Heavy Meta

By Guy

Let me respond to Girl’s “Whatever happened too…” blog first.  They Might Be Giants?  {Cthulhu:  Well, I do have a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.  And when they meet, I WILL EAT ALL OF TIME!}  Nice Cthulhu.  I’d never had pegged you for a TMBG fan.  It was early on that Girl showed me this picture:

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 12.18.27 AM

We’d already heard about the giant, and so when I saw that I freaked the hell out.  Even if that isn’t really a giant, but just a tall man from a low perspective, it is clearly made to look like a giant.  And this was before we had proof (although many of us suspected) that the police were involved in all of this somehow.  Now, after episode 7, I think we know that as a fact.  So, this is sort of a “Told you so” moment for Girl and I (well, Girl ’cause she found that shot).  There are all sorts of other thematic references around the police offices (antlers, fishing references etc.) but this one made me fall out of my chair.  I wonder if the Giant is already accounted for in the story?  Was it Ledoux?  Was it Tuttle?  I mean, from a child’s perspective both of those men would seem tall.  But I suspect there this is another of Checkov’s guns lying about.  Who’s it pointing at….?

Ok, so now onto the META.  First off, full disclosure.  I’m a meta-whore.  I love winks to the audience, intertextual references, stories which are about story telling, characters who break the fourth wall…you name it, I’m a sucker for it.  This is probably one of the reasons why I love this show so much, as it is more ‘meta’ than any show I’ve seen, maybe ever.  And I know I’m picking up on barely a smidgen of it.  I know Lost had a lot of this too, especially Intertextual references (Girl had a Lost blog also, and man she picked up on some great stuff!  That’s why I begged her to watch this show and start this blog with me.)

I hope we can all agree that the entire creative team of this series has exhibited a dizzying talent at packing this show, both in the writing, and in the art direction, with layer upon layer of significance.  As we’ve talked about before, not all of this relates to ‘clues’, but is almost what I would call “fractal” filmmaking.  For me when a book or movie goes ‘fractal’ it becomes meta.  {Cthulhu:  Oh my god, you are getting sooooo drunk on this blog. Are you actually reading what you are writing?  I know lots of folks have been dropping by, but you want them to keep coming back, right?  I mean, keep writing crap like that and you’re daily count will fall to zero.}  Please please PLEASE shut up, Cthulhu.  It is getting very hard to ignore you, but I’m doing my best.  {Cthulhu:  At your peril, weenie}  This show is very fractal.  Let me take a stab at explaining that:  A fractal is something that is self similar, right?  Something that repeats itself and it’s ‘motifs’ at different scales.  One of my favorite books of ALL TIME is “Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe, which is about 1,000,000 times more ‘fractal’ and intertextual than even this show, which says a hell of a lot.  So, this sort of thing gives me a thrill down my leg, to quote Chris Matthews.  This show has that in spades.  The Hart house most of all.  We’ve presented a lot of the examples in this blog, and while many were looking at them as clues of Marty being the King or something like that, I think they were really little fractal breadcrumbs tying the themes of the moral entropy wrought by the yellow king on the Hart household.

A great example of something I never would have caught comes to us from a comment from Scott, one of our visitors:

Great blog.

Considering how thorough Girl is in her visual analysis of each episode you may already have caught this but the movie Marty is watching while eating dinner alone at his place is John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS.
For this show that is absolutely no coincidence. The Searchers deals with an obsessive hunt for a kidnapped girl. […]I don’t know how much of The Searchers Pizzolatto may have been channeling but the person who kidnaps
the girl in the film is called Scar

I mean, really?  That is fantastic.  It seems like there isn’t a single detail of this show that isn’t a reference to something salient.  That is why, for all of the popular whining out there about “people looking to deeply into this show”, it continues to be so compelling.  I feel like we, those of us out here obsessed with this show to distraction, are just giving this amazing creative team their due.  I’ve never paid much attention to credits, but Tim Beach, their Art Director, is my hero.  As well as the whole creative crew behind this show.

