What The Hell Is Happening On ‘True Detective’? A Mid-Season Explainer

If you’re following along with True Detective season two closely enough, you can play along with the theories and speculation, dig deep into the minute details, and enjoy all the jokes at the series’ expense.

However, this season of True Detective has been so slowly-paced that it’s sometimes easy to let your attention drift, and unless you watch every episode a second time, you may have missed some things. It’s been a very divisive season, and while many are deeply engrossed, many others have simply decided to quit.

In fact, the number one complaint I have heard from the casual viewer of True Detective is not about the writing or the acting, it’s that they have NO idea what the hell is going on anymore. The plot is very convoluted — often unnecessarily so — and the combination of slow pacing and complicated storylines has left many True Detective viewers lost.

So, let’s throw out all the theories, jokes, and nicknames. Here’s a nuts-and-bolts breakdown of what exactly is going on halfway through this season of True Detective, a brief overview for the True Detective novice. This is what you need to know to get by.


The murder of Ben Caspere is at the center of the entire season. He was the city manager of the small town of Vinci, in Ventura County. He was killed by an unidentified man wearing a bird mask.

His murder is being investigated by three principal characters.

Paul Woodrugh is a motorcycle cop for the state highway patrol. He is a self-hating gay stereotype. He suffers from PTSD dating back to his work as a mercenary for a private company in Iraq and Fallujah. There, he had a three-day sex bender with a male buddy of his, but Woodrugh is so determined to maintain the life of a heterosexual police officer that he’s agreed to marry his girlfriend, who is pregnant. Woodrugh is currently suspended as a highway patrolman because a celebrity actress falsely accused him of soliciting a blow job in exchange for ignoring her DUI.