Under Water within Thirty Years The Prophetic Mode in True Detective

Isak Winkel Holm


“Place is going to be under water within thirty years,” detective Rustin Cohle says while driving through a disaster-stricken landscape in south Louisiana in the mid 90’s. The first season of True Detective, a HBO crime series authored by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga, is tensed on the verge of disaster. In grammatical terms, it depicts a social life in future perfect, a life that will have been above the surface. In this paper, I explore the prophetic as an aesthetic mode of True Detective. According to Maurice Blanchot, prophetic speech “is not just a future language. It is a dimension of language that engages it in relationships with time that are much more important than the simple discovery of certain events to come.” Following Blanchot, I define the aesthetic mode of the prophetic as a way of feeling, seeing and thinking that makes the viewer experience the fictional world in the shadow of a catastrophe to come. This prophetic mode, I contend, has important consequences for the show’s treatment of the question of justice. Like the prophetic books of the Old testament, True Detective shifts the perspective from the content of law to the force of law. Thus, focusing on the prophetic is a way of approaching a specific configuration of aesthetics, disaster, and justice.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.6094/behemoth.2016.9.1.893