True Detective is without question the best show on television right now, and the amount of man-hours that have gone into the endless, yet glorious parade of blogs dedicated to the HBO anthology series helps back the assertion. After all, whatever show generates the most buzz on social media is automatically the best, right? No? Too bad, in this case it is.
True Detective has turned people who casually watch HBO into obsessed fanboys, and, because the show is so good, this is a good thing. Also a good thing: It ensures that the newest installment of American Horror Story will get bupkis at this year’s Emmy Awards. Ryan Murphy probably thinks he’s the boss of psychosexual drama, but it’s time for him—and the rest of us—to kiss Nic Pizzolatto’s ring.
As for the theories, I can’t get enough. Marty’s yellow hair! Senator Tuttle! Childress! Maggie’s father! The catatonic guy who owns the bar where Rust works! Bring them all on, because I have none of my own that are any more insightful or inventive.
However…just because I don’t have a theory on the Yellow King, the Five Horsemen, or something else in the way of a prediction doesn’t mean I can’t offer a farcical (and I’ll let you decide how sensible) explanation of past events in a clearer sense than you’ve seen.
That’s right, if you want some real truth on how we got to where we are in True Detective, look no further than the 1994 Disney movie Angels in the Outfield.
In the same way that bloggers theorize about Quentin Tarantino’s movies occurring in the same universe, or the old MTM shows occurring in the same universe, it’s pretty obvious that True Detective and Angels in the Outfield occur in the same universe. Journey with me and consider…
Jay O. Sanders, who plays the sinister-seeming Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle in True Detective, also plays arrogant, hotheaded radio announcer Ranch Wilder in Angels in the Outfield. Everyone who had a VCR in the mid-90s recognized him as such.
(Quick aside: The “O” stands for Olcutt, which is eerily close to the world Occult, which is batted around in Episode 1 as his character is introduced and hovers mightily over the series itself. Sanders’s inherent smugness and imposing stature make him perfect casting to begin with, but the middle name thing is too perfect).
Back to Tuttle, who spearheaded the Wellspring school initiative in Louisiana. Rust Cohle’s private investigation led him to Toby, a prostitute who attended Light of the Way, one of the Wellspring schools. That school was, as Cohle found out, originally called Shepherd’s Flock, until it closed in 1988 and reopened two years later.
Something must have happened involving Tuttle, likely in 1988. Toby tells Cohle he may have remembered Tuttle, but the men all wore animal masks, except for the man with the scars, who we know is obviously not Tuttle. Since Toby couldn’t confirm Tuttle’s presence, let’s assume he skipped town in 1988.
We know that Tuttle comes from a powerful family that would make it easy for him to change identities and locations if they needed him to disappear for awhile. His brother, future governor and senator Eddie Tuttle, arranged for Billy Lee to go west. Why he had his family set him up in broadcasting is unclear, but it provided a perfect reason to assume an alias. Announcers often use stage names (Marv Albert? More like Marvin Aufrichtig), and honestly, have you ever heard a stage name snappier than “Ranch Wilder”?
So Tuttle/Ranch is now based in southern California as of 1988 (that could be TD‘s prequel series: The Tuttle Ranch). He’s able to relax at first, but over the years becomes disillusioned with society. Being within an hour of LA, the poster child for sexual promiscuity in the late 80s and early 90s, he was close to cultural change highlighted by the Showtime Lakers, homosexuality’s increased prevalence, and civil unrest. When the HIV crisis hit, cresting with Magic Johnson’s announcement in 1991, he’d just about had enough. But as we find out at the end of the movie, he had a contract, so he wasn’t going anywhere. Still, his religious background stuck with him and fueled his hatred for the undisciplined, loose-moral activity going on out west.
Angels came out in 1994, so let’s assume it takes place during the 1994 MLB season. Given what actually happened during the 1994 MLB season, believing in a feel-good story is the better alternative.
The Angels are struggling mightily until they get some unexplained boost during the summer. Of course, this boost is really angels propelling the players to greater heights. The first occurrence of heavenly angels helping out the baseball playing Angels appears in the form of a spectacular, not-to-be-believed catch made by center fielder Ben Williams. What actor plays Ben Williams? That’s right, Matthew McConaughey!
