2014.02.18 – Unhappy Consciousness and True Detective (Title Sequence)

The lyrics:

From the dusty May sun
Her looming shadow grows
Hidden in the branches of the poison creosote
She twines her spines up slowly
Towards the boiling sun
And when i touched her skin
My fingers ran with blood

In the hushing dusk under a swollen silver moon
I came walking with the wind to watch the cactus bloom
And strange hands halted me, the looming shadows danced
I fell down to the thorny brush and felt the trembling hands

When the last light warms the rocks
And the rattlesnakes unfold
Mountain cats will come to drag away your bones

And rise with me forever
Across the silent sand
And the stars will be your eyes
And the wind will be my hands

The song, “Far From Any Road,” is by “The Handsome Family,” from their 2003 album Singing Bones. Comes up since a tweep of a tweep, @NSlayton, noted the lack of any urban imagery or settings within the show, at least as it’s developed so far, or, to be more accurate, of any urban exteriors, since as far as we know one or more of the offices we see where police work is conducted are located in downtown Tulane or Baton Rouge or New Orleans, any of which may qualify as “urban” by reasonable standards…

According to the school of nihilism that our hero Rust Cohle explicates for us when we first meet him, humanity or human consciousness, human being itself, is an error or deformation. Death, from this perspective, is a correction, welcome if only because it puts an end to the painful and humiliating joke of life. The urban environment, sometimes called “the second environment,” is the human-made environment, and can reveal its own unique modes of (an)nihilation, but a television show that locates its “investigation” at a different vanishing point of the human has little use for crowded settings.

The title sequence repeatedly shows us the human form disturbingly where not grotesquely merged with landscapes, natural forms, and inanimate objects, like the murder victim whose case we are trying to solve…


…on the verge of re-integration, approaching, as a Decadent poet would put it, “the peace death brings.” Rust, whose name perhaps too obviously realizes the same motif, might agree with Ernest Dowson: “O pray the earth enfold/ Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust!

Of course, Rust, even if he has been named for a chemical process of decay rather than for a living and human being, does not entirely or consistently “mean” any of it. A man who at another point could not say whether his mother was alive or dead, is now, by mid-season, clearly under suspicion of murder: He is like Camus’ Stranger, a suspect because of his (depraved) indifference, and at least guilty of demonstrating it in word and thought if not necessarily in action, but he is a troubled soul, a victim as well as an exponent of unhappy consciousness, and his enunciated position, like any notion of “meaning meaninglessness,” remains a contradictory (even if contradictorily self-reinforcing) position. He means to mean meaninglessness, or claims to, but he is a detective, a defender of civilization against even worse men, a promoter of justice, a protector of children (as we have seen clearly demonstrated). The belief in mistakenness will most likely turn out to be mistaken belief, as, it will turn out, we were not mistaken to think it was.

One possibility is therefore that Rust has been under cover trying to solve the crime (or gather evidence against a conspiracy) that he is on the verge of being blamed for, though such a revelation seems too neat to stand on its own. Still, however TV auteur Nick Pizzolato resolves the narrative, it is unlikely, even at this peculiar moment in American popular culture, that he will discover a way simply to sustain a message of messagelessness. Perhaps disappointingly, perhaps necessarily, TRUE DETECTIVE will likely end up having to mean or seem to mean, and seem to mean to mean, something, and not stand merely as an assertion of the impossibility or pointlessness of assertion – the kind of statement credible enough, because comical, coming from a character in a Thomas Bernhard novel or in the theater of the absurd: the never believable claim, because destructive of any belief,  that it would be better on balance for our hero, for the story’s tortured victims, and for us, never to have lived at all. The Handsome Family’s solution “the stars will be your eyes/And the wind will be my hands,” if a solution at all, borrows meaning from the life it replicates or perhaps completes, not as a substitute for it.

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