TRUE DETECTIVE in the Crosshairs

“You ever been hunting?”Detective Rust Cohle to Partner Marty Hart

Burt Impaled

Burt the Revivalist seems to be more a victim of the cross than exalted by it.

I’ve been working on a post about Audrey and Maisie but it is a bit tedious because I’m going through all six of the episodes to gather evidence for my theory.

With so much conversation about Billy Lee Tuttle, Dora Lange and her Church of the Yellow King, and Joel Theriot with his naked photo discovery in the Letters of Telios de Lorca, I’ve been super aware of all of the religious symbology, iconography, evidence, and subtext in each episode. I’ve been tending to think this is all about some religious cult or certainly serial killer phreaks with some serious religious issues. The Franciscan mystic reference had me locked on that target.

Then, I bumped into Erin Whitney’s HuffPost piece on whether TRUE DETECTIVE’S opening credits gave away the Yellow King while I was reading about Instagram Crew Photos posted on HuffPost that were uncovered with potential spoilers and clues (many of which have now been removed).

 DETECTIVE in the Crosshairs

While some there are a lot of CROSSES in the imagery of TRUE DETECTIVE, there are also several CROSSHAIRS.

The thing I had noticed about the TRUE DETECTIVE opening title sequence before but hadn’t bother to comment on was how several of the “cross” overlays really looked like the “crosshairs” through the scope of a hunting rifle. In particular, there’s a crosshairs on Maggie with antlers, on what looks like two scantily clad women in bed, and on fire that becomes the TRUE DETECTIVE text. Those three are clearly crosshairs. Then there’s Burt, the poor fellow who had his balls savagely removed in Angola. He looks like he’s being impaled by a red cross. Initially, I was wondering if it was a laser sight but decided against it. I just decided it was destructive imagery. Watch the video of the opening on YouTube.

I keep coming back to the idea that Maggie is more involved with this than anyone suspects. As a filmmaker, I would expect an actress of her caliber to have more going in in the show. So far, there just isn’t enough. She isn’t on par with McConaughey and Harrelson in terms of gravitas.

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  • I’ve been saying this to anybody who will listen. Maggie is either heading or working for the network.

    1. Marty and the “Detective’s Curse”: the clue is always the one that’s been right there all along and that you’ve overlooked. In a later episode, Marty brings up the Detective’s Curse again and says that “That woman and those girls were the answer”. Of course, he’s talking about to his own happiness, but it’s our clue to the mystery;
    2. Maggie is the only person who has been able to draw Cohle out. She gets him to trust her, open up to her, and then manipulates him, which is something nobody else has been able to do. Also, in episode 2 or 3, Marty and Maggie are in their bedroom. Marty says either, “I’m all fucked up” or “I’m all messed up”. Maggie agrees and repeats what he says. Upon rewatching, it looks like manipulation and subtle brainwashing;
    3. Marty and Maggie’s oldest daughter’s drawings and the rape scene with dolls. Marty’s a crappy parent, and not around enough to affect his daughters in this way. Maggie is. Also, listen to the conversation as Marty walks to his daughter’s room in episode 2, right before seeing the dolls. The children are saying something along the lines of “Your parents are dead”… then the rape scene created with the dolls. It seems like a very specific thing for little girls to make up, as if they’ve seen it themselves (at least, the older one);
    4. Maggie is instrumental in driving Cohle and Marty apart – the only detectives actually investigating the murder/cult. Cohle needs Marty as Marty is able to deal with the up and ups in the department while Cohle does the investigating.

    There’s a decent chance that Maggie’s working for her dad. Maggie’s father says, “It’s all sex” nowadays, and mentions teenagers dressed in black, etc just like Maggie and Marty’s oldest daughter when she becomes a teen.

  • So agree Mark!! The crosshairs and antlers are so on Maggie! And did you notice how Maggie’s Dad was drinking Lone Star beer?!? The looked like they would drink something a lot more highbrow than Lone Star.

