Aug 242015

In Omega Station we learned that what was truly fueling the season’s engines was a desire to promote life and spiritual growth, not a craving for depicting death and misery.



“Lately” by Lera Lynn (2015)

Lately I’m not feeling like myself,
When I look into the glass, I see someone else.
I hardly recognize this face I wear,
When I stare into her eyes, I see no one there.
Lately I’m not feeling like myself.

Lately I’ve been losing all my time,
All that mattered to me slipped my mind.
Everytime I hit another town, strangers appear to lock me down.
Lately I’ve been losing all my time.

The mystery that no one knows,
Where does love go when it goes?

Lately words are missing from now on,
Vanished in the haze of love gone wrong.
There’s no future, there’s no past,
In the present, nothing lasts.
Lately someone’s missing from now on.

The mystery that no one knows,
Where does love go when it goes?
The mystery that no one knows,
Where does love go when it goes?

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“I know now, the act—it described a trajectory.”

Ray says this to Ani as crickets chirp outside their window at the Molera Motel, in the first few minutes of True Detective Season Two’s eighth episode (and finale), “Omega Station.” He is gradually realizing that his current situation—he’s a fugitive, wanted by the very police force that once employed him, framed for two murders he did not commit—is the result of several missteps he’s made along the way. He is taking ownership of his life here, and that’s important.

Having such a sympathetic ear in Ani helps. She tells him whole cultures would have done what he did, that people wouldn’t have blamed him and she certainly doesn’t. But that’s beside the point for Ray. Because even when he thought he had killed the right man, his wife’s true rapist and attacker, he was riddled with guilt for over a decade. Whether or not he was aware of this—he defended his actions as “natural law”—it was still there. As Gena pointed out earlier, Ray was once a “good man.” And now look what’s become of him.

Guilt has a funny way of doing that. And I suppose a person can do one of two things. He can decide, I wasn’t really at fault, I have nothing to feel bad about here—I was “the victim” in this situation—and go on his merry way. Or, he can choose to review the particular incident causing the guilt and make an effort to make amends. Up until this episode, Ray doesn’t really do that. He visits Gena’s actual rapist in prison and threatens to torture and kill him. And he essentially has the misinformed informant executed, Frank-style—though Frank was probably going to kill Blake anyway, and Blake wasn’t necessarily misinformed as much as he was a manipulative punk.

As I talked about last week, thinking the way Ray does is akin to maintaining a child’s mentality. Maya Angelou once wrote, “I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.”

You cannot grow life in a barren field, much less a toxic one. So imagine how easy it is to open your mind to new thoughts and perspectives when it’s been poisoned by guilt and shame.

Yes, your mind is a field in this analogy. And so is your spirit.

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Before Ray confesses to Ani what he did to the man he presumed to be his wife’s attacker (and at least that’s a start, as far as clearing his conscience goes), Ani tells Ray about the guilt she’s carried for most of her life. Nic Pizzolatto has sprinkled clues about Ani’s abduction and sexual abuse throughout the season. But this is the first time we’ve heard Ani really talk about it, to say what she remembers and how it felt.

According to The Healing Place, a Rape Crisis Center in North Carolina, “Because of the silence surrounding most sexual abuse, children are forced to endure the abuse and its effects alone. As adults, survivors often continue to feel alone and isolated. They fear exposing the shame, rage and hurt connected to their childhood experiences. They tend to blame themselves for the abuse, especially if there was pleasure, comfort or a sense of caring attached to the incident….Adult survivors frequently report childhood blackouts in which large chunks of time are forgotten.

“Sexual abuse survivors commonly live with a deep sense of shame. They may blame themselves for the abuse and fear being blamed by others if they ask for help. This self-blame is often exacerbated because it is not experienced as a guilty sense of having done wrong, but as a shameful sense of being wrong.”

“It’s a black hole, this empty space, those four days,” Ani tells Ray. “I was proud because he called me pretty—it makes me sick.”

And again, even though Ray tells her, as Ani later tells him, that she was not at fault, it’s this lack of control she experienced over a moment that changed her life forever—a common theme this season—that she regrets the most. Instead of focusing on the wrong that was done to her, Ani has held onto her guilt and shame over being the kind of kid who would go off with a stranger willingly and be easily flattered by compliments. She grew up during a time when children were taught to “just say no,” whether that meant no to drugs or no to hopping into a van with a man who promised you candy. So of course she would blame herself for just not being savvy enough that one day.

Often a child who experiences any kind of abuse becomes an overachiever to overcompensate for a lack of feeling normal. It seems like Ray and Ani both took that route. They do this because their needs were not met appropriately when they were kids. Whenever that happens, it becomes almost impossible to believe that anyone could really love you for who you are. So it’s significant that Ray and Ani find each other and can let down their guards. As Ani puts it, Ray is making up for lost time.

true-detective-2-6-e1438002786241This explains Athena’s comments to Antigone when she was practicing her knife skills, how she “works so hard at being alone” and she’s a woman “drowning on dry land.” And Ray’s overemphasis on his masculinity and toughness. Without his coping techniques, Ray would be a lot like Chad, his legitimate child all along—shy and sensitive. It’s in his DNA. He tells his dad in his dream/brief visit to the afterlife in episode three, “My father made me nervous.” And the dream dad says, “You were already nervous.”



The flip side of the overachieving abuse survivor is a little more complex.

