And just like that, True Detective’s "spaghetti monster" is gone. In and out of viewers lives faster than Martin Hart's trigger-finger around men who kidnap children.
And he's the landscaper.
The infamous “spaghetti monster’s” cranial linguine is merely an unkempt, stringy hairdo. His facial scars, described by witnesses as being hideous, are noticeable, sure, but not disgusting enough to make him stand out in a crowd.
He's so inconspicuous that Rust (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty (Woody Harrelson) were once in his presence and didn't even realize it. Think back to the third episode, "The Locked Room," when they're at the Light of the Way academy and Rust chats up the guy who's cutting the campus lawn. Seconds into their conversation, though, Marty starts honking the car horn to get Rust's attention, since Marty's just been tipped off about Reggie Ledoux.
Back then, in 1995, he had a scraggly beard covering those scars.
In 2012, as we've just seen, those scars are as clear as day.
Rust had the "spaghetti monster" within arm's reach, and he didn't even know it.
As he’s proven repeatedly throughout the HBO series’ seven episodes thus far, True Detective creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto isn’t one for obvious revelations or satiating expectations. With all of the show’s allusions to the “Yellow King” and mentions of "Carcosa," Pizzolatto has sent cyber speculators into a tizzy over the last few weeks. What started off as a dark, cynical crime noir unexpectedly shifted into the potentially supernatural, with Pizzolatto’s admitted love for the weird, cosmic horror fiction from authors like Thomas Ligotti, Robert W. Chambers, Laird Barron, and the almighty H.P. Lovecraft on full display. Most prominently: in the unsettling image that closed out the third episode, "The Locked Room," that of a tatted-up Reggie Ledoux rocking a gas mask, dressed in only tighty-whiteys, and holding a machete:
Which Lovecraft followers will tell you looks quite a bit like a human riff on Lovecraftian lore's greatest mythological monster, Cthulhu:
Some people have thought that Pizzolatto’s departure into psychological, existential dread signaled that True Detective was turning into a horror show; others suspected that the “Yellow King” and “Carcosa” being discussed by the show’s Louisiana bayou eccentrics were mere metaphors for how detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart were gradually losing their minds and their entire lives due to the investigation. Since, in Chambers’ The King in Yellow, the sporadic mentions of that elusive “Yellow King” send its characters into madness.
Last night’s episode, ”After You’ve Gone,” for me, at least, confirmed the latter theory. We’re not getting any kind of otherworldly monsters or ghouls in next Sunday’s season finale, ”Form and Void.” Sadly, there’ll be no Wicker Man/Kill List-like cult member blowout in the woods, with Rust and Marty blasting through dozens of weirdos adorned in animal masks and hoisting little girls with antlers onto pulpits or burning trees. All that talk about “Carcosa”? Nothing more than raving hysteria from imbalanced wackjobs who’s either read one too many Robert W. Chambers books or actually believe there’s another world out there with “twin suns” and “black stars,” which, unfortunately for them, doesn’t exist.
As I, and many other True Detective fanatics, have guessed from early on, Pizzolatto’s end-game, all along, has been to study the deteriorating psyches of sirs Rust Cohle and Martin Hart—the identity, or identities, of the person, or persons, responsible for the heinous murder of Dora Lange hasn’t been important. Nor have the murders and what exactly the sickos responsible for abducting and molesting children do—there’s a reason why we didn’t see what Marty watched on that TV screen, and we didn’t need to, either. What matters is Marty’s reaction, and how those images affect him. Thankfully, the same applies for why director Cary Fukunaga mercifully spared us from seeing the dead baby in the microwave during Marty’s flashback. That look of revulsion on Marty’s face says it all.
How did Pizzolatto let viewers know that the "spaghetti monster" and “Yellow King” have been of minor importance, for sure? By showing us that “spaghetti monster” with the “face full of scars” at the end of last night’s episode: an inconspicuous, somewhat simple landscaper who works on the Son of Life church property, who calls people "boss." Present-day detectives/interrogators Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles) randomly get directions from him and then drive away, unaware that they’ve just conversed with the man behind everything. Fukunaga and Pizzolatto, as they’ve done routinely throughout True Detective, tip their figurative hats by slowing closing in on the landscaper, with the typically unnerving musical score making the visual a haunting lingerer. “My family’s been here a long, long time,” he says to himself, implying that he and his kind have been fueling local nightmares for longer than we, the viewers, have thought.
It’s a brilliant move on Pizzolatto’s part as a storyteller. He’s no cheater. When True Detective ends next weekend, no one will be able to accuse him of never showing us the “Yellow King.” But he’ll also have avoided concluding the season conventionally, with Rust and Marty either arresting the killer or terminating him in some kind of fiery but standard climax. The final episode will most likely find our two mentally and emotionally tortured protagonists figuring out some, but not all of, the secrets behind Tuttle’s cult. The police department will factor into it somehow, most likely five members of the P.D., constituting the "Five Horsemen," whom Rust tried hinting towards with those Lone Star beer can men:
An eerie, alcoholic-friendly manifestation of those five masked equestrians in the photo with a young Dora Lange:
They have been the boogeymen all along, not the "Yellow King." And we may never even learn all of their identities.
Based on Rust’s admission last night, about wanting to end his life once he pays his “debt” and properly avenges Dora Lange’s death, everyone’s favorite humorless nihilist might take his own life. He’ll do so after he kills a few of those tangentially involved in what the world’s creepiest landscaper—along with the late Reggie Ledoux, his cousin DeWall, and whoever else—has done. Marty, meanwhile, will go on living, but will continue to do so alone, without the ex-wife and daughters he’s forsaken through repeated adultery.
And that landscaper will remain a free, unsuspected man. From jump, the killer’s merely been a silent destructor, the catalyst for the already unstable (due to the loss of his daughter and years of doing drugs while undercover) Rust’s 17-year downfall and the thing that pollutes Marty’s already dirty mind with moral decay and death, sending deeper into the rabbit hole of misery and being a neglectful husband and daddy. The landscaper will certainly kill again—who knows, maybe he’ll eventually murder one of Marty’s daughters.
“Form and Void” will center 100% on Rust and Marty, and how their shattered lives conclude as their ongoing, traumatic investigation wraps up—at least in their eyes. They’re not going to see, or even learn about, “The Spaghetti Landscaper.” Like the best works from Thomas Ligotti, Robert W. Chambers, and Howard Phillips Lovecraft, True Detective will end its dread-soaked, deeply complicated narrative without a definitive closing. Evil and madness will reign supreme. The boogeyman will remain at large.
The paintings and little wood sculptures that have haunted Rust's mind are just that: nightmare fuel. Expertly dispensed ingredients meant to induce unease, not breadcrumbs leading to the big answer(s).
We’ve finally seen the “spaghetti monster,” the Yellow King's creepiest minion over whom we’ve been losing sleep and formulating madcap Internet theories…and he operates a ride-on lawnmower and kindly gives passersby detailed directions. He won't receive the punishment he deserves; Rust and Marty, however, will.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)