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Is Rust Cohle the Monster in 'True Detective'? Here's the Evidence For and Against

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 17, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 17, 2014 |

For those keeping track at home, everything changed in last night’s episode of True Detective, and I mean everything. Reggie Ledoux had his brains blown out, along with a henchman, effectively ending the hunt for the serial killer, unless it didn’t. Suddenly, time is a flat circle, there’s a Yellow King out on the loose, and there’s a very real possibility that Rust Cohle is the Yellow King. The interviewing detectives think so. Marty Hart is beginning to think so. Rush Cohle went off the grid for years. He re-emerged, only to be spotted at the investigation scenes for the new murders. He’s got a storage unit he doesn’t want the detectives to see, and he’s been saying a lot of weird sh*t to suggest that he could be the kind of guy to go on a murdering spree.

The flat circle of time is repeating itself: The patterns that emerged in 1995 and 2002 are repeating themselves again in 2012, and all of our expectations for where this series is going just got flattened like a goddamn beer can.

Let’s take a cursory look at the evidence.

Rust Cohle is the monster.

  • Dewall, Reggie Ledoux’s cook partner, on Cohle:

    “I can see your soul at the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid … If I see you again, I’m putting you down. There’s a shadow on you, son.”

  • Reggie Ledoux, before he had his brains blown out: “It’s time, isn’t it. The black stars … the black stars rise. I know what happens next. I saw you in my dream. You’re in Carcosa now. With me. He sees you … you’ll do this again. Time is a flat circle.”

  • The double murderer, who knows things. “Y’all never caught the man that did that. He’s been out there, killing … There’s big people who know about him. Big people … I tell you, about the Yellow King … THE YELLOW KING.”

  • Cohl steered the initial investigation toward Reggie Ledoux to cover his own ass, created the Yellow King in 2002 to mask his involvement in additional murders, and went off the grid only to kill again. After all, as Cohle said himself, the world needs bad men. Cohle is simply fulfilling the bad man quota.

  • Cohle is the Yellow King, or The King in Yellow:

    Along the shore the cloud waves break,
    The twin suns sink behind the lake,
    The shadows lengthen
    In Carcosa.
    Strange is the night where black stars rise,
    And strange moons circle through the skies,
    But stranger still is
    Lost Carcosa.
    Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
    Where flap the tatters of the King,
    Must die unheard in
    Dim Carcosa.
    Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
    Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
    Shall dry and die in
    Lost Carcosa

  • Look at the black stars. Cohle is the teeth inside the frame.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 10.37.08 AM.png

    Rust Cohle Is Not the Monster

  • The double murderer who killed himself said he’d seen the killer before, but didn’t identify Cohle as the Yellow King.

  • The double murderer said that there’s big people who knew about the Yellow King. Later, during the interview with the detectives, Cohle questioned how they kept the crime scene out of the papers. “How’d you keep her out of the papers, maybe you got some friends in high places?”

    Big people?

  • It seems like, since Cohle went off the grid, he’s been trying to do his own investigation, because he understands that he couldn’t do it within the confines of the police department because of those big people. It’s clear he has been doing a lot of digging (because he’s seen at the crime scenes), and he has his own theories, which he was hoping the interviewing detectives would help him with. Why would the serial killer be investigating the crimes? Why would a serial killer return to the scene, especially someone as smart as Cohle.

  • It’s too pat, and emotionally unsatisfying. Plus, there’s three episodes left, and still too much time to pin the murders on Cohle. The remaining episodes would seem to be about Cohle reuniting with Hart to prove his innocence and find the real killer.

  • That last shot was not suggesting that Cohle was the killer inside the frame, but that he was actually being framed.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 10.37.08 AM.png

    But who could be smart enough to frame Cohle?

  • There may be something else entirely at play. Carcosa is a place out of time, in another universe. Maybe the parish is simply cursed. Maybe, like The King in Yellow, True Detective is a horror story, one with supernatural elements (which might explain the hallucinations that Cohle has had).

    Verdict: Mind. F*cked.