While child-abuse survivors may sometimes “become over-responsible,” they also “may act out against others in manipulative or abusive ways, especially if that is the only way they have learned to get their needs met.” And they may be completely unconscious of it when they’re doing it.



Think back to when Paul, who’s been recognized as being “better than” Ani and Ray—as a person and as a detective—says to his girlfriend Emily, who’s threatening to break things off because he can’t open up, “This isn’t me. This isn’t me doing this.” He is so caught up in maintaining his persona that he can’t take off the mask even for a second. And as much as it likely pains him that he can’t live his life as a gay man out in the open, there is a certain freedom in refusing to reveal who he is, isn’t there? Because he was so smothered by his demanding mother, who needed him to be a certain way, he finds that way of life very familiar. It is easier, in a sense, for Paul to embrace putting up a false front. Because he’s never known any other way to be.

And since Emily really loves him, she needs a little more of him than he’s willing to share. Hence, when he says, “I was just trying to be a good man,” she replies, “Well, you don’t try right.” What she means is, Stop trying so hard—I don’t want you to be a “good man,” I want you to be Paul.

But Paul can’t be Paul. Just look at the way he’s constructed his life. Serving in the Middle East and facing life-or-death situations was less of a threat to him than being himself.

And Frank—well, he struggles with “This isn’t me” syndrome, too. And as with Paul, it ends up killing him.



Which puts into a whole new perspective Ani’s explanation to Felicia about how she knows Ray: “We saved each other’s lives.”

When Frank awkwardly introduces himself to Antigone, he says: “Relationships are important. Maybe you don’t think so?” He reads her like a book. Because of Ani’s abuse, it’s been difficult for her to maintain relationships her whole life.

Now Frank, his life is all about relationships. It is filled with them. It’s what keeps him going. Like Ray and Ani, he’s an overachiever—in his business dealings and efforts to be a crime boss, he’s after invincibility. But, as Jordan puts it in the very first episode, “Everyone gets touched.”

Unfortunately for Frank, as brave and unflappable as he always comes across, he is still that scared little boy locked in the basement. Because of the neglect he suffered at the hands of his father, it is hard for him to trust anyone. A child of an alcoholic tends to struggle with this, because alcoholism leads to unpredictable behavior. And if a parent is unpredictable, it is very difficult for the child to rely on that parent’s ability to provide, this is why it is so important to do a family intervention in these cases.

Frank relies on no one. As he says, “Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.” This motto makes sense for someone who went without food for four days as a child, and didn’t know if his next meal would ever come. What he means is, don’t let anyone see your need for sustenance (when the apparition of his dad appears in the desert and says, “I never loved you,” his response is “I never asked you to.”). And the idea that someone could have betrayed him, whether Caspere or Osip or any of his goons, has him so rattled that it’s the main premise of his whole story line. So how ironic is it then that his cause of death is being stabbed in the back, the ultimate betrayal?



Before she leaves, Jordan tells Frank, “There’s us, and everything else is in the gray.” It’s an interesting word choice, because Pizzolatto has used so many shades of gray to draw Frank Semyon. Like the snake-and-alligator painting in his office, Frank always seems like he might be just as vicious as his predators. The truth is, Frank is a reliable friend (in this episode we learn more about Nails and Felicia, minor characters whose lives Frank saved). But his inability to trust and his need to manipulate make friendship almost impossible for him and betrayals inevitable. That’s why it’s so sad when he tells Ray that he’s his only friend left. Even Ray doesn’t really trust Frank. “Wouldn’t that be fucked up?” he says.

Frank’s eventual downfall is his pride. Any person who has had childhood experiences like his is going to have a lot to prove to the world, and will always have the fear of losing everything in the back of his mind. Jordan is constantly suggesting that they leave it all behind and run off somewhere together. Many have suspected that she was working with Osip all along or deliberately trying to distract Frank with her desire to have a child. But what she was really doing was the same thing Emily was trying to do for Paul—help Frank see himself as the man he truly is, the man she loves. And that man doesn’t need a fancy suit and millions of dollars to make her happy.


The role of women in this season of True Detective has been hotly debated online, as many said Pizzolatto’s pen proved sexist the first time around. And while it’s true that most of the female characters are not as thoroughly fleshed out as Ray and Frank and Paul, their roles are even more important than they were in the first season and their influence crucial to what the entire season was about. We’ve talked a lot about this show’s obsession with death and its symbols of the afterlife—but what the second season of True Detective was really about was embracing and fortifying life.

That’s why there is so much talk about pregnancy and women’s ability to conceive. That’s why there are so many tales of absent mothers or mothers who went crazy and ended their lives, and what became of their kids. That’s why there’s so much detail about what happened to these California fields, and how the power-hungry, greedy men purposely poisoned them so they could build a transit system for less cash. And that’s why Frank’s avocados won’t grow. As we’ve said before, avocados are very particular about the land they are planted in—they require a lot of care. This is the kind of care our characters have refused to give themselves, instead externalizing all of their demons. It’s the kind of care a mother gives.

And that’s why the mother goddess symbol has been so prevalent.


Just look at where Frank says he is going to meet Jordan in two weeks’ time, after he’s offed his enemies: El Obelisco de Barquisimeto.



The obelisk is a phallic structure, but it’s also one of the oldest architectural constructs in the world. And it is often positioned in city centers, directly in front of dome-shaped buildings.

