True Detective Season 3 Episode 7 “The Final Country,” crosses over to season 1 through a close-up shot of an article headlined “Former State Police Officers Stop Alleged Serial Killer.” The photo accompanying the piece shows the detectives who solved the case are Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson). The investigation suggests a much larger and darker conspiracy than a backwoods serial killer.
A group of connected and powerful men may have gotten away with a series of heinous crimes. “The Final Country” ends on a note of possible collusion between Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and a possible suspect in a similar unpunished crime, the wealthy and connected Edward Hoyt. Any kind of deal between this cop and that criminal, however coerced, would constitute the biggest betrayal the series ever offered.
We’ve seen good cops do really bad things on True Detective. We’ve seen bad cops do remarkably good things. Yes, they beat people in remote farmhouses, and shoot up crime scenes to fake an execution, but it is to get to a justified certainty. It is a bigger truth Wayne has been hunting with an obsessive inflexibility. One so deep we believe Hays could never let go of its pursuit.
Towards the close of the 2015 timeline’s conclusion in the penultimate episode, Wayne offhandedly tells his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) he dropped the Purcell case because of a deal he made with his wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo). If we find out Purple Hays’ selective memory is the cause of his own growing dementia, it undermines everything we thought we knew about Detective Hays.
In the first episode, when Hays finds Will Purcell’s body, the veteran, battle-hardened cop is scared like a little kid. Ali’s eyes are fighting back the sorrow which will pour out of his throat when he radios the death in to his partner. But there in the cave, Wayne is a frightened child, cooped up in the dark with a dead body. It passes through his eyes quickly, bypassing his policeman’s intuition and into very real shared fright.
True Detective is a horror series almost as much as it is a police procedural, and it is that way because actors like Ali are not afraid to show fear. What Hays sees in that dead boy chills him just a little more than it saddens him. Not much, but enough to telegraph to the audience this is evil beyond what he wants to investigate. He doesn’t want to go there.
This is because there is only one thing more frightening in the horror genre than Satanic panic: dead children, especially those who were victimized prior to or into their death. Ritual sacrifice of the innocent makes for the most frightening scene in the 1923 horror classic Dennis Wheatley novel The Devil Rides Out, and the scariest scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is when the count pulls an infant from a bag for his brides to feed from. A pact with the devil has nothing on that. Add sex trafficking to the equation and it is enough to rip the heart out of the most cynical flatfoot.
Executive producer Scott Stephens told The Hollywood Reporter “the stuff in season one was based on the same sort of pedophilia stories that are mentioned by the documentary crew. That’s kind of the connective tissue.” True Detective‘s second episode of season 3, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” opened the door to the first season crossover when the “True Criminal” documentary maker Elisa Montgomery clicks on some amateur true crime websites about “large scale pedophile rings connected to people of influence.” She then asks Hays what he knows about the Franklin scandal. Revealed by the investigations and separate grand juries as an intricate hoax along the lines of Pizzagate and QAnon, the Franklin scandal is ripe for True Detective mythology. The alleged pedophile ring linked a Nebraska banker to a cult-like network trafficking underage girls for Satanic rituals in Washington D.C.
The alleged mastermind, Jeffrey Epstein, pled guilty to two prostitution charges at the state level and was given immunity from federal charges, as were four of his conspirators and potential co-conspirators. He served 13 months in county jail and the investigation was halted. The ring’s alleged connections reached presidents and future presidents. Hoyt Foods also has connections. It is based on Arkansas’ biggest chicken killer, Tyson Foods, which was very close to Bill Clinton, their state’s attorney general up until he was elected president. True Detective‘s Arkansas State Attorney General Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) could be an allegorical representation of such a powerful political rise. Kindt was a lowly West Finger District Attorney in 1980. He ascended to the chief position by poisoning the Purcell investigation.
Kindt could be part of a conspiracy to cover up the powerful people who really committed the murder. He told Hays and West not to use total surveillance in the original investigation because it wouldn’t sit right with his constituency. His office leaked information on the chaff dolls found at the scene, contaminating the detectives’ investigation. He had full access to all investigative and beat patrols. In 1980, a backpack and shirt were discovered at the out of place veteran Brett Woodard’s (Michael Greyeyes) residence after the shootout. Harris James, the police officer who suggested it belonged to the dead kid, was a little quick on the draw to that conclusion. That evidence convicted Woodard posthumously. Closing the case before it went any further up the area’s hierarchical ladder. James went on to become the head of security for Hoyt Industries. Kindt’s political stock rose.
Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy), the father of the two children, watched the aftermath of the Woodard altercation as the evidence was uncovered. In 1990, it is suggested Tom planted the evidence and Kindt is just as quick to accept it. Detective West doesn’t come off any less likely to drop the case than Hays. But he appeared, until the last episode, as the partner most willing to play along with the law enforcement brass. He tells Hays there is “no way we could be that wrong,” after Tom is incriminated in the 1990 hotline call from his daughter Julie. But the probe is effectively halted. Kent quickly agrees to exchange the Woodard conviction for Tom Purcell’s, squashing the inquisition before it led to the Hoyt family doorstep.
Family Ties Bind
The scandals in both seasons are family affairs. In season 1, we learn most of the family backstory from the maid Ms. Delores. In True Detective season 3, episode 7, the Hoyt family skeletons are served up by a housekeeper who raised Hoyt’s daughter Isobel, saying she went went mad with grief after losing her child. The white woman and black man spotted in a brown sedan in the neighborhood on the day the kids went missing may be Hoyt’s daughter. Her reasons for snatching the children may not be ritualistic. Her motivation comes from wanting to replace her lost child. But similiar mechanisms could be put into play.
Julie’s mother Lucy Purcell (Mamie Gummer) lived with her cousin Dan’s (Michael Graziadei) family when she was a child, and they “shared a lot of milestones growing up.” Dan lived with Tom and Lucy and the kids the year before the incident, when he started his slide into drug addiction and the seedy underworld he frequented to fund it. In 1980, the detectives found a bunch of porn magazines and what they initially considered a peephole he may have carved into the closet wall of Will’s room. Both Dan and Lucy worked for the Hoyt family one way or another. She worked on the chicken line. Lucy confesses she was born with the heart of whore to Amelia, who also included other tidbits in her book her husband the detective never around to reading. Maybe she also inadvertently confessed to selling her daughter Julie to Hoyt for money. A child should grow up in a place they can laugh, and laughter’s slim at the Purcell house on Shoepick Lane.
In “The Final Country,” we learn at a bar Lucy frequented that Dan was seen with Watts, who is possibly the black man with the dead eye who may have been procuring for the sex ring. In 1990, Dan says powerful people could be behind Lucy’s overdose, and Julie’s disappearance, and they “don’t renegotiate.” He wants $7,000 to share this highly privileged information but never gets to deliver. Hays and West both come to the conclusion the hole between the two kids’ bedrooms were cut to pass notes. That doesn’t rule out dual usage if Dan was vetting the daughter for procurement for whatever reason. Whether it be the ritualistic killing, prostitution, porn or as a replacement child for a wealthy and powerful woman. Tom is conveniently let out in time to hear cops in the precinct talking about the meeting and leave no trace of his ex-wife’s cousin but his car. James, who gets rid of nuisance complaints like Tom and Lucy for the Hoyt family can’t understand why Hays would even be interested in people like them. Their family is nothing, and did you see that pink room?
True Detective season 1’s murderer Errol Childress, played by Glenn Fleshler of Boardwalk Empire, is also very connected. The Childress name is stamped on a generational tradition of under-the-radar acts of familial transgression. The Sheriff who covered up the ritualistic torture and murder of Marie Fontenot, who disappeared five years before Dora Lang’s killing, was a Childress. A cop on duty when Guy Francis killed himself was a Childress. The Spaghetti Monster lawnmower man is a Childress. The world is a flat circle. The family’s ties are strung along the trees of some of the most influential lawns in the state. Errol Childress was related to celebrated evangelist Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), who is the cousin of U.S. Senator Edwin Tuttle and related to the governor of Louisiana. The reverend has the influence to direct the police task force to focus on “anti-Christian crimes.”
We learn the chicken plant founder lost his granddaughter early in season 3. There is a portrait in the office showing woman holding a blonde child. Tuttle ran religious schools called Wellspring which turned out to be grooming grounds for a larger pedophilia ring. The ring may very well stretch into the area of Arkansas season 3 is set. The Hoyt Foundation also gives money to people who have missing children. They were even giving to the Purcell family. Hoyt, who is out on safari when the detectives come calling, is the owner of one of the area’s most powerful businesses and employers.
In season 1, Cohle suspects the good reverend Tuttle, son of Sam Tuttle, has a flip side he can’t turn over. His files were either damaged by a flood or stolen from his home during the investigation. While never conclusively linked to the cult at the center of True Detective season 1, we accept he was the first Yellow King, the worshipped figure pulled from Robert W. Chambers’ 1895 horror story “The King in Yellow.” Cohle doesn’t get to follow up because Tuttle dies of an overdose of mixed meds, which could also be seen as a suicide staged by the cult to cover up his role in the ritualistic murders.