But, back on point.  Meta.  Meta meta meta.  That word get’s thrown around a lot, doesn’t it these days?  Look at how much I’ve thrown it around.  Well, I’m a gonna sling it some more.  I think my own favorite Meta Moment in the show is Rust’s fantastic speech throughout episode 5 about time’s flat circle, and the beings who watch the whole thing from a higher perspective.  Now, not only is this intensely meta, it also happens to touch on genuine theories of time, which I’ve long been obsessed with, so this was like a shot of heroin straight to my brain. The idea of endless recurrence is right out of Nietzsche, and in another brilliant little nugget of meta from later in that same, Cohle makes fun of Ledoux calling time a flat circle by saying “What is that, fucking Nietzsche?”  Well played, Mr. Pizzolatto.   It’s been discussed a lot out there, but this was clearly a speech not only at the detectives but at us, the viewing audience.  Rust was flatly acknowledging that he is part of a story, as story which will never change, and which will be watched again and again by all of us out in TV land.  It will follow the same grooves, end up in the same place, everyone will make the same mistakes over and over.  But for that moment, Rust woke up as a character inside the show, and railed against us for keeping him in his cage.  And he’s let us know in no uncertain terms in the episodes since that he wants the fuck out of the story.  Will he escape?  Seems like with every new blog or review out there we trap him just a little bit more.  And the hard part is of course I don’t want Rust to escape.  How many of us have said “only one season?  I want this show to go on forever!” I have a feeling Rust would gladly punch us in the face if he could.

In episode 7, the reveal of the locked storage shed was another great meta moment for me.  Marty walking into the dark, poised for an attack from Rust, only to be blinded by light, and confronted with US, the obsessive blog-o-sphere, with all of our obsessiveness and theorizing writ large all over the walls, painted onto the ceiling, and starting back at us from the eyes of Rust Cohle.  I loved that moment.

Anyway, maybe this article is a little defensive, in the face of the growing chorus of articles out there excoriating those of us diving deeply into the mythology and art direction of this show.  But man, it is plain old fun.  And there can be no doubt it was engineered to be deconstructed.

So, I want to ask you guys reading this, What are your favorite meta moments (assuming you don’t want to punch me for using that word {Cthulhu: which you so richly deserve})?

Edit:  Somehow I just stumbled across this interview  over at EW with Nic Pizzolatto, which covers a lot of what I talk about above.  Man, I love this guy.

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17 thoughts on “Heavy Meta

  1. That speech Rust made about the flat circle was really the only meta moment that really spoke to me..
    I was curious, did you guys catch that the video tape in episode seven – the scene with the girl matches the scene Audrey was recreating with the Barbie dolls, which matches the scene Rust makes with the beer cans and the little people? We know Rust has scene the video – which is why the scene would be on his mind. Has Audrey seen it too? Or worse – was she there? One of the antlered victims?
    Picking up on the theory that her grandfather is involved with the Cult… was he responsible for showing her the video, or bringing her to one of the ceremonies?
    .
    Come to think of it, a meta moment DOES hit me – Audrey, trying to explain her new gothness… “Who told you you had to understand? Why would you?” – it makes me wonder if there’s parts of the show we’re not meant to understand.

    Damned if we’re not hooked on trying, tough.

    • Guy here.
      I think any one of us probably only groks a small part of everything that goes into this show, that is why we all trawl so relentlessly in our search for clues and ideas that others are finding. It seems like an endless wellspring! Doubtless we are finding a lot that wasn’t intended, but as you point out, we are probably missing some big things too.
      In terms of the video tape in episode 7, hells yeah we caught that. We’ve talked a LOT about Audrey and her involvement with the Father In Law and the cult, and probably have much more to say. Here is one of the posts: https://crazytruedetectivetheories.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/barbies-beer-cans-and-vhs/
      Thanks for dropping by and commenting! Keep coming back, we have a ton more to say.

    • Strangely, until I watched the ending of episode 7, I felt that Cohle’s convo about the flat circle to be a bunch of psuedo-psych bs to potentially reach out to any Carcosa courtier who might watch his interview tapes. I wondered if he was throwing down the gauntlet or if he was attempting to get them to reach out to him as a potential member/ally. “Look, I sing the song of your people, take me to your leader.”
      After seeing his obvious discomfort and fear after the interview w/ the old house help, I’m forced to wonder if he did, in fact, believe the things he was saying about the flat circle and 4th dimensional beings.

      • I suspect he fears it might be true, mostly out of a real fear of having to relive his life again, as it has been filled with such horror.

      • Her house. Yes. Apologies in advance – I’m ignorant – especially how to insert screen grabs.

        Your comments on Maggie’s new house are intriguing & i’d appreciate the benefit of any thoughts you may have on the following. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

        Recall the scene of Maggie’s new living room, there was a wide shot that pans across the living room & presents the room & furnishings & stops where Maggie & Marty will sit.

        In that wide shot, did u happen to notice the several sets of full-length white curtain panels hung along the wall behind where Maggie sits? The material of the drapes/curtains is a scrim, a gauze or voile; think Pottery Barn.

