'True Detective' Discussion: Could Seasons 1 and 2 Be Connected?

A tantalizing, if far-fetched, theory suggests they might be.
HBO

True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has said that the only connective tissue between the first two seasons of the show is him — his interests, his love for crime stories, his obsessions.

That, of course, hasn't stopped fans of the show from searching for — and finding! — things that could tie the two seasons together.

In season one, the Internet was awash with people trying to "solve" True Detective, with its heavy references to the Yellow King, Carcosa and the works of writers like Thomas Ligotti. Stylistic homages aside — hello, David Lynch in the opening of episode three — those types of signposts haven't been as present in the second season. But after two weeks of holding back judgment, the online theorizing has started to pick up steam after episode three, "Maybe Tomorrow."

The most intriguing of those theories comes from Vox's Todd VanDerWerff, who speculates that the (as yet) unseen forces behind the murder of Ben Caspere are part of the same conspiracy that was behind the sexual abuse and murder at the heart of season one.  

"If the criminal conspiracy — which extended into the highest realms of power and also contained elements of weird, occult demon worship — was truly that massive, who's to say it was confined to Louisiana? Who's to say it isn't a franchise operation, a conspiracy that takes on aspects of the finest crime stories of whatever geographic locale it finds itself in ... ?" he writes.

The piece notes the bad guys' penchant for masks in both seasons — mostly animal heads in season one, while the gunman who shot Ray (Colin Farrell) at the end of episode two was wearing a bird headdress (although the wall of Caspere's apartment featured a bunch of animal heads).

Vanity Fair, meanwhile, notes that the Northern California town of Guerneville — where the commune where Ani (Rachel McAdams) grew up and Caspere's creepy therapist (Rick Springfield) are both located — is near the Bohemian Grove compound, where rich and powerful men gather every summer to act like rowdy teenagers and/or chart the future course of world affairs, depending on how conspiratorial you care to be.

So, in season two we have a powerful secret society's compound adjacent to where some of the season's action takes place; a repeated use of animal imagery (there are bird heads everywhere in season two); and, in the mysterious Catalyst Group, a very likely nefarious group of power brokers pulling strings off camera.

It's much more likely that these elements of the story are simply indicative of the kinds of images and people that spark Pizzolatto's interest, as Vox acknowledges. But the idea that the conspiracy behind Carcosa in season one has tentacles that reach to a corrupt California city in season two is a tantalizing one.

Part of the thrill of True Detective season one was going down a rabbit hole of theory and speculation in trying to solve the show before the on-screen detectives solved their case. That all that investigation on the part of viewers came to naught disappointed some people, but as its own form of ancillary entertainment, it made the first season a lot of fun.

The first couple episodes of season two didn't really lend themselves to that kind of theorizing. It's nice to have it back, at last, in season two.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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