, who was born in 1890 — to put things in perspective. Anyhow, what did I do when learned this? I downloaded the book to my Kindle and started reading…and watching the show as well. (I must know all source material!!)

It was informative, but I found that True Detective really only took the words and the idea of The Yellow King from the book, as well as Lost Carcosa. Otherwise, thematically it was similar, as well as being similar to Lovecraft’s themes. There were no monsters, no old ones. Just people, being people, and doing strange things, and saying strange things.

In writing this, I almost feel that I should re-watch the show, it’s been a while. That may need to happen, and there may need to be a second entry. We shall see.

In any case, True Detective struck me as being a very nihilistic and existential show — which are two things that I love. I’m less existential than I was as a teenager, but it’s something that has always spoken to me. Rust is also a rather misanthropic character too, he is the one who embodies all of Lovecraft’s and Chambers’ themes. I read numerous articles about how people “couldn’t understand a word of what Rust was saying,” and there I am, thinking “I do. I know exactly what he is saying, I get it.” Rust spoke to me, he understood the crazy world these characters were living in, he understood everything, while also being a good man.

Hart, on the other hand, is the typical Lovecraftian detective who has no idea what is going on, and gets thrown into things — and it effects his life drastically. The case of the King in Yellow that they are working on, and the bleakness and horribleness of life that they find through the case, vastly effects Hart, and I believe it’s what drives him to cheat on his wife, and basically go off the deep end. When living in an existential world, where nothing seems to matter, sure you’ll sleep with a pretty young thing, and then abuse everything around you.

Onto the symbolism. In the show, there are numerous symbols, from the spirals found on the bodies and the cultists (another Lovecraftian thing, that I’ll get to in a moment,) to the dimensional rift in the last episode. The spiral has long been a symbol of rebirth in many pagan cultures, but it can also represent the path that life takes, and even the desire of human beings to expand and explore and gain new knowledge. I see all of these themes in both Lovecraft, Chambers, and True Detective.

The cultists. Lovecraft always talked about cultists, and they are a huge part of the Mythos — there could be cultists of the elder gods, such as Cthulhu, or of smaller beings, such as The Yellow King. In the case of True Detective, they are cultists of The Yellow King. In the show, it happens to be one family that is intertwined with itself, and we see at the end a potential dimensional rift on the family’s land. Does this lead to Lost Carcosa, the kingdom of The Yellow King, or is it a hallucination of Rust? Has Rust been hallucinating the spirals that the birds made and other images that we see in the show, or is it all true? I believe that it’s all true, that underneath the seeming hallucinations, that something is going on — that they are inhabiting a full-on Lovecraftian tale. Others may argue with me, but based on everything I’ve read, this is how I see it.

True Detective, Season 1, is a wonderful introduction to weird speculative fiction for the general populace who has not been exposed to it yet. This is my life, this is what I have read and devoured for a long time, and it’s part of the lens I see the world through. We will have to see what Season 2 brings us — a whole new mystery, perhaps just as weird. I look forward to it.

I forgot to mention that True Detective is also based on the true crime pulp fiction stories in various pulp magazines, and in particular the magazine by the same title that was first published in 1924.

 

Game of Tears

Game of Thrones, or a Song of Ice and Fire, as the series is actually titled, is my favorite fantasy series of all time. (And I”ve read quite a few.) I was ecstatic when I heard they were making it into a tv show, and on HBO no less! I knew that HBO would be able to do it justice, if only because of what they can show, and their production values/budget. That said, for the most part, I’ve been happy with it, but, as a fan of the books, I have numerous issues with the show, and I’m that person who says “but that wasn’t in the book!”

I will admit to being forever annoyed by those who have not read the books and are all of sudden “huge fans.” Bitch, please. I read this shit way back when I was 16. (I’m 30 now, and proud of it!) Anyway, for the most part I could handle the annoyance and the ignorance and some of the things that the show’s writers “messed up.” Until now…

The episode “Breaker of Chains” sparked a lot of what I like to call “kerfluffle” — namely, controversy — over the scene between Jaime and Cersei in the Sept. Everybody, and I mean everybody, from my friends to the well known blog AV Club to well, the entire internet, it seems, agree that Jaime raped Cersei. Except me. I have yet to read a blog or article or comments that state the contrary. So I’m writing one. I feel very strongly about this.

I also want to point out and make abundantly clear that I in no way condone rape or think rape is ok. It’s not. Rape is a horrible, horrible thing. And having been raped by an ex-boyfriend, I know how horrible, fucked up, and damaging it can be.