        In the wide shot, the curtain panels appear carefully hung except for 2 panels over the French doors; the door panels are hung at “half mast”. Meaning, the curtain rod holding the door panels appears positioned such that attempts to open doors & cross the threshold would be blocked by the curtain rod which was hung not above the doors, (thus allowing doors to open), but rather, mid-way thru the length of the doors, as if to barricade the doors. The placement of the curtain rod & corresponding appearance of panels strikes me as an off-balance, thrown together mess not in character with the rest of the room. (And so does Maggie’s hair… which seems like a really puffy bad wig…or am i a just being catty?)

        So, i suppose this is wot bothers me about the scene in Maggie’s new living room:

        When viewed in the wide shot, the door panels fill the center of the room & clearly the curtains over the doors are amiss. However, in the close-up scene/shots capturing the discussion between Maggie & Marty, all of the curtain panels appear to be lined up in sync. Because all we can see is a small portion of the panels (the lower half), without perspective or comparison to the full-length position of the others, they all appear as if they stand & hang together.

        I have to wonder whether the new living room scene is so jarring because it solidifies in part that even in her new life, Maggie, in the nearness, is still a high strung striver of controlled imbalance that appears to vanish.

        But then, I’m prolly over projecting onto the screen/door panels an overarching need to nit-pick wot seems crooked.

        Apologies for this length. Thank you for making time to sponsor & maintain your blog. Your observations & writing are spectacular in all the best ways.

      • Thank you so much for the kind words on the blog, first of all. When Girl and I started this we had no idea we’d get almost 50,000 reads in 61 different countries. We REALLY appreciate you and everyone taking the time to read through our ramblings, and more so, enjoying them and taking the time to comment!
        Your observation is just the sort of observation Girl and I love, so while yes, you might be over projecting, that’s pretty much what we’ve done all over this blog! I really like your idea, I’m going to have to go back and look at that scene so I can see for myself what you are referring to. We don’t seem to have any pictures of it in our library.
        Thanks again, I’ll get back to you further once I take a closer look.

  2. The fractal really is what makes this show stand out. I’m on the exact same page as you, I love this stuff. Repeated motifs, metaphor, layers to peel back like a cosmic onion, only to find another onion.

    “Baby, trust me, you do not want to pick this man’s brain”

    Oh, but we do.

    • This show is like crack in that regard, isn’t it?
      Not to Proselytize too much in a comment, but if you really love that kind of thing, Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe is probably the utter pinnacle. Probably the best work of fiction I’ve encountered in any medium or genre. Difficult, yes, but so rewarding.

  3. Here’s Shake from the Sasquatch Forum. As I said, I haven’t been able to watch the series, so I only read your blog vicariously. But here’s something I caught. You sometimes mention the ritualistic murder of a Marie Fotenont, or somesuch. The link you put to the interview with Nic Pozzaletto contains a link to an article about actual Satanist rituals going down in a Louisiana church: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/25/national/25church.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    That link mentions a Paul Fontenot, who was charged with “aggravated rape of a juvenile”. Could be a coincidence… or not. Thought it mightn’t hurt to bring it up, though. =P

  4. I don’t know if this applies to this topic, as my grasp of meta philosophy is shaky, but –
    I found the ending of episode 7 to be profoundly significant to the time/circle theory that has been so prevalent in this show. As Cohle and Rust are nearing the end of their revolution, Gilbough and Papania are restarting the circle from the beginning almost identically to the Rust/Cohle path. We see the new detectives driving down some off the map county roads looking for a church and dickering over it’s location. Gilbough to Hart as Papania is to Cohle (you know, there has been a lot of theories about the significance of Hart & Cohle’s names and it never occurred to me if there are any to our new guys…a new trail!). We see them drive up to our lawnmower guy and “miss clues right under their noses” in an eerie repeat of the Cohle/Rust incarnation of the cycle.
    Which leads me into my crackpot theory of the ending: I worry about the ending for our current detectives. Will they finish the cycle with Gilbough/Papania killing them in a shootout (as Cohle/Rust did w/ the Ledouxs), thinking they were the bad guys? Imagine it: Rust on his knees, with his hands up while Papania stands over him. I can almost here Rust, in his deadpan voice, telling Panania “it’s time, isn’t it? I know what happens next. Saw you in my dreams. You’re in Carcosa now. With me. He sees ya. You’ll do this again.”

    • WOW. Roz, u nailed it.

      I might add – to me, part of wot is so intriguing is that the pop-physics & pseudo-philosophy are balanced with reasonably relatable life examples that slingshot just to the edge without crossing too far into crazy.

      With all the dark discussion so far, a couple of “meta” themes seem to persist & pervade without being named: Free will, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Fibonacci numbers (nautilus/the spirals) & Phi (1.618, its reciprocal, etc).

