Critics have offered many readings of the influence of weird and horror fiction on True Detective’s narrative, often examining the influence of Robert W. Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow (1895) and Thomas Ligotti. Allusions to The King in Yellow can be observed in the show’s dark philosophy, its recurring use of "Carcosa" and "The Yellow King" as motifs throughout the series, and its symbolic use of yellow as a thematic signature that signifies insanity and decadence. Pizzolatto was accused of plagiarizing Ligotti because of close similarities between lines in True Detective and text from Ligotti’s nonfiction book The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2010)—accusations Pizzolatto denied, while acknowledging Ligotti’s influence.
Other philosophers and writers identified as influences include Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche,[ Gilles Deleuze, Ray Brassier, Emil Cioran, and Eugene Thacker. Mathijs Peters, in a piece for Film International, argued that True Detective probes Schopenhauerian philosophy through its approach to individuality, self-denial, the battle between dark and light, and so forth. Ben Woodard noted the show’s evolving philosophy, which examines a setting where culture, religion, and society are direct by-products of biological weakness. Woodward wrote, "Biological programming gets recuperated and socially redistributed visions, faiths, and acerbic personalities take the reins of uncertain ends creating a world where ‘people go away’." Even the setting, Fintan Neylan argued, emphasizes a world "where the decrepitude of human ordering cannot be hidden." He stated, "This is not a place where hope fled; it is a place where hope could never take root. It is with these people and environs that the real horror is sourced." Yet Neylan observed that Cohle’s actions are not motivated by misanthropy, rather a drive to challenge "those who try to either disguise or manipulate this frailty of humans for their own benefit." And in doing so, Cohle ultimately confronts "an entire philosophical history which has taken its task as that of sweeping frailty away." Christopher Orr at The Atlantic said True Detective was "Fincherian in the best sense", a fusion of Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007), because of its subject matter, sleek cinematography, and "vivid, unsettling" aura.
Some commentators noted further influences from comic book literature. Adams likened Cohle to the protagonist of Alan Moore’s The Courtyard and drew parallels with Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles for the show’s brief exploration of M-theory with one of Cohle’s monologues. ComicsAlliance and New York columnist Abraham Riesman cited Top 10 as the inspiration for the season finale based on dialogue from the episode’s closing scene.