In about two hours, HBO’s immaculate True Detective will air its eighth and final episode with all the questions regarding the Yellow King and the true nature of man hopefully being answered.
But there is still so much that we don’t know about these characters or this world. What was Rust Cohle up to before 1995, before he was ‘Crash’ and doing undercover work?
Turns out, he was playing baseball for the California Angels.
(image via 8 Bit Matinee)
Not only that, but “Ben Wiliams,” as he was known then, actually came into contact with these “Yellow Kings” or Angels that carried him in the air, helping Williams to make an incredible, impossible catch.
Do you see those angels? Notice how similar they look to the frightening creatures that Rust Cohle discovers inside the parish school in True Detective. They are both winged white apparitions with halos above their heads.
(image via Acid Free Pulp)
After the game, Williams begins to question how he was able to make that catch. It’s this introspection where we see the first hints of his future as Rust Cohle, this question eventually forcing Williams/Cohle to quit the game of baseball and become a detective.
(image via The Last Temptation of Jaime)
Let’s not forget the metaphysical implications of “Angels” and how this may lead Rust Cohle to develop his unique brand of nihilism that he displays in the future.
Not only that, but Billy Lee Tuttle, who may very well be a central figure in the True Detective killings, appears in Angels in the Outfield as well, this time as sportscaster Ranch Wilder. He also asks “How did he do that?” when Rust Cohle/Ben Williams makes that angel-assisted diving catch.
But instead of this experience causing Ranch Wilder to head down a self-destructive path, he is instead inspired to take up the ministry, preaching about these very creatures that he witnessed from the press box, but does not quite understand.
Writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto even makes a not-so-oblique reference to Angels in the Outfield in episode 7 when Marty Hart says “I was going to play baseball, I was going to ride bulls.” This is clearly a reference to Rust Cohle’s previous life as a baseball player, Marty telling Rust and the audience that not only does he know about this past life, but that he is willing to keep Rust’s secret.
So what can we take from all of this? We already know that True Detective is a story about story, the references to The Yellow King a a nod to Robert W. Chambers’ weird fiction about the play, The King in Yellow, a play which drives the reader mad. And Rust Cohle recognizes his role in a work of fiction, admitting that the we, the audience, are the 4th dimensional beings that, when watching True Detective, create a “flat circle” or time.
But the final piece in this giant metafictional work is Angels in the Outfield, the full scope of the story incorporating Ben Williams quitting baseball and becoming detective Rust Cohle, in hopes of understanding these supernatural beings. Meanwhile, Ranch Wilder turns to ministry when confronted with these very “Angels,” the unpredictability of man on display.
As for what that means for the finale? I can only assume Rust Cohle will finally put all the pieces together and realize that this Yellow King is the same one from his previous life, a life he has tried to forget. And that the only way he can close the case is to step back onto a baseball field and suit up one final time.
We’ll find out if I’m right very, very soon.
And for more True Detective-related baseball pieces, take a look at Rust Cohle’s baseball analysis, and that time Ken Griffey Jr tried to impersonate him.
(h/t to jduganbarrett for reminding me that McConaughey was in Angels in the Outfield).