Fancy yourself a True Detective?

Fan theories


HBO’s True Detective aired the sixth episode of its highly praised third season last night, and in a bit of a head scratching move, seemed to solve the mystery that has plagued Mahershala Ali’s Wayne Hays through 35 years of storyline.

Detective Hays (Mahershala Ali) on the prowl- image courtesy of HBO

Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) , the father of the two kidnapped children decided to take the investigation into his own hands, and climbed a fence into the Hoyt family estate. He broke into the old home, and in the basement found “the pink room” that viewers have heard mentioned throughout the last few episodes – the place where Julie Purcell claims to have lived as a princess since her mysterious disappearance in 1980.

Tom seems to have been caught (killed?) by Hoyt head of security Harris James, who slips behind Tom and grabs him just as the credits fade to black.

Tom (Scoot McNairy)  gets caught. (Media courtesy of HBO)

Add in the fact that James was suspected by the detectives of mucking up their original investigation, and it sure seems like viewers have been given a nice little bow to tie around this one – Hoyt Foods did it, that’s that!

It’s not that no one thought the mysterious Hoyt Foods company couldn’t have been involved with the Purcell kid’s disappearance. As early as Episode 3, theories have been flying around among the shows dedicated fan community that the “chicken people” may not be what they seem. Their cash reward for any tip that would help the case sure did flood the phones with false leads and dead ends, and the fact that the CEO lost his own granddaughter seemed too much of a coincidence to be written off in this show.

Again, it’s not that Hoyt couldn’t have done it, or even that the local chicken factory’s involvement makes for a bad mystery.

It’s just that so many other theories seemed darker, juicier, and let’s face it – better.

Here are the three best fan theories that True Detectiveviewers created over the past few weeks, theories that now seem to have been just that.


Hays and Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) in the first timeline. (Photo courtesy of HBO)

This one was my favourite.

When the kids disappeared, and Detective Hays first began researching the case, his interactions with Amelia were almost instantly eyebrow raising.

She was Will Purcell’s teacher, and took an immediate interest in attaching herself to Hays and learning as much about the case as she could.

Fast forward to the future timelines, where Amelia had become Hays’ wife, and a bestselling novelist. And her novel was about the case, every mysterious dark detail.

Many redditors felt their spidey senses tingling. Did Amelia “pull an OJ?” Write a book about a crime they definitely weren’t a part of (wink), but this is how they think it would have happened?

Reddit detectives also pointed to the ways she would avoid talking about her past, and her admission that she “likes pretending to be other people sometimes” as odd lines to be blurted out in the middle of a detective show. Add in Hays’ musing that he was sure “the answer is right in front of me”, and it felt like viewers had it solved.

Not anymore. It’s hard to see Amelia having any connection to Hoyt Foods, in fact she seems to be one of the only characters in the town who has never worked there. And the previews for next week definitely hint at Amelia being harassed for trying to help her husband finally find the truth.

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.


Dan O’Brien (Michael Graziadei) being interviewed – image courtesy of HBO

The “creepy uncle theory”  centres around Dan O’Brien, the cousin of the children’s mother Lucy, who many true detective enthusiasts famously misidentified as an “uncle” for weeks.

In one of the early searches of the children’s home, before Will’s body was even found, Hays found a hole drilled through the closet wall in Will’s room. The hole looked right into his sister Julie’s room, and gave a perfect view of her bed. When the detectives asked the parents who stayed in the room, they mention that Lucy’s cousin Dan had stayed with them the previous summer, and had stayed in Will’s room.

When the detectives interviewed Dan at Will’s funeral, they didn’t get much out of him – only that he liked “playing” with the kids, and that he “may” have left some pornography in the home.

In short, he seemed guilty as hell.

Plug in the fact that Lucy was known to be fooling around on her husband, and everyone thought her and her cousin were “close”, and there seemed to be some disturbing things going on with the O’Briens.

This week seemed to vindicate Dan. While being beaten to within an inch of his life, he didn’t have any knowledge of Julie’s whereabouts, and was surprised as anyone to hear she was alive. And as far as the detectives are concerned, the peephole may not have been a peephole, they think the children were using it to pass notes to one another.

As creepy and stranger-dangery as Dan O’Brien seemed, it’s starting to look like he was the staple True Detectivered herring that creator Nic Pizzolatto loves to use.



The pumpkin lady – Lucy’s friend Margaret (Emily Nelson). Image courtesy of HBO

Ah. The pumpkin lady.

Everyone’s favourite fringe character.

While this one is admittedly ridiculous, its True Detective fan theory-making at its finest. In past seasons, the murderer always ends up being someone we were introduced to early, then forgot about later.

The pumpkin lady (aptly named for the trick-or-treat pumpkin container she is holding when we first see her) definitely sees the kids ride down the street on their bikes the day they disappear, the show makes a point of showing her notice them and wave, staring at them even after they stop waving back. And she does appear at Lucy’s side whenever the police visit the Purcell home in 1980, always consoling Lucy on her lost kids.

Which brings us to Lucy. The crying mother who creepily uses the same lineabout “children deserve to laugh” that the note from the kidnappers use to tell the detectives to stop looking.

The theory goes like this: Lucy agreed to give her kids away, whether for money or because she felt they were abused (see theory above) and deserved a better life. She didn’t realize the kidnappers only wanted Julie, and so is traumatized when the detectives find Will murdered. Pumpkin lady is always there, so Lucy has a shoulder to cry on – or to make sure she doesn’t say anything she shouldn’t.

Evidence for this theory: Will’s body is found in a pose similar to a photo in his family home, and pumpkin lady definitely seemed to be close to the family.

Evidence against: everything we just saw this week, to put it bluntly.


True Detective has two episodes to go, and come to think of it, we have yet to meet Mr. Hoyt of Hoyt Foods. While last night’s episode felt like it meant to solve the case, fans know there are sure to be a few twists and turns left. Who knows, maybe some of these theories aren’t entirely dead.

About Alexander Taylor 0 Articles
Alex Taylor is an aspiring Journalist, currently attending Sheridan College. He is a freelance column and blog writer currently working on his second novel. Read him at or