joel theriot


“If ever your sorrow becomes such a burden that you forget yourself, forget this world, I want you to remember this truth-this is as indelible as the sun and the sky, and the ground beneath your feet; this world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.


True detective S01E08 “Form and void”

(Part 2) The Mask

Errol: Now, take off your mask.

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Camilla: Indeed it’s time. We all have laid disguise aside but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla (terrified, aside to Cassilda): No mask? No mask!
(The King in Yellow, Act I, scene 2)

Joel Theriot: You are stranger to yourself, and yet He knows you….This world is a veil and the face you wear is not your own.

Errol’s words echo the scene for The King in Yellow (the shed where he kept his father was graffiti-ed with names of Cassilda and Camilla) and the outer walls were painted with the black stars of Carcosa. We can perhaps speculate that Rust symbolises the Stranger from the above quote. However, has Rust been wearing a mask at all or has he had no mask, just like the Stranger from the book? There is still a possibility that Errol, just like Reggie and Dewall before, recognises something in Rust, something that prompts them all to address Cohle with words pertaining to their personal beliefs. Errol trust that Rust may even be the catalyst, precipitating the final stage of Errol’s journey.

An interesting connection is also ep.3 (“The Locked Room”) in which the preacher, Joel Theriot, references ‘the mask’ and 'the stranger’. Indeed, the majority of his speech could easily fit into the cult’s own idea of (what Cohle called) a 'meta-psychotic iconography’. Maybe at some point, members of the cult, Errol included, met him and/or followed some of Theriot’s beliefs. As it happened, at the time of airing of ep. 3, speculation of Theriot being a Yellow King himself was rife. Another intriguing similarity is Theriot’s role as a preacher and Cohle’s supposed role of a priest; Cohle’s words in ep. 3 about the Preacher could easily be applied to understanding of the role that Errol envisioned for Rust as his priest: “Transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It’s catharsis. He absorbs their dread with his narrative.” Catharsis is also one of the major themes in “Form and Void”, for both of the detectives, but particularly for Rust. Cohle’s ep.3 monolgue ends with his disillusion about fulfilment and closure, 'the ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that’s what the preacher sells, same as a shrink’; yet in ep. 8 Rust seems to reach that destination.

The scene with Errol and Rust ends with Errol stabbing Rust-this particular action in Errol’s mind would be crossing over the threshold onto the next segment of the journey, i.e. 'ascension’ or 'removing from the disc and the loop’. It is also a point of receiving gnosis. (In Christian, Islamic, or Jewish mysticism, mystery religions and Gnosticism gnosis generally signifies a spiritual knowledge or “religion of knowledge”, in the sense of mystical enlightenment or “insight”. Gnosis taught a deliverance of man from the constraints of earthly existence through insight into an essential relationship, as soul or spirit, with a supramundane place of freedom.)

To go back to ep 3, Rust famously describes life as being a dream inside a locked room and at the end of that dream there is a monster. In “Form and Void” the labyrinth symbolically represents that locked room and Rust finds a monster in the depth of it. But, just as Errol wanted to use Rust, the little priest, to continue his journey, it was evident that Rust’s own gnosis, deliverance became possible because of Errol’s attack.

In “The Locked Room” Rust states: 'Everybody wears their hunger and their haunt, you know? You just got to be honest about what can go on up here, a locked room.’ (Are hunger and haunt a universal mask Cohle refers to?) If Rust’s mask was haunt and hunger and he was genuinely honest about it, that 'mask’ definitely fell off in the scene that followed his stabbing.

Part 3 to follow.