So, uh, hi. It’s me, Nick. You may know me from such posts as *prognotes: The Dear Hunter’s Acts I-IV. I realize that Act V has been out in the world for a little bit now, and there are certain people who are perhaps waiting in anticipation for analyses of it to follow. And those are coming soon, I swear! But first I wanted to kind of take a little pause, talk a little bit about what’s happened with this column over the past few months, make a few acknowledgements, and also revisit a few items from previous columns where I feel I could add either a little extra clarity or basically admit I was wrong. Alright? Who’s ready for some motherheckin’ reflection!
*prognotes: The Dear Hunter’s Acts
When I first started writing this column a little over a year ago, I really had zero expectations for its reception. Though we covered plenty of progressive music on the site, I knew that our core readership base at the time was almost certainly not nearly into The Dear Hunter as I was. But as a fan and as someone very curious about the details and inner-workings of the story and lore behind the Acts series, I was really interested in putting something together that was a bit more detailed and extensive than the barebones plot summaries that seemed to be all I could find when looking for more information. This isn’t at all meant to be a jab at the awesome people over at Lake And The River, as all they’ve done over the years is essentially what enabled me to get a grasp of what was going on throughout it in the first place. What I hoped to do was essentially build on their work and compare it to my own understanding and interpretations of the lyrics as I read them. I thought it might be cool if some fans got to see them and perhaps use them, but mostly I poured so much time into them simply because I was a fan and wanted to decipher Casey’s work for myself.
So my analyses of Acts I-III went up with little fanfare, and even though I intended to write the follow-ups for Act IV shortly after that album’s release, life got in the way etc. etc. I did get one or two notes from readers asking about when I was going to get back to it, but for the most part I assumed no one really cared whether I continued or not, so there wasn’t much rush to dive back in. And for the most part that continued as I published the pieces for Act IV. There was perhaps a small uptick in general interest and feedback as I continued to write and speculate, but by the time I published the last installment back in June, I was very ready to close the book on this for quite some time. Having spent countless hours ruminating and writing, and with very little reason to expect that Act V was anywhere near on the horizon, I figured these posts would sit and remain in relative obscurity largely for my own and a few others’ amusement (mostly the I can’t fucking believe how much time and pain I put myself through to write all of this shit kind of amusement).
And then two very important things happened.
The first, of course, was that Casey managed to fool everyone and reveal that Act V was already completed and coming in a few months only one mere week after I published the last prognotes entry, thus sealing my fate to slave away once more very soon. The second was that I was suddenly finding a very large increase in link referrals to our site and the prognotes series from Reddit and elsewhere. I started having fellow writers for the site come to me and tell me that they would see the posts referenced in YouTube comments, or that friends and acquaintances of theirs would freak out when they learned that they wrote for Heavy Blog and knew me because they started reading the site because of my posts. To go full nerd cliché here, it appeared that the embers had finally caught fire. By the time I wrote my review of Act V, it appeared that I was somehow known as a “thing” amongst the TDH fan community.
Let me say a few things about this. First off, I am just so enormously honored and flattered that anyone who didn’t already know me would read the things I’ve written and actually care enough to spread it around. I say this often in the posts, but seriously, thank you to anyone who bothered to take the time out of their lives to read and share this stuff. Second, to all of those who are out there repping me and speaking my name, I see you, and I sincerely appreciate all of you. To the TDH Reddit community in particular, I see you all and thank you so much for the support. I don’t actively go on Reddit or post there because, honestly, I’ve got way more than enough distractions in my life from my career and my off-line life (which includes managing and writing for this site as it continues to be a revenue-neutral endeavor), but you all are awesome and have a great community there. I’m in Brooklyn and am at pretty much any show for the band in NYC (as well as many others), so any locals (or people from elsewhere for that matter) who want to connect are more than welcome to hit me up on Facebook, which is where my social media activity is pretty much contained to.
Lastly on this topic, I thought I would share something that I learned this past week that I could not have possibly have imagined or dreamed of when I first decided to write these posts. Erez Bader, who directed the fantastic video for “Gloria”, reached out to me a few days ago out of the blue to introduce himself to me and let me know that both he and Casey referred to my write-ups specifically often during the beginning stages of production to understand what the prevailing fan theories on the Acts out there were. When I learned that my heart pretty much stopped. Never in my life would I have thought that an artist I admired like Casey would actually read any of the things I’ve written, let alone use it as a reference for something the band would put out. It still honestly boggles my mind to think about it, but to see where I am now with all of this versus less than a year ago is just incredible, and once again, I am just so thankful and appreciative of everyone who has helped make it possible. This band and the music has meant so much to me, and so does everyone in the greater fan community who I know share the same feeling and love of this music.
So enough blathering about that! The other reason I wanted to write this post is that, thanks to the passage of time, some further introspection, context, information, and especially feedback I’ve received from readers here and elsewhere, I can freely and without shame admit that I did not get everything I’ve written and theorized 100% correct. And that’s okay! That’s the whole point of theories and hypotheses, to put them out there and see if they hold up to the test in the public eye. Before I go forward with my thoughts on Act V though, I figure it’d be nice to either correct or put a few large asterisks next to what I’ve already done so I don’t need to go through revisionist rigamarole as I press forward. It’s not much and is honestly contained pretty much entirely to Acts I and IV (re-reading everything from II and III, I think it all still holds up well, which is mostly a testament to the consensus formed in the fan community about the events that transpired in those two albums), but I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t make sure what I put out was as accurate as I thought I could make it.
