True Detective's long-awaited third season is underway, and fans are predictably losing it over all the possibilities in the anthology crime series' current mystery.
Response to the latest season has been warily positive. After a bloated and sometimes incoherent second season, the HBO series has stripped things back with its story of Mahershala Ali's (in a stunning performance) Wayne Hays, helped by Stephen Dorff's Roland West, investigating the disappearance of two young kids in Arkansas. Following Hays in three different time periods from 1980 on, the first three episodes of the new True Detective (airing Sundays) already leave a lot to chew on. Smart folks are circulating theories online, some more serious than others, about what we might see from the rest of the season.
Warning: Spoilers for the latest episodes of True Detective Season 3 below.
1. The Yellow King is back!
It's hard to imagine, especially given that True Detective is an anthology series, that the new season will literally connect back to the much-hyped Yellow King of the first season. But viewers detected some serious Carcosa vibes in the new episodes. Those dolls made out of corn husk found in Devil's Den near the Purcell son's dead body were certainly... creepy.
Clever sleuths also noticed a subtle reference to the first True Detective season when Hays is being interviewed years later for a documentary, and the interviewer mentions the Crooked Spiral symbol tied to pedophile groups like those uncovered in the first season. This probably doesn't mean we'll see the exact same villains this time around, but pedophilia could play a role in this season's mystery, and clearly we're living in the same fictional universe.
More weird Carcosa shit. Uh, cornhusk dolls.#TrueDetective- BoldChild (@BoldChild66) January 14, 2019
2. The season reflects the West Memphis Three.
For those not caught up on their true crime, the West Memphis Three are three men who when they were teenagers were charged and eventually convicted of the murder of young boys (also in Arkansas) in what prosecutors theorized was a Satanic ritual. Many believe that the West Memphis Three, featured in the Paradise Lost documentaries, are innocent, and they were eventually able to leave prison in Alford pleas. There are many superficial similarities between that real-life case and the Purcell one in True Detective. While it would be a bummer if it ends up being a replica of that event, it's hard to imagine creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto didn't at least have the West Memphis Three in mind as he crafted this latest season.
Only theory I want to mention online: if #TrueDetective makes season 3 a rip off of The West Memphis 3, that’s weak ass writing. But to have the little homages to it so far: that’s golden. Let’s keep it that way.- Zoë Gulliksen (@bookishbelle) January 14, 2019
But overall Arkansas has seen some ugly shit in its time.
3. Pay careful attention to Hays' wife's book.
The most compelling and sensible theory proposed so far for the new True Detective season may also be the least exciting: Follow the book, folks. As we learn in the later time periods, Hays' wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) is a teacher turned author who wrote a book about the Purcell case that became acclaimed. In the final time period, Hays is struggling with memory problems and finally decides to dive into the book whose existence had upset him in the past.
As one Reddit commenter astutely wrote, "I bet Wayne will figure out the mystery when he finally reads his wife's book... I've been thinking about the potential intersection between Wayne's memory and his wife's writing. There must be a relation between the two. Wayne's wife has the book around the 10 year mark and by then Wayne's memory is already deteriorating and there are references to his memory situation during the deposition. In reality, Wayne is the main character who is great at attention to detail, he is a tracker. I bet Wayne and his wife decided to write the book to capture his memories, the detail and clues about the case. The real question is who's telling the story in the book?"
4. There are two massive cover-ups at play, and Hays is part of them.
The latest theory of the Purcell case to surface and set Reddit aflame is a doozy of a conspiracy theory, which fans are calling one of the best and most convincing theories yet. User Arthur3ld lays out the rather elaborate potential plot in a post, picking up on the documentary interviewer in 2015 in the show commenting that pieces seem to have been left out of the Purcell investigation. As we also know, in 1990 investigators are asking Hays what he knows to see what was missed in the initial 1980 investigation.