In ancient Egypt, the obelisk was related to sun worship. Its shape was meant to emulate a ray of light. John Daniel writes in his article “Grand Design Exposed” that the chief temples of Egypt “were built so that the shrine and entrance always faced in the same direction. On one morning in the year, and one morning alone, in a temple oriented to the rising place of the sun at mid-summer day, the sun’s first rays would smite down through the gloom of the temple and down the long alley of the temple pillars to brilliantly illuminate the altar. Thus it was believed that by that pencil of light of the sun’s presence upon the altar, it became impregnated. This even gave assurance of fertility in the land and another fruitful year. By pagan tradition, an altar symbolized the female body, which in turn symbolized ‘Mother’ Earth. It does not take any great imagination to understand the symbolism of an obelisk standing before a dome—which represents a pregnant woman’s belly.”

Where have we seen a dome-shaped building this episode? Oh, right:


Note all the X’s within the dome. (courtesy

But it’s not just the idea of impregnating Jordan that Frank is subconsciously seeking. Just look at the traffic formation in the park.

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True-Detective-S2-Header_500_281_81_s_c1In the past few weeks, we’ve talked a little about the letter Xwhat it meant to find it on Ani’s dress and in the show’s aerial views of intersections. We talked about how it is an ancient Egyptian symbol for death and the afterlife, and a representation of time and transformation for the Mayans. I pointed out that an X in a box in the Box I-Ching means “The Receiver,” and an X outside of a box means “The Power of the Great.”

But one area we didn’t cover is Nordic symbolism. The letter X, called “Gebo,” appears on one of the Nordic runes—a system of divination. The Norse god Odin wanted these runes so badly that he voluntarily blinded himself in one eye and hung himself from the world tree by one foot. But this version of the letter X doesn’t stand for death, the end of things. Rather it stands for its opposite—a generous new beginning.hanged-man-dc

“The literal meanings of Gebo are gift, generosity and wedding,” says “The Rune of Gebo represents the act of ‘giving’ in all its forms….a unification of two forces for the betterment of both parties. Whether this is in a business deal or a romantic arrangement is of no consequence—the result and meaning are the same. Positive emotions, acts of selflessness and the giving of gifts are all referenced here.”

Gebo is about giving and receiving equally, something marriage requires if it’s going to work. It’s something Jordan and Frank have struggled with all season. But it means even more than that. The Book of Rune Secrets says, “Gebo teaches us that we all have a mysterious gift, a part of ourselves that must be discovered, a talent that must be turned into a skill, before we can effectively take control of our destiny. To shirk this gift is to neglect the debt we have to Life for the life it has given us. It is a real debt, one whose weight we always feel within us….”

So Gebo is not just about sacrificing yourself in a marital union; it’s also about the sacrifices one makes in life to nurture his soul’s purpose.

And as I said above, it’s difficult to grow anything in a poisoned field.


Now, let’s look even closer at that map of El Obelisco de Barquisimeto. Its X formation varies from the other X’s we’ve seen. It has a circle around it.

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cr8In his article “The Lost Christian Symbol for Galactic Alignment Right Before Our Eyes,” Steve Santini writes, “The Egyptians and the Indus Valley civilizations both used the X symbol inside a circle to represent towns. For the Egyptians, the circle was a representation of Ra, their sun god. The two legs of the X represented streets or roads intersecting at a central point. In antiquity the temple to the patron god was the center of each city. Both the galaxy and the ecliptic were considered roads. The galaxy was considered as the way of the gods while the circle of the ecliptic represented the path or way of the soul. The intersection of the two legs of the X was the meeting point of the gods and the souls of men symbolically, as was also the case with the city’s central temple.”

So the central intersection where Frank wants to meet Jordan was considered in antiquity to be the “meeting point of god and the soul.” This symbol, an X inside of a circle, was also once know as the Phoenician letter Teth, and later became the letter Theta in the ancient Greek alphabet. Teth and Theta both meant “the soul.”

And remember what I said earlier: An obelisk was often placed in the middle of the city center, directly in front of the entrance to a dome-shaped building, so that when the light hit just right, it “impregnated” the altar.



All of which means, El Obelisco de Barquisimeto is a spiritual gateway. It is a center of birth and rebirth. It was meant to be a spot where Frank and Jordan would give birth to this second part of their lives together, away from the madness of Vinci. But it ends up being the spot where Frank hallucinates he’s meeting Jordan, while slumping along in the desert. His soul is released from his body once he sees her apparition, standing tall like a white obelisk in the middle of all that sand.


Frank and Ray could have left. That’s the important part to pay attention to here. After Ray and Ani get Erica/Laura Osterman’s testimony on record, and Ray hears the whole story about Holloway and Burris’s involvement in the Ostermans’ murder, he and Ani could just make a quick pitstop back at the secret hostel of the Black Rose, remove those pieces of glass or shrapnel from Ray’s head and get the hell out of Dodge. Ani asks Ray if he’d leave if she asked him to. He says he just might.



But for whatever reason, Ray agrees to help Frank go kill some bad guys instead. (He repeats the phrase Frank said to him so long ago, when he gave him that photo of who he believed to be his wife’s attacker: “This is just information, right? Shit in the air.” Ray realizes that his choosing to help Frank is the final stage of his trajectory—it’s the “omega,” or final, station.) Meanwhile, Antigone decides to dye her hair black and cut it like Peter Pan.