So, back to Jaime and Cersei. In the books, Jaime is one of my all time favorite characters, and Cersei is the character I love to hate. What’s interesting, is that I really didn’t like Jaime until oh, about half-way through Storm of Swords, when Vargo Hoat (Locke in the show, on how I miss lisping Vargo Hoat – another favorite of mine,) cuts off Jaime’s hand. This changes his character entirely, and he becomes way more honorable — he saves Brienne and is, well, brought down a notch. I love it when characters change, and when they change for the better, and in complicated ways.

Anyway, in the show, Jaime changes a little, you see a little bit of that transformation, and then Wham! he’s all of a sudden back in King’s Landing, and seems to be his old self again. But is he? He still loves his twin sister, Cersei, that’s obvious. And for the most part, she seems to still love him too. But, she is pissed off at him, and says as much — “You’re too late,” she says to him, after he witnesses her talking to Maester Qyburn about certain “symptoms.” What are these mysterious “symptoms” Cersei has had? What did Qyburn do to help her? Well, if I remember properly from the books, she became pregnant by her cousin Lancel (who is barely in the show, and I always felt he was a more important part of Cersei’s story, and her relationship with Jaime too,) and has Qyburn give her the herbs to abort the fetus. So, having just gone through that, of course she doesn’t really want to have sex again, even with the only man she’s ever truly loved. In the next episode, during the wedding, Cersei has words with Brienne. She calls Brienne out on Brienne’s new found love for Jaime. Clearly, Cersei is jealous and obviously still loves her brother just as much as before.

There is a lot of plot hidden in so much dialogue within this show. Dialogue, that I think gets overlooked by some.

Cut to the scene of “Breaker of Chains,” Joffrey’s body is lying in state in Baelor’s Sept, Cersei is standing there after having listened to her father talk to her second son, Tommen (the new king,) and in walks Jaime. Jaime asks the septons to leave, so he can be alone with his sister and their son (although still no one techinally knows that all the children are theirs.) Jaime goes to stand beside Cersei next to Joffrey’s corpse. They converse some, Cersei kisses him, then pulls away.

And this is where the scene in question happens. After Cersei pulls away (why?) Well, in my interpretation, she pulls away a) because they are in the sept, b) because they are in front of their son’s corpse, and c) because she is still upset at Jaime for having been gone so long and left her, only to return crippled and with another woman. She loves him, and wants nothing more than to be with him, but man is she pissed. Wouldn’t you be in her shoes? So Jaime says to her “You are a hateful women.” and then to no one in particular, “Why has God made me love a hateful woman?” These two lines are part of why the scene has been labelled as rape.

Here’s how I see it: a) Cersei is hateful, very hateful, but not of him — Jaime is just stating a fact. b) Jaime still does not understand why she is pissed at him, even after she clearly explained it to him two episodes before. I know I’m not making the best case here, but stick with me.

Next, Jaime goes to kiss Cersei, and she wants to, but tries to pull away again — again, for the same reasons I stated above. She wants to, but she doesn’t want to, mostly because she wants him to understand how upset she is with him. So at this point, yes, he forces her…but she eventually gives in to her love and lust for him — her need for him. She needs him, and so after he tears her small clothes off, she accepts him, even though she knows the sept in front of their son’s corpse is no place for sex — hence her line of “It’s not right.”

Ok, Yes, it starts out as being seemingly forced, but in my eyes, it doesn’t end that way. And honestly, I had read about it, before I watched it, maybe that had something to do with my interpretation. I was expecting something more violent. This scene was not violent, it seemed like two lovers — one struggling to do the right thing, the other not caring — who gave in to their love and at last said ‘fuck it’ as one was convinced by the other.

At this point, I don’t entirely feel like going into the scene in the book, it’s been done. It is known that in the book, Cersei comes onto Jaime first – telling her brother how much she needs him, and he’s the one saying “no, not in the sept.” It’s still not rape in the book, because eventually, Jaime gives in and wants his sister too.

Jaime and Cersei have the most complicated relationship in the series. It ebbs and flows and changes. Cersei never really changes, but Jaime does. When we first meet him, he’ll do anything for her — “The things I do for love,” he says as he pushes Bran out of the window. One of my favorite quotes, and one directly from the book. Later, he thinks he will still do anything for her, but quickly realizes he won’t. In the books, the scene at the sept is the last time he has sex with her — he is too changed.

I will stop there, there will in all likelihood be more on Cersei and Jaime later, and definitely more on Game of Thrones.