I appreciate the craziest, unlikeliest of the crack pot hypothesis when dealing with the what does it all mean. Only speaking for myself of course, a big part of being a fan of shows like HBO's True Detective is concocting my own theories. I love to come up with off beat ideas to spark mind expanding/numbing dialogue and after watching this past weeks episode, The Secret Fate Of All Life, let me break down what I think is the DVD Theory (pseudo spoilers to follow).
Before I begin, PLEASE watch this clip:
I think this is the key to the whole thing. Everything about this show is not what it seems. Everything they say or do makes sense. Nothing is by chance including the camera angles. Rust is talking directly to the audience, the detectives are not his intended recipient. He's talking past them to us. The audience is a direct participant in the mythos now after his speech.
When I say DVD, it could also be a record, a stream, a CD, a circle, etc. A tape, a recording of the interviews that we (audience included) are all watching. He discusses how ritual breaks the linear construct of time and allows one to exist across all times. A story within a story within a story. It is almost like we (the audience) are blessed with four dimensions and by looking down upon this show from eternity we can see it whole and in two dimensions. The characters we watch are going to have to deal with the secret fate of all life and roll through it like mine-carts on tracks.
Think of it as a metacommentary on fictionality than 4th wall breaking. However, if you go with Rust's idea that we're all just living out the same stories again and again, then the audience is also implicated as characters in this text, in which case every time we watch an episode the 4th wall is broken — because we're also characters in the text of the story being talked to in that story.
I don't think you have to be a fictional character for this to apply to you. There's an argument about the illusion of self-control, in that the decisions we make have all been part of an orchestra which started since before we were born. Every choice we make is based on our most familiar experience. Those of which have been conditioned and developed over time, ever since we were infants, developed senses and could internalize them. Now if you take that approach that our lives are like a giant ball of events and momentum, then the world is like a stage, where we're all set to effect each other in some way or another.
I think it's possible that Rust "knows" he's a fictional character without this actually being about breaking the fourth wall. Because in his philosophy, everything is meaningless, so we might as well just be fictional characters who are pushed around by a story we don't control. I could easily see Rust saying something about how we are all just actors in a play and having that just be part of a general worldview rather than a fancy postmodern literary flourish.
I think the show is building toward a cliffhanger that leaves the audience complicit in the events - if you want more, or some sort of definitive answer, you are condemning the characters to more suffering. If it is left ambiguous, we'll probably get more of the inter-dimensional mythology. I feel like the creators want the audience looking over their shoulders and questioning their own reality.
The real mindeff and the message, the riddle, it is in the title of the show. The viewer is the True Detective in this case. When you put in your DVD and press play, you force Rust and his universe to relive their quest over. And over. And over. Once you realize what the turning disc really is it breaks through the 4th wall. The only question left now is how the story ends. My guess is the first shot of the series is actually the last.
Nothing like a nihilist who believes in a kind of fate.
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