Note what part of her hair she cuts off—the blonde ends. Yes, it’s an ombré dye job, and it’s usually either a trendy look or a sign of a woman who has no time or money to get herself to a salon. But in Antigone’s case, by cutting off those blonde locks, she is physically separating herself from any remaining signifiers of youth. Antigone is taking that blonde hair she wore as a young girl, who willingly climbed into a strange man’s van, and casting it aside forever. She is letting that ashamed child go.


The same can’t be said of Frank, though. Look at how casually he approaches the Chessani Lodge smokeout. He storms the place with his gas mask off, while Ray wears his from the start. When he finally puts it on, he takes it off again just so he can hear Osip’s last, poorly chosen, words: “You’re like a son to me.” We all know how Frank Semyon feels about fathers, or at least about his own.



When Frank and Ray get back to the parking lot, unpack the SUV and set it aflame with their weapons inside, they think they’re home free. If they’d been a tad more observant instead of focusing so much on their testosterone-laden mission, they might have noticed the security camera Pizzolatto places in the foreground of this scene. Because that security camera, that “eye in the sky,” belongs to the Vinci police, and the potential Freemason master of them all, Tony Chessani (one more clue that the Chessanis are Freemasons: the crystal ball on Austin’s desk in his home office this episode. Freemasons often depict this fortune-telling device with the all-seeing eye inside, or sometimes a geode, like the one in Dr. Pitlor’s office).

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Both men likely have the trackers placed on their cars which had recently been acquired through an insurance 4 motor trade while they are off trying to retrieve Frank’s money (and then some). (My other explanations are that perhaps a tracker is placed on Ray’s car when he’s at the Omega Station, or maybe Frank doesn’t have a tracker at all, but the Armenians tip off the Mexicans about where he is.) In the final scene of this episode, as Tony Chessani is being sworn in as the new mayor of Vinci, the Mexicans who kill Frank in the desert are standing behind him, dressed in suits (funny, considering how much one of them wants to wear Frank’s in the desert). So Tony is most likely the one who sends the Mexicans on Frank’s trail. And they have a bone to pick with him anyway, because when he burned down the Lux and the casino, the deal they’d made with him turned to shit. A few episodes ago, he agreed to let them push drugs in both places in exchange for contact with Irina Rulfo.



So Ray and Frank are doomed to die and leave their families behind because of their pride and greed (Ray literally trips over money while trying to escape in the redwoods). But nothing about the way each man dies feels even remotely the same.

TrueDetective_2x03_RayWhen Ray dies, it almost feels like a relief. He looks up and sees a light twinkling amidst the vast redwood branches. The viewer knows he has to die at this point—it was foretold in his dream in episode three, not to mention those scratches he gets on his hands while wrecking his apartment. That was an afterlife visitation for Ray. He comes back aware of what he needs to do to avoid visiting that personal hell again (I don’t know about you, but sitting in that Black Rose bar for eternity, listening to a man dressed like Conway Twitty, would constitute hell for me). When Ray is asked by his doctor if he even wants to live, he decides to make a few changes. He starts making decisions that are beneficial to others, like giving up custody of his son. He gets clean and sober. When he agrees to get back on the Caspere case, at first it’s so he can get his son back, but it later becomes a cause of friendship, loyalty and justice. He could run away from it all, but instead he chooses to solve the case—because, as he tells Ani, Woodrugh wouldn’t run. It’s ironic that Ray would help compile information to give to the same reporter he once gave a beating to. He used to be on the side of repressing the truth, but now he’s on the side of revealing it.


Ray finds peace in his life. That’s what matters here. That’s why his sudden, violent death, in which he’s riddled with bullets, is filmed in slow-motion and strangely feels graceful. You’d think he’d be oozing blood and suffering, like the way Blake goes out. But Blake goes out that way because of who Blake is—at least, that’s the message Pizzolatto is giving us here. Yes, Ray’s death was part of his trajectory from way back—but he tries to make amends, at least with his son, at the very end. So instead of feeling sudden and sad, it feels fated.

Frank, on the other hand—his death does feel surprising and cruel. As I said earlier, Frank suffers from “This isn’t me” sydrome. In the course of their story lines this season, Ray and Ani are both able to own up to who they are and what part they play in maintaining their misery. They free themselves of it—not only because they find each other and love, but because they are brave enough to face what scares them most. Paul and Frank aren’t brave enough for that. So when each of them die, that spiritual aspect of Ray’s death is absent.


The only part of Frank’s death that feels triumphant is his inability to accept that he is dying. He’s a fighter. Up to the very end, he won’t give up his suit, the symbol of all the work he’s done to better his station in life. He could have just starved to death out there, but because he can’t give up the suit, he’s stabbed and has to bleed out. As he struggles along, he says things like how he’ll never stop moving. He passes by all these ghosts of his past, like he’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Finally, his racism is explained—it seems he was tormented by various ethnic groups when he was a goofy white kid in Chicago. But when the man on his knees with the bloodied face appears in his periphery, begging for a second chance, you see the true nature of Frank Semyon come out. He says to the man, “It isn’t me who put you here. It isn’t me.” “But you can get me out!” the man pleads.



