The True Detective FAQ: The Finale’s Biggest Questions, Answered

Slate's Culture Blog
March 10 2014 6:38 PM

The True Detective FAQ

"Who was the Yellow King?" and all your other True Detective questions, answered.

Photo still from True Detective © 2014 Home Box Office

As Rust Cohle warned us at the end of Episode 3 of True Detective, “This is a world where nothing is solved.” At the end of the first season, the show didn’t so much explain all the answers as gesture toward them, leaving us to fill in the blanks (or, perhaps, plot holes). Below, we take our best crack at answering the finale’s big questions.

What movie was Errol watching at the beginning of the finale? And what was with all the creepy accents?

Errol is watching North by Northwest. True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto explained his thinking behind this scene in an interview with Alan Sepinwall:

There was this idea that when he talks in his real voice, it’s very slurred because of the scarring. My background for him was that he learned how to enunciate properly through watching all these old VCR movies.

How were the Tuttles involved?

It remains unclear whether the Tuttles were directly involved in Errol’s crimes or whether they just helped cover them up. Toward the end of the finale, a newscaster says that rumors of a suggested family tie between the senator and Errol Childress had been denied. But we know better: They’re closely related, and the reverend, at least, was in deep. It seems likely that his powerful cousin was a part of the conspiracy, too, if not a participant in the crimes.

The reverend’s father and the senator’s uncle, Sam Tuttle, was Errol’s grandfather. He raped both Errol and Errol’s sister, and he was open enough about his sexual appetites that his housekeeper, at least—whom we met in Episode 7—was well aware of them. Reverend Tuttle knew more: He kept a videotape of Marie Fontenot’s rape (and perhaps her murder), which occurred in the place Errol called Carcosa, in his safe. What’s more, Reverend Tuttle helped cover up the sexual abuse that took place at one of his Wellspring schools, in part by dismissing a deacon and claiming that it was due to charges of embezzlement. Did he orchestrate the abuse as well? True Detective doesn’t say.

How did Papania find Rust and Marty in order to save them?

Presumably Marty is eventually able to find a working phone in the house to call him, though the episode doesn’t show this happen.

Why does Rust say, “L’chaim, fat ass”? Isn't that kind of a random thing for a nihilist Texan to say?

The short answer is the Rule of Cool. (If something’s awesome enough, you don’t need to explain it.) The slightly longer answer is that the quote seems to be a reference to Daredevil comics. Here’s the panel in which Marvel superhero uses the line as a kiss-off to his archrival.

Who was the Yellow King?

This guy:

This is The Yellow King.

Photo courtesy HBO

(Costume designer Jenny Eagan confirmed this in our interview.)

At Carcosa, how was Errol able to make his voice appear to be everywhere at once?

Since Pizzolatto has said that “there is nothing supernatural” about the crimes in True Detective, it seems safe to assume that this, like Cohle’s final swirling cosmic vision, is a hallucination. (Either that, or Errol’s “Carcosa” has really crazy acoustics.)

Is there really a fort like that in Louisiana?

Yes. The Carcosa scenes were filmed on location at Fort Macomb, which was built in 1822.

Fort Macomb in Louisiana

Photo by Infrogmation courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Why did Errol draw so much attention to Dora Lange—even lighting the fire that drew the police to her body?

Pizzolatto offered his explanation in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:

You can tell there are certain times he wants people to notice him. Childress was signaling to the authorities both his presence and the presence of the men who made him.

What does Errol mean when he says, “My ascension removes me the disc in the loop?”

Errol’s mythology perhaps can’t be reasonably explained—the simplest answer seems to be simply “he’s crazy”—but Pizzolatto offered his own explanation to Entertainment Weekly:

In the beginning, when he says, “My ascension removes me the disc in the loop,” he’s describing the cosmology of eternal recurrence of various characters, including Cohle and Reggie Ledoux hit upon, and he’s hitting upon his personal mythology. When he says, “It’s been weeks since I left my mark, would they have eyes to see,” we can tell from that that he’s angling for a reckoning, for a showdown. He’s waiting for it. He believes the murders ritually enacted over a period of time, upon his death, permit him an ascension that removes him from the Karmic wheel of rebirth.

Why is the finale called “Form and Void”?

It’s a reference to Genesis 1:2:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

This also ties back to Rust’s closing speech. Rust reminds Marty, “Once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.” It isn’t until the following verse that God says, “Let there be light.”

What was up with the flower motif?

It may have been just a coincidence. In our interview with True Detective costume designer Jenny Eagan, we asked her if there was any hidden meaning to all the flowers featured in the costumes. She told us, “No, not really.”

Do painters really get paint on their ears?

We put this question to Alan of the All Los Angeles Painting Company:

Sometimes? Not normally. You might get a few drops on them. Unless you’re a member of the Three Stooges, or something. When you’re an experienced painter, no, it’s very rare. Unlesssss—never mind, no. No, any level of experience, and it wouldn’t happen, unless you were spraying all over and you weren’t wearing a mask. And then you would have paint everywhere, not just on your ears.

What do we know about Season 2?

Not much. From that same Alan Sepinwall interview with Pizzolatto:

This is really early, but I’ll tell you (it’s about) hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 



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