Chuckman wrote:SPOILER: Show
The strange part is that Errol demanded Cohle remove his mask, as if Cohle were the Yellow King. In the play, it's the King who wears the pallid mask.
Cohle then goes on to, in fact, remove his mask, dropping the college atheist/nihilist philosophizing he uses as a shield against his grief and the effects of his drug abuse.
Not sure what that means.
Make of this what you will:
Well, a bit of digging links the King heavily to an entity which also goes by the name of Hastur. I couldn't find any mention of him in the Tyson Necronomicon (or maybe I didn't look hard enough, damn thing doesn't have an index) Hastur isn't as prominent in the mythos as big-shots like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth and Dagon; he's practically shrouded in esoteric mystery compared to the more famous Cthulhu Mythos entities. He has been everything from a benign god of shepherds to a person to a place. What is notable is that Chambers, the originator the Yellow King story, connects Hastur to stars and black stars, as well as several named stars such as Aldebaran; this takes on more significance when Cohle sees the swirling bright vortex of stars.
This, in turn, could be taken to portray Cohle's lines about the stars and light vs. dark in a different light: what if the light, the stars, actually represent Hastur, the Yellow King, slowly gaining control of the cosmos? Looking back over the series I began to find some rather unsettling associations between Cohle and the Yellow King:
a) Cohle claims during his near-death experience that he felt closer to some kind of afterlife that was 'warm, like a substance' and that he felt that his loved ones were waiting for him there. Which seems odd and vaguely ironic considering that Cohle was in the middle of the Yellow King's temple at the time. What if what Cohle felt wasn't 'Heaven' but 'Carcosa'? Ms. Dolores's constant repetition of 'Rejoice! Death is not the end,' also implies a link between the Yellow King and the afterlife.
b)The visions. Cohle attributes these to his drug usage and it kind of falls into 'maybe magic maybe mundane' but the placement of several of the visions such as the aforementioned star vortex imply that Cohle is directly receiving visions from the Yellow King. One of Cohle's early visions- rapidly moving, oddly-coloured orange-yellow clouds also draws an odd comparison with the 'cloud-waves' Chambers often mentions in associated with Carcosa. This then draws into point c:
c)Cohle is, in some way, 'chosen' by the Yellow King. There is no indication at all of what this means or any explicit mention of it, but Cohle is certainly much more attuned to the King's mythos than anyone except Childress and Ledoux. Childress (or possibly the Yellow King, given the odd way his voice somehow reaches throughout the temple in Episode 8) even refers to him as 'little priest' (or 'little prince'?!) towards the conclusion of the series, and seems to single him out over Hart. The 'take off your mask' line further implies that Childress sees something of the King in Cohle.
I realise that I am on somewhat thin ice here, particularly because Cohle and Hart ultimately destroy part of the Yellow King's cult, but I did begin to wonder how much the cult's actions reflect the Yellow King's will. As Chuckman says, aside from Errol they're not true believers; their rituals are not so much for the King as a form of blackmailing each other and satisfying their own urges. Thus they have no true bond to the King and he seems to be fine with a few of them getting killed. One could argue that the final confrontation of Episode 8 was a conflict between the two closest to the Yellow King, although once again the implications of Cohle's victory are not clear; the new triumphing over the old perhaps, or the destruction of those who still clung to the old ways. With the deaths of Ledoux and Childress the most ancient, radical elements of the cult are dead. It could be a reflection of the spiral sigil and 'time is a flat circle' line from Ledoux, about How Cohle will keep repeating his actions. The cult is weakened but it will revive; perhaps in a different form; eventually someone like Cohle might be 'chosen' to clear away the old and the cycle will repeat over and over ad infinitum while somewhere far, far away the Yellow King is growing stronger.
It is a very Lovecraftian ending under this lens: the protagonists survive their trials, but can never hope to conquer the entity behind it all; possibly they are even pawns of that same entity. The whole point of the Lovecraftian entities is that they are so far removed from the human realm that they cannot be stopped; the most you can hope for is to retain your life and most of your sanity.
So, for you Lovecraft fans who were worried that the ending was too happy: they haven't won. we're still doomed.