And this, his denial of his responsibility over who he is and how he treats others—this is the biggest problem for Frank Semyon. Eliot Bezzerides said it best when he told Antigone he believed her entire adult life was meant to be some kind of reaction to him as a parent. That is exactly what Frank has done—his life is a reaction to his dad. And if everything you do is based on a defense mechanism or a coping technique, it makes it very hard to get in touch with who you really are. Frank is tormented by these memories of the people who hurt him and then the people he unintentionally abused. They appear to him as he staggers along, like the carrion crows who trail behind him, just waiting for him to falter, smacking their lips at the taste of it. When he finally sees Jordan, standing like a beacon of light, it is like the one safe space in his life appearing before him. Does this mean he goes to heaven? I don’t know. Jordan is the one person he can be himself with, his one saving grace. But he sees her after he’s already gone. That’s because the part of him that was holding onto this world was the same part that was tormented by his past. It’s only when his spirit is able to leave his body that he can walk upright and with ease. Because now he’s free of all that.


51qmSLEuIEL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_The author of What Happens When We Die, psychic Echo Bodine, would say that Frank probably has a young soul. “The soul does different things during physical death, depending on its age and wisdom. Young souls tend to stay in the body until it takes its last breath, whereas older souls often leave beforehand, especially if the impending death is the result of an impact to the body such as a car accident, plane crash, drowning or heart attack, you have to know that a preventable car accident death may result in compensation for the victim’s family, but help from real professionals like the ones from is needed.. As the soul grows in its spiritual understanding and development, it realizes that feeling the impact of physical pain is unnecessary. I met the soul of a skydiver whose body died after his parachute didn’t open. This soul stayed in the body, watching as it fell to the ground and broke into several pieces upon landing. He was a younger soul who hadn’t yet learned to leave the body before an accident occurs. Some young souls lack knowledge about death and think that staying with the body will ensure that it will live, but that’s not the case. On the other hand, older souls are spiritually aware and know to leave their body before death occurs and head straight to the white light.”

Remember what Eliot says to Ray about his soul—that it’s the oldest he’s ever seen. This was likely Ray’s last life—he jumps out of his body as soon as he sees that light (while saying the phrase “a better place”), and doesn’t even feel the impact of the bullets. Frank holds on a bit longer.

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A while back, I pointed out how the main characters of the season could easily represent each of the animal masks in Caspere’s Hollywood apartment, using shamanistic symbolism.

UnknownThe ass, I said, was Frank. He’s “intelligent and takes on large burdens (one thing’s for sure…he’s no rat). The ass is stubborn, able to make independent decisions, refuses to move when he knows something’s not copacetic, can say no to others and ignores others’ opinions.” Seems fitting that an ass might die stubbornly in the desert, right?

jaguarblackThe black jaguar, I said, was Paul. He “‘represents the gatekeeper to the unknowable and the hidden sun and stars.’ Paul is highly repressed and carries many seemingly unknowable secrets. He gazes longingly at the stars….I imagine we’ll catch Paul in more than one death-defying situation (we’ve already seen him almost drive off a cliff).” Seems like a guy who might die undergound in the dead of night.

black-bear-mark-bennett-dpcThe bear was Ray, “‘which in shamanism represents transformation and rebirth.'” The bear represents a lot of things to Native Americans. “The bear is as free in spirit as the great wind; and grander than its mass,” says an article called “Native American Bear Meaning, Native Wisdom on the Bear Symbol.” “To match that magnitude is the quality of unpredictability in the bear. A massive animal who forages seemingly peacefully in the woods on berries and bush. When provoked in certain ways, the First Peoples witnessed a ferocity expressed from the bear that (understandably) could elicit terror. Because of this potentially furious storm brewing just under the surface of bear’s spirit, our native forebears were extremely cautious and respectful of this animal. Even tribes inclined to peace honored the spirit of a warrior, and witnessing the bear seemed to embody that kind of blind, powerful surge of courage and strength that every warrior is wont to tap into.”

Like a bear, Ray is a fairly peaceful character who can be provoked into a great rage. As he runs downhill to escape the Black Mountain/Ares gunmen this episode, it’s hard not to picture a bear being hunted. Because there is a longstanding myth that a bear can’t run downhill. Supposedly its shorter front legs interfere with the movement (this is definitely a myth though—bears can outrun most humans uphill, downhill, any direction at all).

cougarrockAnd finally there’s Antigone, who I said was the mountain lion, an animal who “’uses leadership power wisely and without ego; balances power, intention and strength; gains self-confidence and freedom from guilt; and displays cunning.’ According to, ‘for the Zunis of Turtle Island (Southwest United States), the mountain lion or cougar was the Master Hunter, known for its high intelligence, its knowledge of other animal and life forms, its physical prowess, its strength of will and its intuitive ability. The mountain lion sees the maintenance of its territory as essential for its survival.’” Ani certainly gains self-confidence and freedom from guilt in this episode, and she shows a great deal of intuitive ability. Think to when she is out on the water, which has to be difficult considering the way her mother died, and she knows intuitively that Ray is gone. Just like Emily knows as soon as Paul has died.


