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True Detective (Episode 5)The Secret Fate of All Life – Philosophy & Ethics


True Detective

Episode 5

The Secret Fate of All Life

(Philosophy & Ethics)

Written by: Ryan Fu @fu_beatz

If you are wondering why it takes me the whole week to do an episode review for True Detective, it is because the show is great and it has layers. Unlike many other detective or crime solving television series before it, True Detective showers us with much more than a “who done it show?” They give us complex ideas about life, especially our ideas about what life is really about and how we perceive our own lives.  In episode 5, The Secret Fate of All Life, writer Nic Pizzolatto, adds different forms of philosophical ideas in the episode. For example, reincarnation, the religious or philosophical concept that the soul or spirit, after biological death, begins a new life in a new body that may be human, animal or spiritual depending on the moral quality of the previous life’s actions. Fucking Karma. There is a reason why Karma is called a bitch, which the episode shows us why it is.



In the opening scene, we see Dewall refusing a drug deal with Rust and Ginger at the bar. Dewall doesn’t trust Rust because he sees something awful in Rust.


“I can see your soul, it’s like corrosive acid. I don’t like your face it makes me want to do things with it. You got a demon in you. There’s a shadow in you, son.”

So, the detectives follow Dewall to Reggie Ledoux’s hideout in the woods. They find and capture Ledoux.  Marty is looking for female survivors, while Rust is stuck with Ledoux, as he starts talking to Rust telling him,

“It’s time. Black stars. I saw you in my dreams.

Rust replies, “why the antlers?”


Ledoux tells Rust, “You are the Carcosa now. With me, he sees you. We’ll do this again, time is a flat circle.

Rust shouts to Ledoux, “what is that Nietzsche?”

Friedrich Nietzsche was an existentialist philosopher is most often associated with nihilism. Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. Nietzsche argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.


When Marty finds the girls in Ledoux’s complex, the inner father in him went ape shit. As he calmly walked over to Ledoux and blew his brains out with his gun. Rust was shocked but remained calm, telling Marty to remove the cuffs so we can get our story straight.

I can see that Rust has Marty’s back all the way, when they have to a tell different story to the board to save Marty’s career.

As Rust tells Marty,


“Fuck him. Good to see you to commit to something. Go check on the girls,” as he grabs the Ak-47 with the cool extended barrel and fires rounds into the woods to cover up make show that their story is right.

Back in the present with Rust and the black detectives, I still don’t remember their names, but I think they’re like the other version of Rust and Marty but way less smarter and cooler. Rust tells the detectives,

‘Why should I live in history? This is a place where nothing is solved. Someone told me time is a flat circle. (Wasn’t it Ledoux that told him that?) Everything we will do or have ever done we will do it over and over again.”

Rust hits on a couple of philosophical ideas there like reincarnation, which is Buddhism.

Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the evolving consciousness or stream of consciousness upon death becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation. The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely different from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream.

Karma is a Buddhist term that literally means “action” or “doing”.

Buddhism is a monotheistic philosophy. We do not believe in a creator but in the causes and conditions that create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. This is called karma. It has nothing to do with judgment; there is no one keeping track of our karma and sending us up above or down below. Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have much fruition, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects.

Marty finds out why karma is called a bitch in this episode as we fast forward in his future with his family. We see that one of his daughters has dramatically changed from a sweet and loving daughter into a free-spirited, rebellious teen. In a scene with the detectives he talks about his failures,


“I understand that infidelity is a sin, but my true failure was attention. I can see that now.”

Marty talks about his lack attention to his family because of his workload as a detective and because of his infidelity. Which is now causing him grief in the present, when he finds his rebellious teenage daughter having sex with older boys. Marty with his wife tries to figure out why their daughter has committed this horrible situation for them. As Marty argues with his daughter it just reminded me of a scene with his mistress when they had an argument. Life is playing itself all over again when Marty hits his daughter in the face for disrespecting him. In conversation with the detectives,

“The good years, how they slip through your fingers.”

Marty has a different conversation with the detectives about the Grand Design. The membrane theory or the M-Theory or String theory.


M-theory a theory that involves an eleven-dimensional universe in which the weak and strong forces and gravity are unified and to which all the string theories belong to. The idea, or theory, often causes arguments among scientists, because there is no way to test it to see if it is true. If ever proven true, M-theory and string theory would mean big progress for science.

String theory, often called the “theory of everything,” is a relatively young science that includes such unusual concepts as superstrings, branes, and extra dimensions. Scientists are hopeful that string theory will unlock one of the biggest mysteries of the universe, namely how gravity and quantum physics fit together.


Naturally the detectives are perplexed with Rust’s ramblings about metaphysics and want to know the real truth about why Rust is at every crime scene. They believe that Rust has something to do with the recent killings. But Rust gives him nothing and calm leaves the office telling the detectives if you want to arrest me then arrest me. A great chess match with Rust with the detectives, as Rust knows that the detectives have nothing on Rust to put him in jail.

In the last couple of scenes in the episode, we see Rust in the past with a murderer trying to interrogate him for a confession of a double murder he committed. As usually Rust gets his confession but the murderer tells Rust that he knows who he is and he what’s a deal? He further tells Rust that the real killer is still out there, still killing people. He is willing to tell Rust where he is as the murderer talks about,

“The Yellow King.”


Rust goes ape shit on the murderer wanting to know more about the Yellow King because the other victims talked about the Yellow King. Naturally, we can see Pizzolatto is heavily influenced by The King in Yellow is a book of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Which is why True Detective is a great and dark show filled with mystery and philosophical elements.

As Rust explains to the detectives,

“In eternity where there is no time, nothing grows, nothing becomes and nothing changes. Death created time to grow the things it will kill. You are reborn, but into the same life that you were reborn into.

You can’t remember your lives; you can’t change your life. That is the terrible secret fate of all life.

You are trapped. A nightmare you keep waking up to.”

We can see Rust is talking about Nietzsche and Albert Camus with the absurd man. In the Myth of Sisyphus, a philosophical essay by Albert Camus, Camus talks about the absurdity of life. He questions how should the absurd man live? In the essay, Sisyphus is doomed in hell for an eternity rolling a rock up a hill then rolls it down and repeats the process again and again. Camus presents Sisyphus’s ceaseless and pointless toil as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices. “The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.” This is the truly tragic moment, when the hero becomes conscious of his wretched condition. He does not have hope, but “there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” Acknowledging the truth will conquer it; Sisyphus, just like the absurd man, keeps pushing.


I totally understand that many viewers see Rust is a lonely and sad soul because he follows his life with a set of beliefs that many people don’t agree on. But folks, we are not in this life to please everyone. We should be aspiring to gain more knowledge about ourselves and other people. We should be trying to experience everything, so we can learn more about ourselves. Once we figure out that life is absurd like Nietzsche and Camus, we can move on and grow from it. Life is about death but it is also about growth. To know more about yourself and others, we can find the real truths like Rust and Marty. Stop reading this shit and experience life!!!!

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