Everyone is blown away by Williams’s catch, especially Ranch, who’s incredulous if not a bit suspicious. The season goes on and we learn more about Ranch. Turns out he’s kind of a pervert, which is in line with Tuttle, whose sickness is evident. During pregame warmups one day, he peers towards the field with binoculars, presumably observing the team. He says they’ve been given a boost and “look a little bouncy today.” But he was looking at buxom women jumping up and down in the stands as he said it, because, again, he’s a self-loathing pervert who likes preying on young women yet is disgusted by sexual promiscuity.
As we learned earlier in the movie, Ranch hates manager George Knox and is even punched by Knox after insulting Knox’s managerial acumen during an interview. Between that, his game calls, and booth demeanor, it’s easy to see that Ranch hates the Angels and roots for them to lose. He’s a truly miserable human, disillusioned and fed up with life.
The movie shifts when the young JP slips to Ranch that real angels are involved. Billy Lee had a precarious relationship with children, and receiving such news from a child didn’t sit well with him. More than that, seeing how important young Roger Bomman (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes to the team infuriates him, deepening his disdain for children. Amid the Angels’ success, Ranch decided he needed to go back, learn how to become Billy Lee Tuttle again, and take his anger out on children. If children in the wasteland of SoCal were seeing angels, he needed to get back to the Bayou and make children see devils. Ranch/Tuttle thought the only thing to offset angelic behavior brought on by children was to initiate satanic behavior at the expense of children.
As the film climaxes, the Angels win the division and, after years of disparaging remarks, Ranch is fired by the team’s fed-up owner. Ranch yells about his aforementioned contract, but in reality, it gives him an out to head back home and wreak havoc.
Ranch is fired late in September of 1994. Dora Lange is killed on January 3, 1995. Coincidence? Maybe, but the timing is a bit too perfect. Three months is just the right amount of time for Ranch to head home, reacquaint himself as Billy Lee, and help orchestrate Dora’s killing. If various members of the police force were in on the conspiracy, they’d have no questions—and would swiftly squash questions of their subordinates—about Billy Lee going missing for six years. For all anyone knew, he’d been in Louisiana all along, living life behind the scenes. It’s not like anyone in Louisiana was watching Angels games or had the internet back then.
As far as the 1990 killing of Marie Fontenot is concerned, there are a few explanations. First, he could have left Louisiana in 1990 rather than 1988, which would have allowed him to partake in the ritual and conveniently skip town right afterward. But I like to think he spent more than four years in California and had those formative late 80s years out there when things were really wild and the Showtime Lakers owned the region.
Second, he could have come back from California for a few days to join in on the action. We know that Marie Fontenot was killed five years before Dora Lange. If that’s exactly five years, give or take three months in either direction, it’d be feasible. The Angels were a moribund franchise that couldn’t make the playoffs, meaning their season ended before October, and the following season doesn’t get going until late March. Thus, the span of October 1989 to March 1990 provides a nice six-month window for Ranch to temporarily go home and participate in the Fontenot sacrifice.
The final theory is the one I’m going with, however. I think Ranch stayed out west, with little to no contact back home, during his tenure with the Angels. His brother and whoever else was involved in the Fontenot death took those horrific pictures and detestable video tape and hid it in the house that Cohle would eventually take them from in 2010. The Tuttles controlled those big properties that no one bothered with, perfect to use as stash houses for damning materials. When Ranch came back to be Billy Lee again, he moved into the house, splitting time with his two other homes. While it’d make sense that Billy Lee simply was never told about those items being hidden and was being set up as a potential patsy, he must have known because of the two homes he had broken into by Cohle, he only reported the one at the home with no evidence. He knew what was taken from him and kept it quiet.
Why’d he allow the materials to be kept in his house? He’s arrogant and views himself as untouchable. We learn this in Episode 1 with the task force and Episode 6 when Cohle questions him. Even though the evidence technically wasn’t his, he never had any good reason to risk moving it somewhere else. Who in their right mind would rob Billy Lee Tuttle? Or so he thought. Tuttle’s death shortly thereafter is somewhat explained by Cohle, but regardless of what happened to Tuttle in 2010, we now know what happened to him, step by step, in the 22 years prior to that.