    I keep going back and watching that scene in Episode 2 at the lake. Macie is weird about her Grandpa. The Grandmother says Maggie beats up anything she can’t control! What do you think?!?

  • IndyPat has a crazy Maggie theory! I hope he posts you are!

  • I agree. It’s done subtly, but it appears that Maggie’s parents have money. That is a great catch! I hadn’t thought about what her mother said to her. So, she beats up on Cohle the only way she can because she can’t control him. Excellent!

  • Anyone who thinks Maggie is a victim in this, isn’t paying attention.

    When the fuck are we going to really discuss 5 GI Joes surrounding a naked Barbie?
    When are we really going to discuss the 7 yr old girls sketch version of the Kama Suthra? Maggie makes only a half-assed attempt at getting to the bottom of it. What mom do you know wouldn’t hit the roof over those two issues? Marty? A cop…shrugging it off? Glaringly obvious signs of adolescent sexualization and it just falls to the wayside like she got caught smoking a cigarette or something.

    I challenge anyone to watch re-watch the scene of Marty, Maggie and the daughter on the couch discussing the drawing. Ignore Marty, because he obviously has less important things to be doing, like watching sports.

    Pay attention to what the little girl is saying, how she is saying it and most important…pay attention to the eye contact between mother and daughter,
    If the child’s dialog about the drawings wasn’t coached directly from Maggie, I’ll kiss your ass. It’s right there…the girls eyes say “am I saying this right, mommy” and Maggie’s eyes say “yes, your doing fine, honey..keep going just like we talked about and don’t forget to cry at the end of it”

    Amazing acting. It’s there if you’ll look. Maggie…ain’t what she seems. Maggie is no victim. When she rides Marty about being absent, it’s not that she wants to be with him, it’s that she doesn’t want him on the case. She hates Marty. She is his “minder” for someone else. Marty’s mistress is the same…all she ever does is pump him for info on the case…after she pumps him for real.
    Ditto Beth, our under age prostitute who arrives out of the blue. Just some eye candy that Marty can’t resist. If he’s not giving Maggie info anymore, someone has to be his new minder for pillow talk on the case. Who arranged that? Why did Marty need a new phone? Maybe it was on the shopping list along with the tampons. Maggie directed Marty to his new minder. Maggie checked the phone to see is he took the bait. Did she seem really mad to you? Nah, she was glad she was that much closer to not have to watch Marty any more. She’s no victim. She uses her body to bust up Marty and Rust with the added benefit of shutting down the investigation and deep-sixing her marriage, all in 10 hot seconds. That pretty much makes the other mistress/minders pikers, by comparison,
    Also note Beth’s dialog outside the bar that ends with her asking him if he wants to go in for some bourbon. Compare that to Rusts interrogation with the first scar faced suspect. Some tact used. You can even note on Marty’s face…a look that suggests..”where have I heard that before”….but it worked on him nonetheless.
    Compare Marty’s speech to Rust outside the Vietnamese food establishment about how he is so steady, he can have just one beer…..with the barb that Tuttle hurls at Rust in the later interview at Tuttle’s college. Pretty close, huh? Must be coincidence.

  • So glad you posted that! It was after your previous email that I started re-watching all of the Maggie and girl scenes and when I finally saw the crosshairs and antlers flash by in the credits.

    I started to wonder if there were a lot more women complicit in what is going on! Dora’s friend with the stars on her neck. Dora’s mother with hands that look like they’d been in something corrosive … Like maybe washing a body clean of evidence. Are the women more involved than we realize? I have to go through two more episodes to try and see what I am still missing. I think you may be into something!

  • And what was that line about, that Dora mom uttered?
    “What kind of father wouldn’t bath his own child?”

    What are your thoughts about Rust saying “Dora was just chum in the water.”
    Chum….attracts sharks.

