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True Detective Just Made Its Connection to Season 1 Explicit, but We Still Have Questions

The return of the crooked spiral

Liam Mathews

Early in Season 3, documentary filmmaker Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon) sent True Detective conspiracy theorists to their cork boards when she talked about "the crooked spiral" -- a symbol used by the pedophile group uncovered by Dets. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) in Season 1 -- and how it related to the straw dolls found at the scene of Will Purcell's murder by Det. Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali). Montgomery intimated then that the cases might be connected. And in Episode 7, "The Final Country," she came right out and said it. We still don't know if they are, but the seeds have been planted.

During an interview with Hays, Montgomery asked him if his wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) found any evidence of a larger conspiracy or cover-up while researching her book on the case.

"I don't think so," Hays said, getting a very serious look on his face. "You have evidence of something like that?"

She said that the one-eyed black man who bought the straw dolls and kept popping up around the margins of the case was named Watts, and she said she thought he was a procurer of children for a pedophile group. She again brought up the symbolism of the crooked spiral and the dolls, and then brought up by name a case True Detective viewers are familiar with: "In 2012, two former Louisiana state police stopped a serial killer associated with some kind of pedophile ring," she said, pulling up a newspaper clipping about Cohle and Hart on her computer. "Despite evidence of accomplices, the case never went wider." So now we know for sure that case got buried.


"Think I read about that," Hays said. "So what are you saying? I think at this point I deserve an explanation, miss. What do you say happened?"

"I think what happened to the Purcell children was connected to a similar group," she said. "I think one or both of their parents sold them off. Probably with the cousin's help. That's why they're all gone. Vanished, killed, kept silent. These groups, they take runaways. Kids in orphanages. Outright kidnapping. And wider investigations are consistently curtailed. In both the Louisiana and Nebraska cases, high-level politicians and businessmen were implicated. People with the power to make these things go away." She said that she thought since Hays always seemed to reject the official narrative of the case, which was that Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) was guilty until the powers that be decided Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) was guilty. She thought he might have the missing piece that helped her solve the mystery and connect it to a larger national ring. But Hays shut her down, indicating that the connection is all in Montgomery's head.

"I don't got answers for you, miss. I wish I did, but I don't," Hays said. "I'm tired of walking through the graveyard. The story's over for me." But he was lying, of course. Because there is a pedophile conspiracy, and by giving him the name "Watts," Montomery gave him a piece he'd been missing in his own investigation.

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Episodes 6 and 7 showed that the conspiracy involves Hoyt, a powerful local businessman who owns the chicken processing plant where Julie Purcell (Mamie Gummer) worked and who employed as a fixer Harris James (Scott Shepherd), a cop who worked the Purcell case in 1980. James planted and destroyed evidence and killed both Purcell parents to keep Hoyt's secrets, which include a secret, soundproof pink room in his mansion where he abuses children. In 1990, Hays and Roland West (Stephen Dorff) abducted James and tried to get him to tell them what happened, but West shot and killed him when he attacked Hays, and the fallout from the murder is what led to Hays and West not speaking for 25 years. At the end of Episode 7, Hays got a menacing call at home from Hoyt, who knew about what happened to James, and wanted to talk to Hays about it. So Hays went out to meet him.

HBO has confirmed that Hoyt is played by The Walking Dead's Michael Rooker, who will be making his first full appearance in the season finale. Episode 8 has a lot of questions to answer, including but not limited to: "Who killed Will Purcell?"; "What happened to Julie Purcell?"; "What is the extent of this conspiracy and is Hoyt connected to the crooked spiral?" and "why do we allow rich men to get away with murder?" Some of those questions will be satisfactorily answered.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. It can be streamed on HBO Go/HBO Now.