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Purgatory, USA: A Map of ‘True Detective’ Country

If every great story is a journey, then few are more in need of a road map than True Detective.

If every great story is a journey, then few are more in need of a road map than True Detective. We are, of course, talking about last year’s iconic first season, which set such high standards for sophisticated obfuscation. Not the second season, currently disappointing a shrinking pool of viewers, which has merely lost its way.

Robert Farkas, a Hungarian artist with a knack for transforming televised dystopias into cartographic itineraries (see #629 for his work on The Walking Dead), has done the honors. Here is his map-based summary of True Detective (S01).

True Detective locations in Louisiana, from fan site

True Detective locations in New Orleans, from wikitravel.

Look away now if you’ve yet to see Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey’s two Louisiana homicide detectives fumbling for clues in a ritual murder case. If you already have seen the series, and/or if you like pretty maps, read on.

Unlike, say, The Man in the High Castle (see #700), the opening credits for True Detective do not feature a map as framing device for the story. Luckily, there is some fan-made cartography out there for Mr. Farkas to base his work on. But unlike the two fan maps he used (shown above), he did not go for geographical accuracy.

The Farkas map sacrifices geography to achieve another type of accuracy — capturing the gloominess and dark symbolism that oozes from the screen. Which is why each of the 10 stations of this particular via dolorosa is marked by voodoo-like icons, inspired by events and locations in the story.

It begins with the discovery of the naked body of Dora Lange (1), posed as if in prayer, crowned with thorns and antlers, and surrounded by wooden constructions later referred to as “devil nets.”  Stages of the investigation lead to a tent revival church (2), a “bunny ranch” (3; no actual bunnies involved), and a greenhouse (4). Repeated references are made to an enigmatic place called Carcosa (5).

These and other places, such as a burned church (6), the Light of the Way school (7), the farm of Reggie Ledoux (8), and the Iron Crusaders club (9) may seem crucial, but turn out to be inconsequential, or vice versa, to the ultimate resolution of the mystery. The eeriness of the locations is supplemented by shots in the opening credits of “Cancer Alley” (10), a stretch of petrochemical plants along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.

Of course, “the map is not the territory” — that quote, coincidentally (or not) first appeared in a paper presented by Alfred Korzybski at an AAAS meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. And this map is but a poor guide for those unfamiliar with the territory of True Detective, Series 1. Its best use is as a memento of the bizarre underworld portrayed in the series — Purgatory, USA (as someone called it). Will anyone ever care enough about True Detective‘s second season to turn it into a map as well?

More on this map here on Moviepilot.

Strange Maps #723

Got a strange map? Send it to [email protected].


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