  • I also think the red (rosey?) cross superimposed over Burt in the opening looks to me like standard duel tube fluorescent light ballasts…with red tubes.

  • Cyndi says:
    I keep coming back to the idea that Maggie is more involved with this than anyone suspects. As a filmmaker, I would expect an actress of her caliber to have more going in in the show. So far, there just isn’t enough. She isn’t on par with McConaughey and Harrelson in terms of gravitas.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. She’s showing her acting prowess in her amazing subtly.
    I may get slammed as sexist, here, but male and female operate differently.
    When Marty and Rust have a problem, they duke it out in the parking lot.
    When Maggie has a problem, she works it back channel and if my theory on her holds, her mode will prove more effective. She wields much more control by pulling the strings back channel and working her good wife/good mommy front. I think her work in this role is genius….”if” I’m right and she is allied to the bad forces at play. The only time she broke her subtle cover was in the Rust seduction scene…and even there, subtle ends were achieved.

  • I think her acting is phenomenal and she is totally on par with Harrelson and McConaughey. I’m saying her role in the show is as big as I would expect it to be. It’s very subtle … but I would think the actress coming to this role would want to have a more integral part to the story than (forgive me) being “just the wife.” I keep thinking there’s got to be a bigger impact in the story to draw her in (besides splitting them up in episode 6). I keep expecting to be surprised by her involvement in they investigation. She may not be but I sure want her to be ….

  • I’m still holding out for her being more involved. I don’t think she broke her cover when she seduced Cohle. Remember, they are all unreliable narrators, she included. We don’t know if she really tried to pick up another man first that night. That could have been her story. They knew Rust was onto them and needed him gone. They knew without Marty backing him, nobody would listen to him. She got rid of both of them by having sex with Cohle. At least, that’s the way I’m looking at this until I’m shown otherwise.

  • I mean, why’d she go to see Cohle tonight? She missed him? No, she wanted to see what was going on. He always told her the truth, she was snooping.

  • @ Mark
    Totally with you on all counts…and I have suspected her from scene one.
    There’s a coldness to her. There’s calculation. She pesters
    Marty to get him over for dinner to size him up. Hey Rust, let me set you up with a girlfriend…yeah, right. That translates to, let me get someone closer to you to keep an eye on you or at the very least, distract you.
    When Rust has a sit with someone, he is probing, prying…interrogating.
    Maggie’s the same. Ditto his mistresses, post-coital. Pillow talk. Tell us about the case, Marty.
    Rust knew why she came to the bar and told her to get lost.

  • Loving your articles and the responses!
    I watched the first 4 episodes with the audio off. The visuals – especially eye, tree/cross, restrained hands, color, etc. symbolism – just pour out.

    In the (living?) room where H&C interview Dora’s mother, there’s a statuette of Mary holding baby Jesus, but the way she holds him is the way she holds him in Michelangelo’s Pieta — across her body, forming a cross-shape. And that’s the same way H&C carry out the two children from Ledoux’s place.

    IndyPat, about the 5 GI Joes and the Barbie… In Dora’s mom’s place (well, I think it was there) is a photo of Dora with 5 men on horses (4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, plus one?). Other than to show how fragile innocence is, I don’t know if they’re connected, but it came to mind when I read your message.

    Two interesting crosses:
    1. Rust’s tattoo on his chest.
    2. the cross Rust sketches in the air with his cigarette during the 2012 interview. It’s in episode 2, at about 40:08. He’s talking about the sign in the psych hospital he was in, that said, “The body is not one [traces vertical post] member, but many [traces cross-bar] ….”

    Any ideas on Rust’s chest tattoo might be? It’s a simple, stark line-drawing. It’s at the very beginning of this clip:

  • What is wrong with us?!?! Researching episodes with the audio off (I’ve been doing that too), replaying scenes to get every nuanced word of dialog, culling the internet for the things we missed?!?! My God this series is brilliant! Thanks for reading and engaging!

