I yesterday discovered the new HBO drama True Detective thanks to The Lovecraft Ezine‘s posting about the show’s Ligottian influence. A second person then linked to an article on the Wall Street journal blog that referenced both Lovecraft and Robert W Chambers in relation to the show as well as expanding upon the Ligottian influence.
Whilst I am a bit of a fan of crime dramas I tend to veer towards European, particularly Scandinavian, shows that don’t distract from the horror of the murder/crime being investigated with gaudy effects and cack handed appeals to emotion(I’m looking at you CSI). Shows like Wallander(Sweden) and, especially, Forbrydelsen(Denmark). So normally a show like True Detective would just pass me by had it not been for these mentions of Ligotti, Chambers, and Lovecraft. Needless to say, my interest was more than piqued.
The show, now on its third episode, follows two investigations into two seemingly linked murders. One in 1995 and one in 2012. In 1995 we see detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohl(Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart(Woody Harrelson) as two mismatched homicide detectives investigating the bizarre, and seemingly occult related, murder of a young woman. the 2012 plot line consists of Cohl and hart being interviewed by a pair of detectives investigating a strikingly similar murder.
The dialogue between Cohl and Hart is fantastic throughout the show but what stands out most, to me being a Ligotti fan anyway, are Cohl’s nihilistic diatribes against life, religion, and the bullshit in which we cloak the essential meaninglessness of existence. A prime example of this is seen in the very first episode when Hart, an ostensibly Christian man, asks Cohl what he believes.
That could have been lifted from any number of Ligotti’s stories.
Whilst the murder is most certainly weird and just drips with all manner of occult symbolism it isn’t until the second episode that the influence of weird fiction authors becomes overtly clear. References to the Yellow King in the diary of the murdered woman and direct quotes from Chamber’s work are laid out before us on the screen.
I don’t know if the show is going to feature any supernatural elements, that exist outside of the mind of the killer/s, nor do I know if the show needs anything supernatural to convey the bleak cosmic horror of Ligotti’s work that it so closely resembles. The washed out colours, the bleak existential nihilism of Cohl, the occult(but not necessarily supernatural) elements of the murders, the hypocrisy and denial of Hart. All combine to give the show an air of resignation where the true horror lies not in the actions of the, seemingly, deranged killer but in the mundane stripping away of the façade of normality by Cohl’s unshakable nihilism.
The series continues on the ninth of this month.