The theory ties together the holes in the investigation with the fact that only the Purcell son was found dead. There's a cover-up afoot, according to Arthur3ld, and Hays is directly involved:
Will and Julie planned to run away the day they went missing. They went to meet an older person who was grooming Julie for abduction. Will was secondary, Julie was their main target. My main suspect is the wife of the chicken plant owner, who lost her daughter. The portrait in the office shows a woman holding a blonde child. She may have used surrogates. I believe she is the white woman seen in a brown sedan with a black man the day the kids went missing.
Why run away? The creepy-cousin-uncle molested Julie. Will found out. The parents either acted like it didnt happen, or didnt believe her, or didnt know. In any case, Julie doesn't feel safe and loved in her own home. Will and Julie plan to run away. At some point they begin meeting with a stranger in the woods. Stranger buys them toys, plays games with them, and promises Julie someday she'll get married and she'll be taken away from all the pain at home. She starts drawing wedding pictures. I suspect the notes are from Will, passed through the peephole, promising to always protect his sister.
Chicken magnate goes on extended safari right before halloween. Julie recieves the dolls on halloween. Julie talks with her abductors on halloween. A week later she is missing. Julie, on the day she goes missing, asks her dad when mom will be home. She most likely feels bad that she wont be able to say goodbye.
This is where the first cover-up comes in, implicating someone above Hays (who's also known as Purple).
The chicken magnates aren't part of a pedo ring, they only abducted the one child, Julie. The dolls are red herrings planted by the perps to make it seem like a cult thing. Purple remarks that the dolls seemed like they were staged, so he could find Will's body. Maybe Will fought back when they tried taking his sister. Maybe he tried running away and telling someone and accidently died. Maybe they killed him to cover their ass.
The charity from the chicken plant puts a reward out. Hays and West are blindsided by it. One of their higher ups was contacted by the charity, gave it the go ahead, and didnt tell their lead detectives. Locals claim to never be interviewed by police. A single detective/prosectutor talks to the old man in the farmhouse, doesnt file reports, and possibly takes evidence from the house to cover his tracks. All signs point to the head prosecutor bungling the case intentionally. He does so to rise through the ranks and become state prosecutor, due to his chicken magnate benefactors that he is covering for. The other prosecutor deposing Hayes and West is suspect as well.
Then there's the years-later cover up, in which Hays himself hides evidence in order to keep Julie Purcell protected.
Amelia and Purple track down Julie through her prints at the walgreens. She is still alive. She didnt rob the store, she was there as a regular customer. She somehow escaped or was let go by her captors. Purple finds her and she tells him everything. How the people who took her are very powerful, and she just wants to live her life and be left alone. She is probably married with kids and doesnt want to drag them into her horrible past. Purple starts covering up all the clues that led him to her, and sabotaging the reopened investigation.
2015 Hayes does the interview with the journalist to see if they are close to finding Julie, to "see what they know". He's protecting Julie by trying to throw them off the trail. He keeps his gun in order to commit suicide in case he messes up, or feels like he cant trust himself anymore. He claims he will kill himself if put in a home, because he might lose his faculties and reveal info that leads to Julie. He makes recordings of his own voice so he can keep his story straight, and to make sure he doesn't reveal to much info. (Side theory: Hayes fakes memory problems in 1990, but they become real in old age. Reminded me of Junior Soprano.)
I think Amelia wanted to out the powerful people through her book, and Purple was against it. He knew how the system worked and that they were outgunned. This is what leads to the breakdown of their marriage. Possibly also leading to his fallout with his daughter. She may remember her parents fighting constantly about the case, the drinking, the sullen absent father, the mother who seems to delight in working on such a morbid book, possibly running around on her dad. Amelia shows alot of signs of sociopathy, using Hayes and other detectives for her own pleasure. She seems to love the case more than she loves her husband.
I think Purple may have stalked and hunted the chicken magnate, while the chicken man was hunting. He goes into the woods and comes back out with scalps. Purple kills him and destroys the evidence. Purple does so to protect Amelia, his kids, and Julie. He covers it all up.
It's a lot to take in, and certainly doesn't lack for imagination. While every detail almost surely won't fall into place like this on the show, it provides tantalizing possibilities.
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