The other big piece of this connective puzzle is how Ben Williams became Rustin Cohle. This is a guy who played baseball his whole life and suddenly became a seasoned, hardened police detective. What’s more, we know January 1995 is his third month on the job with Marty, meaning they started together immediately following the 1994 MLB season. As in, the day after the season ended.
It’s puzzling as to why Cohle and Tuttle wouldn’t recognize each other, but Tuttle’s appearance changed noticeably in those months, and why would either suspect or even consider the other’s transition? If anything, Tuttle may have known about Cohle’s past, and his conniving attitude almost implies that. Cohle, though, wouldn’t know about Tuttle, as Ben wasn’t a superstar, didn’t have a ton of interaction with Ranch, and might not recognize Tuttle’s older, more distinguished look.
Back to Ben’s metamorphosis into Rust. Unless George Knox is really Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon and was grooming Ben to be a detective while managing him, there’s no rational way for a lifelong baseball player to retire at a young age and wake up the next day as a detective. But there are angels at work here, and as nonsensical as that sounds, we’re not operating in the real world, but rather in the world of these television and film entities.
So, yes, the angels that helped the Angels took Ben Williams the moment the season ended and placed him in the Louisiana Criminal Investigation Department, fitting him with his entire backstory, from Alaska to Texas, from his family to his undercover work. Given what the angels accomplished in the movie, it’s possible that they possess this kind of power.
But why Ben Williams? Well, the angels seem to have had an interest in Ben from the beginning. As we established earlier, the first recipient of angel assistance on the ball field was Ben. Of all the Angels, the angels chose Ben.
In fact, before young Roger Bomman prayed and the angels descended, it appeared that Ben was one of the more competent players on the team. In a game at the beginning of the movie, he calls a fly ball and tracks it down before being barreled into by his teammate. He did everything right, including taking charge as the center fielder is supposed to do, giving his all in chasing it down, and being in the right spot. The left fielder is like Marty Hart: Ben/Rust played it correctly and was about to get it done, but his teammate/partner came in and blew it up (the pop fly/Ledoux).
Instances such as this show that Ben was prepared, efficient, and executed his duties properly. (What’s more, the precisely researched items in Rust’s storage unit suggest Ben could have made a successful sabermetric-loving MLB front office executive.) Playing outfield is about instincts and making that pivotal first step, something Ben excelled at from the beginning. The angels fingered him as being able to translate baseball instincts to police instincts. As we know, however, angels only get you so far. That’s why the Angels had to win the final game on their own, and that’s why Rust Cohle has to solve the case on his own.
But it’s the confidence instilled by the angels when they first came to him that propelled Ben to further heights. In the final game of the season, without angelic intervention, Ben makes a tremendous leaping catch that, as Ranch told it with a rare genuine enthusiasm, “saved the game for now!” (Note: Tony Danza played heroic pitcher Mel Clark for the Angels). Ranch’s words could prove ominous, as Cohle is quite close to “catching” someone now that could save a different game, so to speak. Most importantly, that play proved to the angels that he was ready to go out on his own as Rust Cohle. Ben Williams was a man who ultimately didn’t need the angels, so the angels turned him into Cohle, a man who’d never believe in angels to begin with.
In this universe, the Tuttles had the ability to relocate Billy Lee, just like the angels had the ability to relocate Ben Williams. Tuttle: raised and relocated by a bunch of devils in human form. Williams: watched over and relocated by a bunch of angels in natural form. Ultimately, both brought together in Louisiana to face off. Devils v. Angels. Satanic beings who protect their identities to continue hurting v. Heavenly beings who protect their identities to continue helping. Billy Lee Tuttle, the Tuttle Family, the Five Horsemen, and the Yellow King v. Rust Cohle.
And while Billy Lee may have died in 2010, he’s rolling in his grave because Mel Clark and young Roger Bomman moved to New Jersey and became an oversexed, Italian father-son duo named Jon Martello Sr. and Jon Martello Jr. who starred in a depraved, porno-fueled romp called Don Jon.