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True Detective: Is Hart the Yellow King?

Clues abound in True Detective. Is one of the detectives the yellow king?

True Detective fans are aware that Hart is the king of hypocrisy, but could he also be the “yellow king”? This name has been the key to the mystery ever since it was first mentioned in murder victim Dora Lange's journal.

Robert W. Chambers wrote a 1985 collection of short stories called The King in Yellow and it was said that anyone who dared read them would be depraved and driven mad by the supernatural nature of the contents. As in the book, True Detective has an eerie feeling throughout, which has helped elevate the series to a cult-like status.

Many are now speculating that the yellow king is Hart. But what about the man with the scars? Obviously Hart's face is unblemished. But, the traveling preacher, Minister Theriot, the man with the Elvis sideburns said cryptically, "The face you wear is not your own." Could the killer wear a mask while torturing and killing his victims?

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However, we know all too well that Hart is a blemished man. He's a full-blown narcissist, and it's sending his personal life down the toilet. He flies into one violent rage when his mistress goes on a date, another when his daughter has sex and once more when his wife cheats on him, although he is guilty of the same sin. Could this violence also carry over to killing young victims?

When at the Ledoux compound, he blew the head off a handcuffed Ledoux. Why? Was it really due to the shock of finding the two captive children or was it to prevent Ledoux from talking, thus keeping his involvement hidden?

And what of Hart's daughter? Especially the older one who posed dolls in a gang rape stance and drew sexually explicit pictures of oversized penises. She has knowledge that a normal little girl should not. Yet Hart doesn't seem overly concerned about it. Where did she learn about this? Daddy? Grandpa?

Everything that happens in this show happens for a reason and is full of symbolism. The yellow king has a crown. Hart's older daughter, Audrey, is seen wearing a beautiful balloon princess crown which eventually flies into the trees while on the grounds of Maggie's parents' home. Perhaps showing the end of innocence in the child or perhaps a reference that she has seen the yellow king.

In the investigation, Hart seems to stop Cohle in his tracks at certain points—i.e., honking the horn when Cohle began to question the caretaker at the closed school and not wanting to lift prints off the public telephone. Hart also wants Cohle away from his family; whether it's for dinner, his wife... or his lawn. In the latter episodes we see almost mirror images of Hart's daughters and the detective team: Maisie is an outgoing cheerleader, while Audrey has grown into a dark Gothic teen. Perhaps the split personalities of Hart, himself? The singular title, True Detective, makes one wonder... is there only one true detective that’s made up by the two men together?

Even though all the above is intriguing and demands answers, I do not believe Hart, with all his flaws, is the yellow king. He is just too impulsive to have carried this on successfully for years without getting caught. And he gets his kicks by having affairs with young women—not killing them.

Clearly, deep in the Louisiana bayous, there is a cult of powerful and wealthy men who sexually assault and kill girls and young women for their own sadistic pleasure. The yellow king is their leader, but who?

My guess, though admittedly a long shot....... Maggie's father. He's only appeared once in the show, but.......review episode 2.

With two episodes to go, the answers will be forthcoming soon.

For more analysis read Part I, Part II and Part III here.

Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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