(courtesy Daily Mail)

51Bhx8KS37L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In his new book How to Know God, Deepak Chopra calls this a special form of ESP. In the mind field, any boundary can be tenuous. If necessary, your mind can merge and communicate with another mind. A thought that, properly speaking, should belong to one of you becomes a joint experience. Why would such a merging be necessary? No one can really answer that precisely—in general, momentous events will act as a trigger, causing a spouse to intuit her dying partner’s last wishes or one twin to know that his brother had suddenly been struck by lightning. The twin to whom this actually happened felt the shock of the lightning passing through his own body at the instant his sibling was killed. (To further underline the point in a bizarre way, after writing this example down, I met a lawyer who was pulled from an afternoon meeting by a wrenching pain in his abdomen. He had never had such an experience and departed home immediately. When he got there, the police were waiting with tragic news. His mother had been stabbed and killed by an act of random violence at exactly the moment he had felt the pain. By what mysterious stroke of synchronous timing were mother, son and murderer tied in a karmic dance?)….

“Two intimately connected minds can be united at the level of awareness. You may have cried out for help or solace from someone miles away, and sometimes they respond by showing up or calling. In wartime it is not uncommon for parents to know with certainty the exact moment that a son is killed on the battlefield….These are all examples of awareness as a field beyond the body. These examples help us to shift away from a strictly private, isolated mind to a universal, shared mind whose body is the universe. Isolation is a material fact but not a quantum fact. The boundaries dividing ‘me’ and ‘you’ are much thinner than we realize. There is reason to believe that personal identity is just another convenience, useful for everyday living but ultimately too flimsy to be taken as real. I believe this is implied in the scriptural phrases ‘children of God’ and ‘created in his image.’ Insofar as we are children of our parents, personality is simply continuing itself. One generation teaches the next how to obey the rules of limited identity. But in a multilayered reality, there has to be another father/mother for our extended identity, and this is the role we assign to God. We have not yet proved that there is such a divine parent, but it seems undeniable that our cosmic identity is real.”

It’s like when Ray tells Ani, “They’ve already got eyes on me,” and all the eyes in general this season. Before we worry about the eyes of God, we worry about our parents’ eyes, watching us. Considering that these characters didn’t have the greatest parents, for the most part, those are some pretty scary eyes. As Frank is being carted off to the desert, they pass a billboard with a crow on it staring at the viewers. The intelligible words on the billboard say “Behold the light.”

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Remember what Carlos Castaneda said about crows—they “see” things differently. They see the energy inside a lifeform and know when it is about to die. Even without the crow mask, wouldn’t you say that Lenny Tyler/Leonard Osterman is pretty darn crow-like? As Cowboy Ray gets the deets from Holloway about how the Ostermans were murdered, Leonard sits there hunched over, his black hoodie covering half his face, his nose and narrow chin long like a beak…he’s just waiting for his moment to bring the dead to the underworld.



After episode two, I talked about how every example of a crow in the show pointed to each person’s involvement in the crime (Pitlor has one, Eliot has the raven totem pole, Austin has a bird in his office—even Erica/Laura has one in hers). But now I think maybe those crows are just signifiers of imminent death. When Leonard hears that Laura is really Caspere’s illegitimate daughter (disturbing, now that we know she may have had some sexual interaction with Caspere), he jumps up onto Holloway from behind, almost as though he’s flying onto his shoulder. Holloway bats him away like he’s a bird. And then he straddles him and stabs him, like he’s pecking away at dead flesh. Leonard dies like a feasting vulture.

Every single character on this show meets his or her end the way Pizzolatto said they would. When interviewed, he said this season was akin to Oedipus Rex—a detective who is forever searching for clues, but later learns the culprit is him. Frank unintentionally double-crosses people while pursuing his rail-corridor deal, those people end up killing him. Ray gets lost in a mire of mistakes after killing the wrong man who he thought was his ex-wife’s attacker (as he tells Chad via voice mail, “a turn here, a turn there and it goes on for years, becomes something else”): he hooks up with a corrupt police force, becomes their pawn and turns a blind eye to the corruption he’s involved in, such as his work for Frank. In the end, because he refuses to cooperate in exchange for money and power, those same people kill him. And though he wants to save his son from viewing him as anything but a hero, that son will now grow up with the knowledge that his father was a murderer (if he watches the evening news; remember, that voice mail is never sent). Paul spends so much time hiding his true identity that he will do anything to prevent its leak into the world. He’s really doing good for people by focusing on his detective work, but his secrets are then used against him. All he has to do is not care if Emily knows the truth about him, and he and Ray and Ani could get out of town alive. But he cares too much, and ends up killed by the very crew he used to kill people with. The fact that the highway is later dedicated to him is a boon to how good he was at his job, but it only really happens because Burris and the Vinci police want to cover up their involvement in his death. And ironically, Paul, the person who wanted to be so private in life, becomes a public figure. And Caspere—well, Caspere started the whole ball rolling when he allowed a pregnant woman to be killed in front of her two children. He forced innocent kids to watch a horrific crime. He can’t be surprised that all these years later, those kids would enact revenge.



And then there’s Ani. Throughout her life, Ani has searched for a chance to protect that little girl she couldn’t protect so long ago. She feels a kinship for missing girls, like Vera Machiado, and it disturbs her that these powerful men seem not to care that the girl is gone (which has to be a thought she had about herself once, when she was stuck in that cave). After she kills the Russian security guard, she says she “almost went looking for it,” this chance to express her rage. It is the only way she can come to terms with her trauma and then let it go. And after years of failed relationships and one divorce, she finally experiences love with a man and conceives his child. That room in the motel is like Frank and Jordan’s Obelisco. It generates life.