The first season of True Detective was at least partially inspired by the Hosanna Church scandal of mid-2000s. In May 2005, Pastor Louis Lamonica Jr. confessed to Livingston, Louisiana, Detective Stan Carpenter he performed satanic rituals, child abuse and animal sacrifice at his church in Hammond, in Tangipahoa Parish. Lamonica confessed to sacrificing a baby in what was called the Youth Room. The ritual site sounded like True Detective‘s Carcosa in the first season. The investigation turned up a child pornography ring, according to the New York Times. The victims were aged from 1 to 16 years old. Lamonica named his co-conspirators, including his wife Robin, who was called “The Lady.”
Woe to you who are crowned with the crown of the King in Yellow
The bodies of both Dora Lange, the first victim in True Detective‘s first season, and Will Purcell were found bound to a tree and found surrounded by twig structures. Lange’s hands were posed in the same prayerful repose as the body of Will. The perimeter of the Lange crime scene was littered with “devil nets.” Will’s body was found after Hays followed a trail set off by a chaff doll. Lange had a crown of antlers on her head. A crooked spiral was painted on her back. The symbol is seen throughout True Detective season 1, it is a centerpiece on the detective’s whiteboard, and etched into Cohle’s visions. We even see a flock of birds form the pattern during a particularly evocative sequence.
The documentary maker points out that straw dolls and crooked spirals are both symbols used by reputed child sex traffickers. She then shows Hays a forum interpretation of the FBI’s Jan. 31, 2007 memo, “Symbols and Logos used by Pedophiles to Identify Sexual Preferences.” The crooked spiral resembles the BoyLover logo, a triangle inside a triangle which signifies a man likes younger boys. Her implication is the Arkansas State Police investigation was stymied by the power of an underage sex ring. Hays tells her “I don’t think that’s right.” But he also said he didn’t remember Harris James, who went on to become Hoyt Industry’s chief security officer before disappearing during the 1990 reinvestigation. He should have at least remembered the appreciation Harris showed over Hays’ well-maintained body. Will’s body was found after Hays followed a trail set off by a chaff doll. It didn’t show signs of sexual abuse, which goes against the child molestation assumption. Dora Lange was an adult woman, not a child, which also subverts the conclusion of pedophilia.
The videotape of the ritualistic torture and murder of Marie Fontenot shows five masked participants. There are five hooded figures in a picture with Dora Lang at her mother’s house. During his decade-later questioning by the new generation of officers looking into the case, Rust Cohle cuts five men out of his beer cans to see whether they can catch the connection. Marty Hart’s daughter Audrey positions five clothed Ken dolls standing over a naked Barbie. This points to how far into the family the danger came. Was the true detective’s own daughter ever considered to be wear a white silk robe embroidered with the Yellow Sign? Marty quit being a cop when a dead baby in a microwave brought everything he’d ever suppressed to the surface.
Reginald “Reggie” Ledoux, who cooked meth for the biker gang Iron Crusaders, takes the rap for the Dora Lange killings when the case first closed and made the Cohle and Harte local celebrities. Reggie, his cousin Dewall, and Errol Childress were among the celebrants who tortured, raped, and murdered the young woman. Marty executed Reggie when he and Rust found two other young children he’d victimized, one to death. Dewall got himself killed by running into a landmine. Hart and Cohle shot up the woods to cover up the agonized execution. Like Woodard and Tom Purcell’s convictions, Reggie’s death ended the investigation. Hart blames his own cover-up when the situation comes back to haunt him 17 years after he put it out of his mind.
We never learn their name of the cult from Season 1. They were never brought to justice, and may still be operating. The Crooked Spiral cult could have Yellow King mythological roots. They may also have a chapter in Arkansas protected by its powerful members like the gatherings at Bohemian Grove. The Satanic panic set off by the West Memphis Three-looking teens may only have been off sides as ritualistic rape and murder is a family tradition, covered up by generations of the rich and powerful. The 2015 documentary producer Elisa Montgomery may have evidence the Crooked Spiral was forged in Carcosa. The lead detective on True Detective may be ensuring its longevity.
Woodard and the security officer both defend themselves from accusations of committing or covering up any kind of child abuse by declaring they “have children.” Wayne Hayes is not only a committed law enforcement agent, bound by a strong personal duty to find justice. He is also a father. If he winds up being part of the reason the Crooked Spiral continued to thrive over two True Detective arcs, his is the biggest betrayal and most subversive performance on the series. Unless, of course, Amelia is the killer.
Keep up with everything you need to know about True Detective season 3 right here.