WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the third season of HBO's True Detective.
HBO's crime anthology True Detective prides itself on holding its cards close until the end of each season, during which the truths of the byzantine mysteries are revealed. And, after their initial bewilderment, viewers realize the clues were in front of them from the very beginning.
The third season centers on the murder of young Will Purcell and the abduction of his sister Julie in 1980 Arkansas. The story spans decades, picking up again in 1990 and 2015, as it pieces together the puzzle regarding Julie's apparent subsequent escape from captivity, with leads to the reopening of the case. It's in those latter time periods, that creator Nic Pizzolatto unveils the drama's biggest conspiracy to date.
The Hoyt Family
Arkansas' chicken tycoons, the Hoyts, are yet to appear onscreen, but we know they have immense power and influence. Lead detectives Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and Roland West (Stephen Dorff) uncover clues that lead to the family patriarch (who will be played by Michael Rooker in the final two episodes).
That the Hoyts operate the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center, a home for at-risk youth, raises eyebrows, as it was opened just before Julie's abduction, and right after the family lost a granddaughter, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the girl. The investigators also think it's suspicious they offered a $10,000 reward in the 1980s for anyone possessing information about Julie’s whereabouts.
The key piece of evidence that points to the Hoyts at the masterminds, comes in the final shot of last week's episode, "Hunters in the Dark," where Julie's father sneaks into their mansion in 1980 after learning the family may be suspects. As he enters a pink, soundproof room, he sees something on the wall, and whispers his daughter's name before a Hoyt employee (more on that later) attacks him from behind. It appears the family was looking to fill the void in their life, but even if it's not Julie, the mere existence of the room suggests something sinister. However, the masterminds need pawns.
Pawn #1: Julie's Mom, Lucy Purcell
Lucy (Mamie Gummer) is a sex and drug addict who never got along with her husband, Tom (Scoot McNair). Tom doesn't even know which of the kids are really his, but loved them nonetheless. Lucy, on the other hand, kept the family broken with her habits, creating a violent and abusive home.
When her cousin Dan (Michael Graziadei) surfaces in 1990, after Julie's case is reopened, he tries to extort $7,000 from the detectives to provide information suggesting that Lucy had something to do with the abduction. Tom catches wind of that, and when he confronts and beats Dan, he learns Lucy may have attempted to extort hush money from people who apparently gave her money in exchange for her daughter. Dan reveals Lucy's recent drug overdose in Nevada was actually an effort to silence her, so the crimes couldn't be traced back to these mysterious powers that be.
These "people who do not renegotiate" are believed to be the Hoyts, who grew tired of Lucy coming back for money for the "sale" of Julie. Dan's remains are found in a drained quarry in 2015, so it’s likely the Hoyts eventually silenced him too. With Lucy and Dan dead, it stands to reason that, because we don't see or hear from Tom in 2015, he also met this grisly fate.
Pawn #2: The Shadiest Cop Ever
Harris James (Scott Shepherd) is the dirtiest cop in Arkansas, planting, and tampering with, evidence to get veteran Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) convicted in 1980 so Julie's case could be closed. But as Wayne and Roland dig deeper, they discover that, only a year later, Harris left the police department for an absurdly high-paying job as Hoyt Foods' security chief.
The detectives also notice game-hunting photos of Harris with Rooker's Mr. Hoyt, suggesting he was actually in tight with the family patriarch. What seals the deal that Harris is central to the case is that he's the attacker who creeps up behind Tom in the pink room to do God knows what. It confirms that, while Harris may not have directly been involved with the original crimes, he's definitely important to the cover-up that followed.
Confirmation comes with the revelation that Harris also disappeared in 1990. Seeds are sown in 2015 that he may have been killed during an interrogation after Wayne and Roland learned he was in the pocket of the Hoyts. However, with so much heat on Harris, we can't rule out the possibility that the Hoyts had him murdered by someone else to tie up loose ends.
Pawn #3: The Attorney General
The Hoyts' influence, naturally, extends to lawyers and politicians. Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) pushes for the authorities to convict Woodard in 1980, and in 1990, he ascends to the office of Arkansas attorney general. When Julie's fingerprints and security-camera footage are found in 1990, Gerald oversees the reopened case, exerting control of the new task force and, at times, limiting the scope of the investigation.
He's definitely an opportunist, but that he's quick to convict anyone with minimal evidence makes Wayne and Roland skeptical. When Gerald holds a press conference with Tom to convince Julie to come home, she calls in and criticizes the display as a charade, and references the "man on TV acting like my father." Gerald seizes upon this as a chance to pin the crime on Tom, but there are suspicions that Julie was actually referring to the attorney general.
When Gerald even posits that Tom and Woodard actually teamed up to kidnap Julie and murder Will, the detectives realize he's grasping at straws. All clues point to him also being rewarded by the Hoyts for aiding the '80s cover-up, and it appears that, from Julie's comments, Gerald may have been more than merely complicit in keeping her whereabouts secret; he may have also visited Julie in that pink room.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO, True Detective stars Mahershala Ali, Mamie Gummer, Stephen Dorff, Scoot McNairy, Carmen Ejogo and Ray Fisher.