Reading Too Much Into ‘True Detective’: Details You May Have Missed From ‘If You Have Ghosts’


Welcome to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective. While Brian Grubb provides his always excellent coverage of the series (here’s his write-up of the most recent episode), here — as we have in the past with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Better Call Saul, and Mayans M.C. — we will look at some of the details viewers may have missed; references to other shows, movies or books; and theories on particular suspects. We scour Reddit threads, social media, and podcasts in an attempt to curate the best intel about each episode.

The Known Knows


After five episodes, I do think there are a few facts we can settle on:

— Lucy was definitely involved, or at least aware of what was happening.

— Julie left with someone else before Will was killed.

— Hays killed Officer Harris James.

— Gerald Kindt is helping to cover up the original murderer.

— Hays quit the case (and the force) after speaking with Hoyt in 1990.


— I want to begin this week by saying that some of my theory from last week remains intact. The gist of it was that Lucy secreted Julie away. Lucy didn’t anticipate that Will would search for Julie, however, and that in doing so, he would be murdered in a separate event. Will’s death left her feeling devastatingly guilty, and I think she knows who really killed Will. However, in 1980, she’s too afraid to reveal it because it would also mean revealing that Julie is still alive, and Lucy wants everyone to believe Julie is dead for Julie’s own protection (and because it gives Tom some closure). The guilt of Will’s death eventually results in her suicide by overdose in Las Vegas in 1988.

— Someone working for Mr. Hoyt could have killed Will, and the henchman is potentially Lori’s father (we discovered this week that Roland and Lori never married). I feel like Roland mentioning over dinner in 1990 that Lori makes rocket fuel out of chickens is pertinent, because it likely connects her to Hoyt.

— Gerald Kindt, the Attorney General in 1990, might still be working to cover his own ass, after — as prosecutor in 1980 — he covered up the identity of the real killer and kidnapper (Hoyt) in 1980 and pinned it on Woodard. I believe that Hoyt offered to help elevate Kindt to Attorney General in exchange for his help in the matter. The strongest evidence of that, so far, is that Will’s backpack was clearly planted under Woodard’s porch.

— In the conversation with Freddy Burns in 1990 this week, Burns told them that Will had said to him in 1980, “I can’t find my sister, I don’t know where they went.” That further supports the theory of two actors — one who took Julie, and one who murdered Will.

— It appears that Roland and Hays killed not one, but possibly two people in 1990: For abusing Julie, they killed Cousin Dan, whose body they dumped in a quarry. Meanwhile, they also killed Officer Harris James, who they believe planted the backpack and removed the set of prints from the case file.


I think we know who the white man among the Vietnamese soldiers was in last week’s episode now: Officer Harris James. Recall that Hays also apologized to that ghost.


— The message that Julie left, honestly, only adds confusion. Here’s what she said:

“I saw him on the television. Leave me alone. Make him leave me alone. That’s not my real name. Tell him to leave me alone. I know what he did. The man on TV acting like my father! Where’s my brother? Will. I don’t know what he did with him. We left him resting. Tell him to leave me alone. It—he took me, and I’m never coming back. Just leave me alone.”

What does that mean? Some options:

— “That’s not my real name.” She’s likely referring to the fact that she goes by Mary July now, at least according to the witness interviewed by Hays and Roland, who said that Mary July told him she was a “secret princess … from the pink rooms.” That’s very a “Yellow King” thing of her to say.

— “Tell him to leave me alone. I know what he did. The man on TV acting like my father!” Presumably, this is Julie referring to Tom Purcell, and Julie knows that Tom isn’t her real father. But what did he do? Previously, I surmised that Hays may have helped Tom kill Cousin Dan, but at this point in the timeline, it’s not clear if Dan is dead yet.

— “Where’s my brother? Will. I don’t know what he did with him. We left him resting.” This again implies that Will was fine when she left, although saying that she “left him resting” could suggest “we” left him in the communion pose and that he was dead, but that Julie was too young to understand death.

— “It—he took me, and I’m never coming back.” Who took her? Was it Hoyt?

— Alternatively, Julie isn’t referring to Tom Purcell. She’s referring to the other man who appeared on camera: Attorney General Gerald Kindt. Kindt has been in on the cover-up since the very beginning. Is he Julie’s real father? The only wrinkle here is that Julie specifically refers to “the man on TV acting like my real father,” and the only person on TV behaving that way is Tom.

The New Working Theory

In this theory, Lucy — who knew that Hoyt was Julie’s real father — decided (in 1980) after she found out that Cousin Dan was abusing Julie that she wanted to give Julie “a better life.” Lucy made arrangements with Hoyt to kidnap Julie and relocate her. Hoyt had her stolen away, and changed her name to Mary July, a “secret princess … who lived in pink rooms.” Unfortunately, in kidnapping Julie, Will could have been killed in a separate event (while searching for Julie) by someone working for Hoyt.

When a convenient scapegoat surfaces, Hoyt could have bribed Gerald Kindt to pin the murder on Woodard to draw attention away from him. The case is closed until 1990, when Julie resurfaces. By this point, Hoyt has made good on his promise to elevate Kindt to Attorney General. As AG, Kindt is determined to keep the real killer hidden.

However, Hays may have found out that Woodard was framed, and he makes the assumption that Officer Harris James covered it up by planting the backpack and stealing the set of fingerprints. Hays kills Harris James and leaves him in the woods. Hays also kills Cousin Dan after he discovers that he was sexually abusing Julie.

Soon thereafter, in this theory, Hoyt pays Hays a visit and informs him that the intentions behind kidnapping Julie were pure. He wanted to give his daughter a better life. But Julie, now Mary July, ran away because she was suffering from some clear mental issues. Feeling so guilty about killing Harris James, Hays drops the case, quits the force, and ends all contact with Roland.

As he ages, however, Hays could have forgotten forget all the details that he once knew about the case, and when the documentarian arrives in 2015, he endeavors to solve a case by filling in the gaps in his memory. If true, Hays solved the case in 1990. He just couldn’t tell anyone about it.



— In the promo for next week’s episode, The Ringer spotted a newspaper featuring Rust and Marty from season one on Eliza’s laptop. At the very least, this shows that the two shows take place in the same universe. It’s possible that the two seasons are connected, but I am in no way prepared to try and connect the death of Will Purcell to the Yellow King.

— In the preview of the next episode, I also spotted for the briefest of seconds this shot of a photo, which clearly shows Will and Julie before the kidnapping. Will is wearing his backpack.