  • @Jenny, I could find anything that looks exactly like that cross. I even checked Nordic runes because it looked similar to some of them.

  • @ Jenny

    Good catch! Now I gotta get my occult symbols book and run that one down.
    Good observation on the Mary/child Jesus. There a ton of biblical references…the theme of “taxman” and “something owed” stirred up again in the last episode. The crosses…things and knowledge “lost in the flood”…that knowledge was alleged to have been safeguarded by Noah…and passed on to King Solomon…and forms some of the inner secrets of “tippy top of the pyramid” masonry. Secrets and mysteries…lost in the flood. How convenient.
    I, too, have taken to watching with sound off…sometime CC on…always with a notebook on my lap. You’re not the only one with the fever. Anyone got a spare Qualude? Blues? Dopey stuff?

    Can’t believe I missed that tatt. He has some on his forearms too, but I’ve never got a good screen grab of them…and those could just be biker tats from his narco days with the gang.
    That one on his chest, not so much. That one looks like it means a little more than check out my badass tat, fellas!
    Looks more along the same vein as the spiral, actually.

    Was discussing the merits of NOT watching the final episode with my wife tonight. She agreed on the sentiment, but….it’s like when someone is welding without shielding his work. You know you aren’t supposed to look at the pretty blue arc, but you can’t seem to help it and you’re getting burned whether you realize it or not. I don’t want the answers. I just wanna keep digging and dredging in the swamp. There’s got to be more nasty shit out there, we just have to keep looking.
    Just letting it sit there on the DVR? Make up my own ending…or pretend it was all just a dream. A dream with a…..oh, nevermind.
    We’ve all been here before. We’ll be here again.
    When the DVDs are released, I sure as hell hope it has a “play with director / actor / cinematographer commentary option.”

  • I did some wading through runes, ancient symbols….and couldn’t come up with a match.
    In the related search, I came across something I’d forgot about which may be a clue.
    This may not be a run-of-the-mill symbol, but actually a “Sigil”.
    In a nutshell, a sigil is a personal magic device composed of letters or other symbols…boiled down and condensed to their absolute essence.
    More modern use of this forms a major part of “Chaos Magic”
    The point of making a sigil is a personal expression of intent…charged with as much energy as one can muster.
    The “plus” sign cross signifies “help deceased” according to Guarani shaman.
    The “open bottom pyramid” signifies “purification” by same shaman.
    The top pointing triangle is a symbol for fire…in alchemy and other esoteric arts.

    It could also be a symbol or sigil of Enochian origin. Related searches would be angelic script, language and symbol. There are also sigils associated with demonic entities as well.
    The book of Enoch and some of the secrets that he learned from the Archangels is also, something that Noah was alleged to have “saved from the flood” and plays into other such things as Masonry and Kabbalah.

    Like Rusts says, this has scope…..

    Supporting link

  • Also @ Jenny
    When Rust makes that sign of the cross with his cig, he is quoting 2n Corintheians 12:12.
    I prefer “The Message” translation of the bible as I feel it is much more accessible to us today as opposed to the KJV with its thou’s and arts and shall’s and whatnot. I included 13 for clarity of what Paul is trying to say.

    (12)You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. (13)By means of his one Spirit, we all said good–bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which He has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

    1 Corinthians 12:12-13(MSG)

    See 1 Corinthians 12 at
    1 Corinthians 12:12-13(MSG)
    Sent from MSG Bible+

  • @jenny
    Never mind what I just wrote.
    You were right about the book.
    The one you linked to was the correct one.
    The odd thing is that there is absolutely no information about that book you listed ANYWHERE….and it’s out of print.
    I’m almost tempted to buy it.

  • No problem, Pat :-) You reminded me that I’ve read nothing of JFC’s, and it’s time to fix that. I ordered a used copy of Benedict Falda’s book (Amazon still has a few). Hope to have it this week; too late for tonight’s final ep [sigh].