5995e8fc23219ae69b8be8a19fd0f7b2When Frank and Jordan originally set up that meeting, they plan on wearing a white suit and dress, respectively, as though they are a bride and groom (fitting, considering the meaning of the X shape, Gebo). Then Jordan suggests Frank wear a red rose in his lapel.

Pizzolatto has used this symbol so many times this season, I can’t even count anymore. It represented the afterlife to the ancient Greeks and the Virgin Mary to Christians; it also symbolizes a bounty one can’t find in a place like Vinci (after all, the only roses there are black ones), so its presence all over the walls of the motel is very meaningful. But there’s another religious sect connected to this flower, similar to the Freemasons.

51ZC6-5YqRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“The Rosicrucian Society, derived from the Fedeli d’Amore (Faithful Lovers) to which both Dante Alighieri and the author of Le Roman de la Rose belonged, intended to free the spirit of the adept from slavery to earthly temporal powers (the senses and passions, public ambition and political institutions). The mystical flower of this sect, the rose, symbol of beauty, love and life, in fact, expresses striving toward spiritual elevation and yearning for a return to a natural religion founded on the knowledge of the harmonious correspondences that fill the many realms of reality,” explains Astrology, Magic and Alchemy in Art, in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Guide to Imagery series.

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You know what? I take back what I said about the only roses in Vinci being black. Right next to Antigone, when Frank is lecturing her about the importance of relationships, sits a vase of yellow roses, the universal symbol of friendship. “Tell her I wanted to meet her,” Frank tells his new friend, “and that the story we told, it’s still true.” But when Frank imagines he’s meeting Jordan in the desert, he is wearing a red stab wound in place of that red rose.


In the final scenes of the series, Antigone conveys every detail of her experience to the reporter from the L.A. Times. She has made it to Venezuela. It’s not like anything we’ve ever seen in Vinci, since 95% of its workers don’t live within city walls. There is so much life in this town, where in Vinci there’s very little.



Back in episode two, Felicia the scarred barmaid told Ray he needed a vacation. She said he should go with her to her hometown, San Miguel. In that recap, we talked about how San Miguel is a town that greatly supports the arts, the opposite of a place like Vinci, which only supports industry. Ray told her the only way he’d get to go on a vacation was if he croaked.

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By the time Ani is talking to the reporter, the parade outside her window indicates that she and her caravan are in Barquisimeto (you can also see the green-lit Obelisk off in the distance in the upper-left corner of the shot). It’s been a year since Ray and Frank’s deaths (though, unfortunately for Jordan, probably no one would know Frank’s dead, nor could they find his body), and the parade outside their door is one that runs through the streets of Venezuela every year: Festival of the Divina Pastora. It starts in a place called Santa Rosa, named after Saint Rose, the patroness of indigenous people of the Americas, gardeners and florists. Saint Rose, who was born Isabel Flores y de Oliva, changed her name during her Holy Confirmation because a servant had once seen her face twist into the shape of a rose when she was a baby (no joke!).

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.33.35 AMAccording to Wikipedia, “Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, with a lamb at her side. It is considered to be one of the most important religious icons of Venezuela. Divina Pastora is the patron saint of the city of Barquisimeto and of the Venezuelan National Militia. The original image dates from 1735. Divina Pastora is celebrated in a procession on January 14 of each year, when a massive Marian procession occurs, considered to be one of the largest in the world, attracting thousands of pilgrims.

“The statue is removed from its shrine and is carried on the main streets of Barquisimeto, starting at the Iglesia de la Divina Pastora in Santa Rosa and ending at the Barquisimeto Cathedral. The parade occurs due to the devotion the people of Barquisimeto have towards the icon as gratitude towards saving the city from a cholera outbreak that occurred in the 19th century. According to the history books, this tradition comes from Seville, Spain. A Capuchin friar, Isidore of Seville, had a dream in which he saw an image of the Divina Pastora. Days later, he gave to the artist Alonso Miguel de Tovar a detailed description of his vision, so that he could paint it. The painting of the virgin with pastoral hat, covered by a blue mantle, holding a boy in her left hand and a lamb in her right one, was called Divina Pastora de Almas. Later, the sculptor Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijon made a life-sized sculpture of the Divina Pastora, which was carried in its first procession.

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“It is a festive occasion, with countless street vendors selling anything from food to liquor and small religious figurines along the route that snakes through the city. Every year the Virgin is dressed differently by a local fashion designer and Her gown is donated by devotees paying penance. During the next couple of months, on her return trip, she stops at other churches in Barquisimeto, arriving back to Santa Rosa in time for Palm Sunday.”


Barquisimeto Cathedral (courtesy of Pinterest)

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.37.06 AMIn this particular festival, Divina Pastora is transported from a church with the name rose in its title to a church that is literally shaped like an upside-down flower. With everything we’ve learned about the symbolism of the rose—the afterlife, the Virgin Mary, the “striving toward spiritual elevation,” according to the Rosicrucians—it makes sense that Pizzolatto would depict this exact festival. The survivors of this season, Ani and Jordan, are strong women, and as they are still on the run from the law, they choose to hide in large floppy hats, like the one worn by the Divina Pastora, one of them carrying her own miracle baby. They are both shepherdesses, in a sense. Ani tells the reporter, “These facts were paid for in blood, so honor that. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference, but it should. Because we deserve a better world.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.40.28 AMInteresting how we’ve gone from Ray’s philosophy that each person gets the world he deserves to Ani’s saying “We deserve a better world” at the end—that’s we, as in a group. She’s not talking about individuals here.