“City Escape”: In terms of Act I, thanks to the new graphic novel from Alex Dandino, there’s a whole wealth of additional context and story that fills in a lot of the blanks from the more ambiguous aspects of the album. For instance, we now know that Ms. Terri had already given birth to The Boy (who I will continue to refer to as such for now but will officially switch over to calling him Hunter for my Act V analyses, which I’ll explain then) during the events described in “City Escape.” She sets her room at The Dime on fire and escapes through the window before heading to The River. According to the book at least, Ms. Terri follows the river’s path until she reaches the abandoned home near The Lake, as opposed to the prevailing theory, which is that she traveled there by train (along The Delphi Express, presumably).
“The Inquiry of Ms. Terri”: This is also probably a good time to note that in my first writeup I wasn’t nearly as thorough as I would be past it and did not go essentially line-by-line, which left a lot unspoken about “The Inquiry of Ms. Terri” and “1878.” For example, “The Inquiry of Ms. Terri” makes the first mention of the hunting knife she gives The Boy, an object that is given far more weight in the book. There’s also the matter of her acknowledging at the end that she will continue to work at The Dime occasionally to provide just enough money for herself and The Boy – she lies to her son to keep her profession a secret, and when she “lies” down with clients, she is lying to them as well both in the usual way someone in her profession does to make every client feel special, but also lying about who she is to protect The Boy.
“1878”: Compounding my incorrect assertions about Ms. Terri abandoning The Dime completely from the previous track, my analysis of “1878” has many holes in it. Many of the general emotions and feelings behind the lyrics are the same, but certain important details are not. The most obvious one is in the chorus, which I originally interpreted to be far more symbolic of Ms. Terri’s own headspace based on the sacrifices she’s made for The Boy. While certainly it’s true that she made incredible sacrifices in escaping and continues to in placing her body and autonomy on the line at The Dime, the leap I made in saying that she was so emotionally-distraught to the point of imagining herself bleeding out from a knife and committing suicide was just a bit unfounded! In reality, at least according to the book, the chorus is to be taken far more literally. Hanging from his tree – which I neglected to mention at all here, but is mentioned for the first time and is very important symbolically throughout the series – he falls into a trap he laid himself to catch prey by reaching for his knife that slips out. It’s an important moment for The Boy as he places himself in peril and finds himself alone and helpless as a result of it.
“At The End Of The Earth”: After receiving several comments from readers about this one, I am ready to admit that I probably wasn’t quite correct in my initial analysis of this. I still believe that this track has a shared perspective from two characters, with part of it featuring The Boy mourning the loss of his mother – you just can’t ignore that “Someday she’ll be gone” reference. But people have suggested that rather than the female perspective in the song coming from The Lover/Fiancee, as I originally suggested, it’s actually from Ms. Leading, who perhaps may have learned of the supposed “death” of The Boy in combat at some point. At the very least she may be very well realizing, with the passage of time, that she truly did have feelings for him and that she would very much like to be able to see him again if he is still alive. This would actually make a lot of sense immediately following “Waves,” which features The Boy more rationally and maturely thinking back on his relationship with Ms. Leading. Really, other than the whole “Someday she’ll be gone” thing (which I realize isn’t even included in the official lyrics for some reason and only as backing vocals), the entire song makes sense from her perspective.
“King Of Swords (Reversed)”: Upon further reflection of this track, what we now know in Act V, and based on some things Casey has said since, I don’t disagree with the overall plot and my analysis of this track other than to say that I likely missed (or at least underemphasized) The Pimp/Priest’s role in this song and The Boy’s election. Unbeknownst to The Boy, TP/P recognizes pretty instantly who The Boy actually is when he announces his run for mayor, and spotting an opportunity to install someone who he had the dirt on to easily control and manipulate, he almost certainly played a significant part in convincing the masses to vote for him. In that sense, the King of Swords (Reversed) can easily be referring to TP/P as well, as he surely fits the description of someone who possesses a lot of power, intellect, and cunning but uses them all to malignant means and ends.
“The Line”: Although it is true that the song is certainly about The Boy and The Lover’s relationship pretty much falling to pieces, as we learn through the story in Act V, the two of them clearly have not formally separated, as she winds up bearing his child. Rather, it seems that they have both agreed to continue their sham of a relationship to further each other’s standing, but there will not be much in the way of genuine love or affection moving forward.
“Wait”: So this is just going off of a thing that Casey talked about during the “story time” session before their NYC show one week ago, but he mentioned that it would have been during “Wait” that The Boy and Ms. Leading found themselves re-united and reconciling their pasts to find new comfort in each other. I don’t actually see any evidence of this present in the lyrics themselves, but in terms of chronology it makes sense as it would have immediately followed his falling-out with The Lover, and that reconciliation was teased multiple times in “Waves” and “At The End Of The Earth.” So take that information as you will.
Okay, so now that we’re all caught up on that, all that’s left to do is the actual work of pulling apart and putting back together Act V. I’ll talk a bit more about how I’ve come to my thinking on what happens in the album and the degree to which I feel comfortable in writing about it in the next post, but I feel pretty good about where my head is at with this at the moment and feel ready to finally tackling this for you all. So hopefully those will be coming soon. Once again, thank you thank you thank you to everyone who’s read any of these and has been supportive in my endeavors with this. Be back soon!