Lieutenant Kevin Burris — played expertly by James Frain on True Detective — is the kind of shadowy background figure that makes for a perfect mystery killer: He’s not that obvious, but he’s also not a last-minute surprise. He’s in every episode, he makes vague pronouncements, he’s smart, and he seems like the kind of guy a television writer might pin the murder upon.
The notion that Kevin Burris might be behind the death of Ben Caspere is not exactly novel. He’s one of the first people many expect, for exactly the above reasons. But what if there is a twist: What if Kevin Burris did kill Ben Caspere, but he’s also one of the good guys, or at least he thinks he is. What if Burris killed Caspere not out of malevolence, but for the greater good? What if he’s doing it to protect Attorney General Geldof, who he believes to be the best man for the job of California governor?
Inspired by a mind-blowing-if-true Reddit theory, I went back and re-watched all of Kevin Burris’ scenes in True Detective today to see what the case for Burris as the killer might look like.
Here’s what we know:
It was Burris who brought the disappearance of Ben Caspere to Ray’s attention and assigned him to the missing person’s case. He wanted Ray to investigate Caspere, maybe not to find the true killer, but to uncover what Caspere was hiding, the missing disk drive. After the murder, it was Burris who insisted that Ray and the Vinci PD be involved in the investigation, despite the fact that it wasn’t technically in Vinci’s jurisdiction.
Later, when Ray asks if he’s supposed to actually solve the murder, Burris tells Ray that “dualities must be accepted to serve the public interest.” That may suggest Burris is accepting his own dualities by working within the Vinci PD in order to serve another interest, also known as Geldof.
Remember, too, that the Birdman shot Ray with riot shells, “like a cop would use.” However, he didn’t want to kill Ray. He just wanted to get that hidden disk drive.
Here’s where the fascinating Reddit theory comes into play: What if, when Ray was knocked unconscious after being shot with riot shells, he wasn’t actually speaking to his father in a dream, but he was speaking to the Birdman/Burris?
It makes sense.
Ray’s dream was already being affected by outside stimuli… the Conway Twitty song. What if he was also hearing Burris speaking to him? Consider this: The first thing that Ray’s dream dad says is, “You’ve got your father’s hands,” so the Birdman has to be someone who knew Ray’s father. Ray’s father knew Burris. Ray’s dad spoke about Burris later in the episode, in fact, saying that Burris is “good man” who left his old job and joined the Vinci PD because “he’s f**king smart.” What if he’s also “f*cking smart” enough to work for Geldof in order to further his career?