Last year, my fiancee and I watched True Detective with rapt attention. The mix of two outstanding performances by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, the multiple levels of mystery and the deeply embedded sense of weirdness caught us right away. That very first episode, the Lynchian images of the first serial killer victim said we were not in standard territory. When discussions of time being a flat circle began and references to “The King in Yellow” filled the air, it felt like we’d found a police procedural which embraced the weird in a very real way.
(Too bad it embraced rampant misogyny as well, and didn’t take the main characters to task for their sins in the end, but that’s another discussion).
(Still, the Rachel McAdams character is an interesting start. But ladies with knife collections have a soft spot in my heart. And also under the ribs, right where the blade can get to the heart and vitals. But, one interesting character with a very nice knife collection does not a mea culpa make).
True Detective created a surge in readers finding Robert W. Chambers’ work, and later Thomas Ligotti and other weird authors, as they tried to decipher the cryptic signs buried in stick pyramids, crowns, and an estate called Carcosa.
This didn’t please the author, Nic Pizzolatto. He complained, in more than a few interviews, that people were buying copies of The King in Yellow, and not his own books. So the new season is heavy on the gloomy streets of a fictional Los Angeles suburb, and the hard-drinking, really damaged characters. But no literary references so far. No weird images. No hints of terrifying cults hiding under Lousiana charter schools.
Somehow, I don’t think this will push more people to buy Mr. Pizzolatto’s books. In fact, it’s engendered a rough response to the first three episodes of the second season of True Detective. Rather than realize people liked the puzzles, the weird hiding under the surface of a ‘normal’ crime thriller, they’ve backed away from it.
But I think the weird – the idea of an undefined strangeness under the world, leading to hidden depths and maddening truths – is a very key part of the way we see life these days. And by running from it, ostensibly because it’s taken sales and attention away, you’re losing the sorcery which made the first season so intriguing.
When in doubt, embrace the weird. The weird is, as Douglas Adams put it, Zen navigation. You may not end up where you intended to go, but you’ll end up where you needed to be.
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