What Does "The Western Book of the Dead" Mean For 'True Detective' Season 2? Get Ready For More Philosophy

For fans of True Detective Season 1 who have been mourning the fact that Matthew McConaughey's nihilist Rust Cohle will not return in Season 2, do not fret. The first episode of True Detective Season 2 is titled "The Western Book of the Dead," so methinks the show will not lose its philosophical edge. If you're not sold on the themes of Season 2, which stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Rachel McAdams, it's important to know that the episode title is most likely inspired by an essay written by John Y. Crighton in the 1960s. The essay, also titled "The Western Book of the Dead," is described by InterVarsity Press as covering the "Western world's deteriorating understanding of its identity, significance, and future." McConaughey may not be in Season 2 of the HBO show, but with a premiere title like that, Rust Cohle lives!

The man who deserves the credit for the intelligent writing of True Detective though is not Rust, but the creator and writer of the series — Nic Pizzolatto. From what has been revealed about the plot of Season 2 so far, Pizzolatto appears to be the only tangible connection between Season 1 and Season 2. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Pizzolatto was asked what makes Season 2 of True Detective even the same show as Season 1 since it has a completely new plot and new characters. Pizzolatto said in response, "Sensibility...Me. Crime, detectives, intimacies, and ideas...but it’s all just me. That’s what makes it the same show."

So though the character of Rust will not exist in the Season 2 of the True Detective world, similar themes will be explored by Pizzolatto — and one of those is bound to be a complex look at humanity's belief systems and our perceived purpose here on Earth.

While I'm not saying that Farrell, Vaughn, McAdams, or Taylor Kitsch will portray a character exactly like Rust, the season premiere title gives me hope for similar insights on human nature and existence that Rust used to proclaim (and I would barely comprehend). The essay "The Western Book of the Dead" is available online in its entirety and if you are a die-hard True Detective or Pizzolatto fan, it's definitely worth the quick read.

The short essay is split into 12 chapters and outlines how man came to be. (And yes, to match the text, I will continue to say "man" and not "woman" from here on out.) The most fascinating quotes from "The Western Book of the Dead" deal with man's search for purpose. Crighton writes that it was man's mind that made him think he was more important than other life forms, so he created the idea of love, which led to the idea of God and art. The main takeaway that I expect to see in True Detective's Season 2 from the philosophical essay is this: Humans will deny reason if it causes them to believe they are significant and that they have a purpose in the universe. (Yet, Crighton also noted that when men start to question their significance, they lose their morality.)

The Season 2 premiere episode's description is, "The disappearance of a city manager disrupts a lucrative land scheme and ignites an investigation involving three police officers and a career criminal who is moving into legitimate business." While that is a pretty standard synopsis for a show about police, Pizzolatto giving a nod to Crighton with the episode title surely means the episode will be anything but simple or straight-forward. After all...

So, True Detective Season 2: Bring on the modern-day philosophers!

Images: Lacey Terrell/HBO; Giphy (3)