True Detective Season 3: Theories From Episode 3
We're three episodes deep into Season 3 of True Detective, and the three timelines all agree on two things: someone isn't telling the truth about this murder, and someone catastrophically mishandled this case. Who's to blame, and whether this mishandling was intentional, will be subject of the next five episodes.
What we know is suggestive but inconclusive. Two kids tell their father that they're going to a friend's house. Witnesses see them biking away, but they never come home. The son is found dead, his body arranged with his hands clasped in front of him. The daughter, meanwhile, is still missing.
We see this case play out from the perspective of Detective Wayne Hays in three different timelines: the '80s, when the crime took place; the '90s, when the police discover a new lead; and the '10s, when a documentarian interviews Wayne about the murder. Complicating matters is Wayne's memory, which is failing him in his old age. And it begs the question: how reliable is our narrator? What has he forgotten, or wanted to forget, that will come back to haunt him?
Here are six more theories about Season 3 of True Detective, based on Episode 3: "The Big Never." And if you liked this gallery, check out our True Detective theories for Episodes 1 and 2.
1. The Memento Theory
One theory currently making the rounds is that at some point--probably during the second timeline that takes place in the '90s--Wayne found Will's killer and took matters into his own hands.
There's a couple of clues, all figurative, that point to this possibility. We see, during his dream about his late wife, that he has regrets over something he left in the woods. Is this a clue he overlooked, or did he leave a body in there? We learn from Roland that Wayne was a human "hunter" during the Vietnam War; they'd drop him behind enemy lines, and he'd come out with "scalps." Assuming this is foreshadowing, maybe he "hunted" again after discovering the murderer?
Modern-day Wayne has since lost his memory; he may not remember doing this even if he did so.
2. The "Real Father" Theory
In Episode 2, the documentarian in the 2015 timeline alludes to a bad situation between Julie and her father in the '90s. But in Episode 3, we see the father, Tom, is alive and sober in 2015. He looks, all things considered, in better shape than we last saw him. His estranged wife, meanwhile, died five years prior in Las Vegas.
So, was the documentarian referring to Tom? Or was she referring to Julie's "real" father, who we have yet to uncover? We speculated last week that Tom might not be the real father; Tom's parents certainly seem to think so. It's nothing concrete, but it's certainly suggestive.
3. The Substitute Daughter Theory
One of the more compelling theories circulating is that Hoyt Foods--whose CEO founded the Ozark Children's Outreach Center--is connected to the disappearance. The key is the CEO's granddaughter, who we hear via expository dialogue, is dead. Perhaps Julie is a replacement for her?
Thus, the bike rides that Will and Julie took, multiple days per week, was to meet up and play with this CEO's daughter, who was grieving the loss of her real daughter. And maybe the boy died accidentally could have fallen and broken his head on the rocks.
4. The Staged Cult Theory
Let's continue with this Substitute Daughter Theory. If the boy died accidentally--or if the Hoyts only wanted a replacement daughter and killed the son--then the straw dolls, the ceremonial, and the staged placement of the body were all done to divert suspicion. This way, it would seem like the work of a psychotic murderer or cult rather than the more pedestrian, passionless killing that it was.
This would be an extremely meta contextual twist, as Season 1 of True Detective had an actual cult at the heart of its solution. What if Season 3 is a bait-and-switch of our expectations?
5. The Cover-Up Theory
At the very least, we know the case was not thoroughly investigated--certainly not to the extent that the police officially claim it was. The documentarian points out that multiple witnesses with relevant information were not followed up on, and that an entire lead concerning a black man and a white woman in a nice brown sedan were not admitted into the record.
If the white woman was the CEO's daughter (it would also explain why she was riding in an expensive car), then the Hoyts would have an interest in covering up this connection. We learned in Episode 1 that the district attorney had political aspirations; perhaps he was paid off to wrap up the case and keep the real culprits under wraps. Either that, or Wayne himself covered up the lead for whatever reason. And now, quite conveniently, he has forgotten it.
It's also worth speculating if Amelia was somehow involved in this cover-up, for whatever reason. We see that she can flirt with the police officers to gain access to information that others can't. If anyone can get close to the evidence and testimonies and make some of them magically disappear, it would be her.
6. The Rampage Theory
And lastly, things continue to get worse for "Trash Man" in Episode 3. He's cornered and beaten with bats, which leads him to go back to his home and pull something, wrapped in a sheet, from a shelf. The way he cradles this package, we're meant to suspect that it's a body, perhaps of a small child.
But we know, based on prior flashbacks and his own testimony, that Trash Man couldn't have possibly done it. More likely, there's firearms and ammunition under that sheet. The next episode could be a bloody, vengeful one.