    Isn’t it odd that, for someone who’s an agnostic, Cohle’s ideas often find have at least one root in Christianity? Well, maybe not. Since his daughter’s death, it seems that his life has been one, long dark night of the soul or a fight with Whoever’s In Charge. Religious or not, he’s very spiritual, and even has something of the mystic in him. Ethically and morally, he’s stronger than Marty. (Not a conflict to me, but it may be intended as one.) He’s more aware. If not for Rust, it never would’ve occurred to Marty to look into the killings after 1995.

    Side note: Marty Hart –> Mary (Jesus’s mother) Heart?

  • I never thought Rust was truly and atheist or agnostic. Just way too much evident to the contrary. One can still believe in God and be a pessimist and a realist. Your reading the words of one right now.
    I think I may have said as much to Cyndi in one of our off channel emails.

    I think Rust came to grips with God during his 4 months within the padded walls of the mental health hospital.

    I do think Rust has a major problem with religion as an institution and vehicle for misleading and taking advantage of broken and weak people. We hear this in Rusts dialog at the tent revival.

    I’m really going to miss Rust.

  • Pat, you’re right. Rust never comes right out and says whether he believes that there is God or not, or that he knows God’s nature.

    I’m busting to find out what you all have to say about the ending!

  • @Jenny

    Well, I’ve spit my share of venom on my thoughts of the ending in more recent comments to Cyndi’s posts….but since you asked….I’ll see if I can bring my fangs to bear one more time.
    As I told Cyndi in a side email, I cycled through my stages of grief on this ending pretty quick. Just anger then straight to acceptance.
    First point.
    Everyone goes all misty eyed at Rust and Marty’s coming to whatever understanding they came to. Big whup. This isn’t the Hallmark Channel and the tension between them was half the fun. This is not something to base a story wrap on. It’s pointless, really. They were pretty much back in the groove before episode 8 anyway.
    Finding and killing Errol is no more a feat than finding and killing Ledoux.
    So Rust and Marty cut the dullest heads off a Million headed Hydra and we are all supposed to spike the football over this?
    They got no where near the core of the evil in this tale!
    So, NP weaves all this esoteric symbolism, shows a coastline littered with bodies, shows a video of multiple perps gang raping a child and yet it’s a victory because this Errol idiot is dead? Yeah. He did it all. Case closed.
    All the occult references….nothing.
    All the female characters….fluff.

    It’s just a travesty of an’s cheap. At the very least, we didn’t have to invest 7 years like Lost fans did, only to get sucker punched.

    As I was watching this unfold, my wife blurts out, “I’ve seen this before, this is a blatant rip of Silence of the Lambs”. I just looked at her in pure admiration. She looked at me and laughed, knowing how much I’d put into this series.

    I think I also had an even more harsh description to another friend that asked.
    I told him that I now know what every woman who has met Mr. Perfect…who did all the right things, was a Valentino of foreplay…..only to not rise to the occasion when the magic moment came.
    And for all the people that say “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”….well, that’s just happy horseshit.
    Seriously…if Mary Lou Retton didn’t stick the landing, would she have got the gold?

    So….I didn’t like it. At all.

  • I liked it. It tied together so much from the first 3 episodes, and used the kind of symbolism I loved throughout the story. It also kinda hit home for me.

    I saw the chase through the tunnels as a passage through a birth canal; that hole (oculus, “eye”) far above was the end of the birth canal. Rust came to the very edge of death, and was born again or resurrected — his hospital gown looked like a white (= purity, spirit) garment Jesus might’ve worn — and he returned remembering something that had gotten buried beneath the weight of all the pain and grief of his daughter’s death.

    And what Rust remembered in the Void before returning to Form was the love she brought into his life. His grief was so great because his love was so great.
    (R’s wife was Claire [“light”] and his daughter Sophia [“wisdom”].)

    Just my humble 2 cents!

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