Remember Deepak Chopra’s idea, that we need to “shift away from a strictly private, isolated mind to a universal, shared mind whose body is the universe.” Much of the misery experienced by the individual characters on this show is exacerbated by the belief that each is alone in his suffering and has somehow earned everything that’s happened to him. Yes, they sometimes make missteps due to fear and insecurity and a refusal to look at themselves in the mirror, but in the end their greatest achievements are the things they accomplish together, and the largest legacy they leave is their impact on other human lives.

The woman who is a relationship virgin in a sense, Ani, is now a mother and now responsible for righting all that was wronged. The idea here is what little power you have over the betterment of humankind in a world where powerful men and corporations and money always win.

By giving up all of her information to the press, Ani is letting go of her personal interests. It’s more important to her that the truth be told, so her son doesn’t have to grow up in a world of hypocrisy, than to focus on protecting herself. She is offering protection she didn’t have as a child (though I’m certain the one knife she still carries is one she inherited from her mom).



There is another historic shape similar to the Theta, or the map of El Obeliesco de Barquisimeto, that is even older than the invention of the obelisk.

In their article “The Medicine Wheel,” Sandra Laframboise and Karen Sherbina write, “The term ‘Medicine Wheel’ is not a native term. Initially it was used in the late 1800s and early 1900 by Americans of European descent in reference to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel located near Sheridan, Wyoming. Later, research on the Plains identified other features characterized by a variety of stone circles and spoke configurations. Because of general similarities to the Big Horn Wheel, the term ‘Medicine Wheel’ was extended to describe them as well.

Medicine_Wheel“The Big Horn Medicine Wheel consists of a central circle of piled rock surrounded by a circle of stones. ‘Rays’ of stones travel out from the central core of rock and its surrounding circle. The whole structure looks rather like the wheel of a bicycle from the air. There is no real consensus as to when the medicine wheel began to appear in Native American Culture except to say that some of the wheels date back two to four thousand years B.C., the time of the great Egyptian pyramids. Some archaeologists and geologists even go as far as saying that the Big Horn Medicine Wheel is as old as a few million years.

“….A Medicine Wheel is a physical manifestation of our Spiritual energy. In other words, an outward expression of our internal dialogue with the Creator (God) and the spirit within. The individual or community can see what is going on within by examining what has manifested outwardly in the mirror-like situation the Medicine Wheel shows us. It is also a wheel of protection and it enables us, and allows us to gather surrounding energies into a focal point and to commune with Spirit, Self and Nature. Thus, it is a model to be used to view self, society or anything that one could ever think of looking into. Medicine Wheel teachings are vast and limitless and form the basis of most First Nations beliefs—the great circle of Life.

“These teachings are among the oldest teachings of First Nations people. The teachings found on the Medicine Wheel create a bio-psychosocial and spiritual foundation for human behavior and interaction. The Medicine Wheel teachings are about walking the earth in a peaceful and good way, they assist in helping to seek: healthy minds (East), strong inner spirits (South), inner peace (West) and strong, healthy bodies (North).

“As mentioned earlier, a Medicine Wheel can best be described as a mirror within, in which everything about the human condition is reflected back. It requires courage to look into the mirror and really see what is being reflected back about an individual’s life. It helps us with our creative ‘Vision,’ to see exactly where we are in life and which areas we need to work on and develop in order to realize our full potential. It is a tool to be used for the upliftment and betterment of humankind, healing and connecting to the Infinite.”

It takes courage to look into the mirror.

Until next time (or whatever show I cover next), “Are you fucking dense?”





“The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell (1967)

Yesterday a child came out to wonder,
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar,
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder,
And tearful at the falling of a star.

And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

The child moved 10 times round the seasons,
Skated over 10 clear frozen streams,
Words like “when you’re older” must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams.

And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town.
And they tell him take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down.

And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

So the years spin by and now the boy is 20,
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true,
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.

And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.


  6 Responses to “The Circle Game: The Life-Affirming Finale of True Detective, “Omega Station””

  1. This is a very good article. Surprisingly, it makes me want to see Season 2 again.

    • Glad you liked it, Liz! There was a lot going on in this show…so much that could easily be ignored at face value, but it explains what’s going on in the characters’ arcs.

  2. I really like your analysis. You perfect to watch this show with! I am amazed at its thoroughly outstanding exchanges and character nuances.really a masterful season I thought

  3. Thanks! I agree—I also thought it was masterful on a lot of levels!

    You’ll have to ask my fiancé if I’m perfect to watch the show with. I do a lot of “Wait. Stop. Rewind that” if I see something interesting, haha.

    • I do that all the time when I watch online! Hey, something looks so nice you gotta see it twice, right? ?

      By the way I just want to thank you for noticing that parallel between rays earlier “…world you deserve” line and how it was perfectly bookmarked by Anis line in the finale. Pure thematic brilliance and a great attitude in this world! Please continue posting on avclub, we need more reasoned minds like yours to keep the sanity there! Though I will gladly keep your blog in mind for other shows I watch.

      Until next time Laura

      Christopher L

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