Yeahbut…Are We Just Chasing Our Own Tentacles?

By Guy

Barely legible scratchings on a doorframe…black stars showing up everywhere…duplicate paintings showing up in the strangest places (don’t worry, we’ll get there)…Are we just seeing stuff that was never intended to mean anything?  Are we scrutinizing details which were never meant to be seen, never mind scrutinized?  Short answer:  fuggidaboutit.  I am entirely 100% fully totally and completely convinced that each and every scene in this show is rendered with exquisite care as to set, setting, lighting, and everything that goes into making this show the stunning piece of film making we are witnessing unfold.  The seemingly minor details that Girl (and on some occasions myself) have found hiding in plain sight in this show convince me completely that we are dealing with a brilliant and machiavellian artistic team.  Girl and I agree on that completely.  What we are starting to have differing opinions on are the significance of these details.  I think there are two broad categories of detail, or ‘clues’, hidden throughout the show.:  Thematic and Concrete.  Thematic details are those which tie in a certain setting, or a certain scene with an overarching theme of the series.  When Cohle is firing off rounds into the empty Bayou to create the cover narrative, his face is obscured by the flat black circle of the machine gun,

cohle with gun

or when a string of lights behind Maggie’s head in a bar make her appear to be wearing a crown of antlers,

Maggies Horns

these are thematic resonances, meant to consciously or unconsciously tie in major themes of the show with whatever is happening in the scene.   Concrete details are those which give us actual clues as to plot.  One of the biggest (and probably most fruitless) questions has been “Who IS The Yellow King.”  People have been trawling every frame for clues for that seemingly central mystery, zeroing in on Cohle, now Hart, now Maggie or Tuttle. {Cthulhu:  Psssst.  Hastur} The trick is not in figuring out whether a discovered detail is really meant to signify something, but which of these two categories (or possibly both) it belongs to.  Yes I realize I’ve just reduced what is most likely an incredibly complex system of intertextual references to two basic notions, but screw you, I’m running with it.  So, when people note Marty’s yellow hair, or that he killed a 10 point buck, or notice that his puke is yellow, these aren’t Concrete clues pointing to him as the Yellow King, they are, in my view, Thematic clues pointing to some connection between his family and the cult of the Yellow King, and what it represents.  {Cthulhu:  Was it Thematic or Concrete when Tmobile girl asked him to do her in the..} ANYWay…, there are some real concrete clues in the Hart household.  There is the drawing of the spiral people have found, drawn by one of the children, on the Hart’s wall, there was Audrey and Maisie arranging Barbies in a seeming rape scene, there is a strange picture of the two girls surrounded by fishing nets (that’s coming too, I promise)…{Cthulhu:  You do realize, cupcake, that you’ve said “that’s coming too, I promise” about a bajillion times, right?  You’re going to have to put up or shut up at some point bucko} those I think are Concrete clues pointing to the fact that one or both of the girls have been exposed to the cult (by the Father in Law in my view, but we’ll get to that later).   Anyway, I’ll stop for now, as I know Girl has some pending knowledge to drop…

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10 thoughts on “Yeahbut…Are We Just Chasing Our Own Tentacles?

  1. I agree, this show has unusually elaborate set design, no doubt encouraged by Fukunaga. Everybody working on it must be having a lot of fun weaving themes throughout.

    I like the Thematic (or mise-en-scène) vs Concrete classification. Problem is, red herrings are strewn throughout both. Fukanaga likes to hide real clues in cuts lasting only a few frames — the editing is merciless. Red herrings can get much more screen time. (Which is why I suspect the angel-devil figurines, shown twice!, to be red herrings. Their purpose is to say “This is kitsch,” wink wink.)

    Those with freeze-frame and big HDTVs, which I don’t have are going to be at an advantage here.

    I do think the height markings for the girls on a door jamb in Marty’s house are significant (shown just beyond Marty’s fishing lure held by — what? — a doll? The fluff on the lure draws attention to the markings), indicating Audrey’s absence from the household for some length of time when she was small. But I could be wrong.

    Note: Pizzolatto has said the resolution is not supernatural, so forget Cthulu.

    • Have you read the post called “Suck it, Atlantic Reviewers!” I think there may be more in that kitchy shot than we are giving Nic credit for. That said, yes, there are no doubt a lot of red herrings. It is very engaging to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

      • And in reference to it being yet another angel image…so are the angel images in the School house just angel images too?
        Just food for thought.

      • Correct, angels are a recurrent visual theme. I agree, identifying the red herrings is part of the fun of the show.

      • It’s interesting to note how a single symbol has been used in so many different ways. The context involved in each instance can color the way we view it.

  2. Hey… Girl here… I just want to address a crazy idea. FORGET CTHULHU? That is crazy talk. He’s under contract at the blog… if we ditch him… so much red tape, so much legal trouble. And so many tentacles… Also… we here at A Girl A Guy and Ctathy, {Cthulhu: Hey, stop that.} might on occasion over analyze things but that’s okay. We don’t do it to be right… we do it to participate, to have fun, to use our brains and THINK about pop culture as more than just entertainment in which to feed our sloth. That’s why people are showing up here to look at our blog… they want to play along too.. & lastly, I think I’m speaking for more than just Guy and myself when I say, frankly, we are trying to exercise our brains so that in our old age our minds will be spry and we won’t get confused by old episodes of Matlock.

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