The first season of True Detective has wound to a close, and we've been introduced to a villain who almost defies definition. Simply put, ________ is a monster, and a king of monsters.
Some may want to stamp Errol Childress with the label of redneck, or hillbilly trash. I fear those crude words cannot capture him. His proper introduction in the finale is a medley of contradictions. He is intelligent and crude at the same time. Beastly and— when it amuses him— urbane.
Let us focus a moment on his voice— or rather, voices. Thomas Harris' own Clarice Starling did everything in her power to lose her West Virginia accent, afraid it would paint her as white trash. Errol dances from voice to voice without apparent effort. While his scars are unfortunate, he has no problems passing as pleasant, humble, and likable in public. He is a chameleon. He chooses to remain where he is, the Yellow King of Carcosa. And that choice makes him horrifying.
Errol is in good company with fictional killers that seek transformation. But the quests of Jame Gumb and Francis Dolarhyde (again, from the works of Thomas Harris) have urgency. They're possessed of a pressing need to complete their task. Childress speaks of his own journey with fondness— almost as an errand he'll get to when he finds the time. Gumb and Dolarhyde were desperate to change, to grow, to be something other. Childress has been working toward his ascension for years, if not decades. He has all the time in the world.
On the state of his house: While his home is cluttered with filth, yes, think about his needs: He has very few. He has a lover who tends to his needs and fears him. His own personal labyrinth is in walking distance. His day job makes him all but invisible, and keeps him close to his prey. He wants for nothing.
Beyond the damage done to him in his formative years, consider the possibility that everything about this creature is a deliberate choice. The state of his house, his sloven appearance. He lives in a veritable sty, but strides through it like royalty. For all intents and purposes, it pleases him to be this. Such low beginnings make his "ascension" all the more meaningful.
Our minotaur delivers his last words to his father— a man he has every reason to hate— with dissonant serenity. He leads his prey into his labyrinth where he taunts them with a voice from the depths of hell. He unnerves them with his works. He very nearly kills them both.
Errol Childress is a masterpiece of foulness. I sincerely hope we do not see his like again anytime soon. He will linger in nightmares— Rust Cohle's, Martin Hart's, and mine.