      To me, the twisted antler like branches are literally nodes on or at the base of, decision trees.

      Nodes signify (triggers for) free will in the pattern/cycle. By observing nodes, those not previously or directly involved in the event can exercise their free will to extend the spiral/fractal & thereby re-energize/expand/extend/continue the process which we label recursion, i.e., the nature of serial anything depends on willing participants. The branches represent triggers for free will to engage/attach meaning or not.

      • Nice. The part of me that still speculates (that part is growing weaker and weaker) wonders if maybe one of the characters (Cohle?) won’t finally see a node, oft passed by in previous repetitions, which when taken will allow him to jump off the wheel. I feel like this is what Maggie did when she changed her mind about hooking up at the bar, and chose to use Rust instead. Part of me wonders if that is why her new house is so sparkling white and beautiful, and completely uncluttered. Her new house looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the show. Pure. Maybe an indication she escaped the vicious cycle.
        But more on point, your observation about all of this pop-philosophy being grounded in real character and real life examples is spot on.

  5. Her house. Yes. Apologies in advance – I’m ignorant – especially how to insert screen grabs.

    Your comments on Maggie’s new house are intriguing & i’d appreciate the benefit of any thoughts you may have on the following. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    Recall the scene of Maggie’s new living room, there was a wide shot that pans across the living room & presents the room & furnishings & stops where Maggie & Marty will sit.

    In that wide shot, did u happen to notice the several sets of full-length white curtain panels hung along the wall behind where Maggie sits? The material of the drapes/curtains is a scrim, a gauze or voile; think Pottery Barn.

    In the wide shot, the curtain panels appear carefully hung except for 2 panels over the French doors; the door panels are hung at “half mast”. Meaning, the curtain rod holding the door panels appears positioned such that attempts to open doors & cross the threshold would be blocked by the curtain rod which was hung not above the doors, (thus allowing doors to open), but rather, mid-way thru the length of the doors, as if to barricade the doors. The placement of the curtain rod & corresponding appearance of panels strikes me as an off-balance, thrown together mess not in character with the rest of the room. (And so does Maggie’s hair… which seems like a really puffy bad wig…or am i a just being catty?)

    So, i suppose this is wot bothers me about the scene in Maggie’s new living room:

    When viewed in the wide shot, the door panels fill the center of the room & clearly the curtains over the doors are amiss. However, in the close-up scene/shots capturing the discussion between Maggie & Marty, all of the curtain panels appear to be lined up in sync. Because all we can see is a small portion of the panels (the lower half), without perspective or comparison to the full-length position of the others, they all appear as if they stand & hang together.

    I have to wonder whether the new living room scene is so jarring because it solidifies in part that even in her new life, Maggie, in the nearness, is still a high strung striver of controlled imbalance that appears to vanish.

    But then, I’m prolly over projecting onto the screen/door panels an overarching need to nit-pick wot seems crooked.

    Apologies for this length – and for posting twice. Thank you for making time to sponsor & maintain your blog. Your observations & writing are spectacular in all the best ways.

  6. Addendum to Maggie’s new living room curtain scene: at minute 18 into episode 7, please note:

    Curtain rods are positioned at the bottom edge of the top molding around the 3 window frames, the curtain rod for the 4th set of panels, the french doors, is positioned well beneath the frame, above wot may be a door frame?

    The point is – to reflect the symmetry & balance in the room (which has a golden ratio feel to it), the curtain rod over the french doors should have been positioned at the same height/sight line as all other curtain rods in the room. To break the sight line in an otherwise symmetrical frame (golden ratio) carries into the dialogue unless the eye/camera is refocused to exclude that break.

    At minute 18 in the wide angle of the room, notice the curtain panel over the left french door – it hangs straight, no sash/tie back. This too is inconsistent with all other other curtain panels in the room. And, each time we view the reflection of the panels in the glass of the frame that hangs on the wall to the left of Marty’s head, it’s hanging straight, without a tie back.

    Now, look at minutes 18+ into 19, observe Maggie, in the chair, sporting a stars & stripes upper ensemble, and the left door curtain. Is a tie back restraining the panel? Yes.

    Next, when the camera focuses back on to Marty, look again at the glass in the frame on the wall to the left of Marty’s head – the panel reflected in the glass does not have a tie back, it hangs straight. OOPS.

    So i thank you all for helping me see that – perhaps in the nearness of, or, when observing her head on, Maggie appears all neat & buttoned up, but when seen or reflected in the distance, she & her surroundings are not as they seem. Thank You!

    • Oh wow, nice catch! Girl and I are about to drop a bomb on this place with a theory aaaaalll about the girls in this show not being what they seem. Stay tuned!

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