Of the many, many conversations that True Detective has triggered, one that I haven’t seen (maybe from lack of trying) is one that looks at the series as a critique of capitalism. While Cohle and Hart are standard detectives in many senses – they negotiate this scary Louisiana space for us, they give up their own attempts at making functioning families, they sense the desperation at the edge of the madness that is <insert space here> – I wonder if this series isn’t more indebted to Dashiell Hammett than Raymond Chandler, Sam Spade and the Thin Man than Philip Marlowe.
The blood magic that I’ve written about in GoT is obviously evident here as well, and while I may be proven wrong by the finale tomorrow night, one of the many creepy things about the Five Horsemen and their obsession with human/child sacrifice is the fact that somehow this gives them the power to be entrepreneurs in addition to religious messiahs. I don’t know if that’s where they think their power comes from – like an athlete’s reliance on superstition or a writer’s dependence on the appearance of their muse – but the constant backdrop of the flat green space with the dominating industrial structures in the background (almost always refineries) shows the omnipresence of the god of industrial capitalism.
In what sense, then, do Cohle and Hart help us negotiate *that* space? This series seems more than simply a fear of those backwoods religious folks – it could have stopped there, and Cohle’s monster could have been the Sasquatch-like gas mask man – but the desire is to have these two flawed characters plunge into a different heart of darkness. That heart resides in a couple of enormously successful developers of religious ministries, and Cohle and Hart seem to be preparing for a fight that they can’t win by conventional means – they’re heading to a part of the bayou that is wired for protection (I still wonder about that – if a cop is blown up do the five horsemen think that they can contain the subsequent explosion) and for whom its oily patriarchs have gone to an old, old form of ensuring their own good harvest.
It’s one that they seem to have no illusions about surviving. Is that what we can expect from all of our relationships with the monster of industrial capitalism?