True Detective Season 3 Theories From Episodes 1 and 2
Here's the latest theories about HBO's True Detective from the internet hive mind
When True Detective debuted back in 2014, it was critically acclaimed, a grim detective thriller about dark secrets and the damaged people who keep them.
But then, Season 2 went off the rails; whereas Season 1 was lean, focused, and sharply edited, Season 2 was a messy sprawl that kept adding side characters and side plots long after losing the audience's patience.
The first two episodes of Season 3, which debuted on Sunday, January 13, represent a return to form. The plot, which focuses around the kidnapping of two young children, is the sort of personal, close-to-home story that viewers can relate to. Detective Wayne Hays (played by Mahershala Ali) is perfectly cast. Ali plays Hays at three different stages in his life: at the time of the crime, a decade after the crime, and the modern day. Every iteration of this character is portrayed with depth and sensitivity.
Here are some current theories on True Detective; it's a combination of our personal insights plus the theorycrafting of superfans on Reddit. And caution: Massive spoilers ahead!
1. The Paternity Theory
Tom, the father of the two children, has a difficult, estranged relationship with his wife Lucy. At his son Will's funeral, Tom's parents spill the beans: There's suspicion and rumors that Julie might not be Tom's daughter. If so, maybe Julie's real father is responsible for taking her and killing her brother. And perhaps Lucy knows something that she's not telling.
It's worth speculating if Dan, Lucy's cousin, is the father. But regardless, there's a good chance he's connected to the crime. During his search of Tom's house, Wayne discovered a peephole drilled into the wall that connects Will's room (where Dan was crashing for awhile) to Julie's room. It's extremely gross, and it's a massive indicator that something is amiss.
2. The Amelia Theory
One of the leading theories at the moment is that Amelia, the English teacher at Will's school, is involved in the crime. There are several clues which suggest something might be off with her.
First, she admits to Wayne, over drinks, that she pretends to be other people when visiting a different city. She seems to know Will well; she says he's studious and sensitive, which makes her worry about him. The film language is also suggestive. At the press conference, when the press and police discuss whether the kids knew their attacker, the camera pans over to Amelia.
Amelia later publishes a best-selling book about the crime, and marries the lead detective on the case. What better way to hide in plain sight than to get as close to the investigation as possible?
3. Dead Rebecca Theory
We see that Wayne has a son and daughter in the '90s timeline, but by the time we reach 2015, the daughter, Rebecca, appears estranged from the family. When Wayne asks about her at dinner, his son tells him that his daughter doesn't like coming home, and that she's in LA.
But what if she's not? Some fans are speculating that Rebecca is dead, and Wayne, in the late stages of dementia, has forgotten this. So, rather than upsetting him with bad news (which he'll forget anyway), the family has decided to lie about it. This would explain the awkward look around the dinner table during this conversation, and it would also explain why the son storms off from the table in frustration. He's probably had to have this conversation many times before.
4. Steve McQueen Theory
Thanks to Season 1's outcome, plus the weird straw dolls in the woods, there's good reason to suspect that a cult could also be involved in this killing, or even worse, a pedophile ring, which the documentarian mentions as an online theory near the end of the second episode. The prosecutor made the decision to squander his detectives' best lead in Episode 2, which suggests that if there is a cult or ring, it might reach the upper echelons of power.
One symbolic clue in Episode 1 may have been the death of actor Steve McQueen on the night the children disappeared. McQueen had a notorious relationship with Charles Manson; he was actually supposed to be at Sharon Tate's mansion the night Manson's followers killed her.
Lastly, here's an interesting trivia tidbit: In the show, Wayne says that Steve McQueen died on the day of a full moon. But the almanac says otherwise; it was actually a new moon. Is this a careless research mistake? Or is it a sign that Hays, with his increasing dementia, is an unreliable narrator, and may have the fundamental facts of the case wrong?
5. The Interviewer Theory
This is a left-field theory, but it deserves mention. Some Redditors think that the documentarian who's interviewing Wayne in 2015 is actually the missing girl Julie, all grown up. This will lead to a twisty conclusion when it's revealed that the mystery solution has been sitting in front of Hays this entire time.
If this is the actual twist, it will be the death of the show. It is way too contrived and hacky for the writers to even attempt, let alone follow through on. Plus, Julie would be 45 in 2015, and the documentarian looks much younger than that.
It's not out of the realm of all possibility, but it seems highly improbable for True Detective to resort to something so cheap.
6. The Memphis Three Theory
In 1994, three boys, who became known as the West Memphis Three, were convicted for the murders of three children, and police suspected there were occult overtones to the killings. The West Memphis Three were later re-sentenced to time served and freed in 2011, based on new forensic evidence that couldn't be linked to any of them.
There are obvious parallels between this real life event and the three teenage boys in the purple Volkswagen, who are currently suspected in the two children's disappearance. Even if they didn't do it, one of them might be (wrongly) convicted for the crime before the end of the show. Show creator Nick Pizzolatto, for his part, denies the connection, and says that True Detective doesn't directly allude to this crime at all.
7. Lynch Mob Theory
The "Trash Man," Brett Woodard, witnesses the two kids on the road before their disappearance during his regular drive through the neighborhood. He's a traumatized Vietnam War veteran who rummages through people's trash to find and sell scrap.
Because he's on the outer fringe of the community, the townspeople suspect him of committing the crime almost immediately. And he might not meet a good end. In the 2015 timeline, the documentarian comforts Wayne by saying that she knows it's hard to think of what happened to Woodard. It wouldn't be surprising if Woodard became a lynch mob victim at a later time, given the current level of fear and paranoia.