How Are ‘True Detective’ Seasons 1 and 3 Connected?
True Detective‘s third season has a familiar air to it, and that’s because it’s reminding fans of the crime anthology’s first spellbinding season.
Creator/executive producer Nic Pizzolatto took the harsh notes Season 2 received from fans and critics, and instead of packing it in, he returned to what made the HBO show a success — unsolved murders, multiple timelines, flawed detectives, conspiracy theories, occult vibes, and a Southern state setting.
To bring it home, Season 3 enlisted Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as Det. Wayne Hays and Stephen Dorf as Det. Roland West, who give the dynamic between Season 1’s Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart a run for their money.
As the the new episodes unfold, more and more similarities between one and three are becoming apparent. And it’s not just tone and plot — it’s evident that the two seasons are part of the same fictional universe.
Here are all the clues we found linking the two together:
1. The Documentary
In the 2015, Wayne is being interviewed for a documentary about the Purcell case. In a scene with the show’s producer/interviewer Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon) and old man Wayne, the image on her laptop reveals a headline which read, “Former State Police Officers Stop Alleged Serial Killer,” with Rust and Mary’s photo underneath.
This is proof the two seasons exist in the same world and are only a few years apart. It also suggests that Elisa has possibly previously interviewed Rust and Marty or studied their case in connection to the Purcell one.
She also says something very interesting to Wayne. She shows him some true-crime blogs and asks, “Did you know at various times since large-scale pedophile rings connected to people of influence were uncovered in the surrounding areas? Did you know about the Franklin scandal? It’s been theorized that the straw dolls are a sign of pedophile groups like the Crooked Spiral.”
In Season 1, the crooked spiral was a symbol that was found branded on the bodies of sacrificed victims. It represented a secret pedophile ring which was linked to serial killer Errol Childress.
2. The Hands
The first victim in Season 1 was Dora Lange. She was found naked, tied to a tree, wearing an antler crown with the spiral on her back and her hands in prayer position. Rust points out the occult undertones immediately.
In Season 3, Will Purcell’s body was found fully clothed and laid to rest in a cave with his hands in prayer position — just like in his communion photo as Wayne and Roland come to learn.
3. The Dolls
At the crime scene in Season 3, Wayne finds creepy bride dolls made out of straw scattered in woods. He says they “led” him to finding Will’s body.
In Season 1, the detectives find numerous Devil’s Traps — or Cajun bird traps — throughout the season, which are connected to the sacrifices made for the cult.
4. Company/Church/Government Coverups
In Season 3, when Hoyt Foods was brought into the scope of the series it reminded fans of the Tuttles in Season 1. In that, there’s a larger conspiracy going on here. Those general vibes have been floating around for a while.
In the ’80s timeline, Wayne thinks the local prosecutor is very eager to wrap this investigation up and pin everything on Brett Woodard. But when Wayne and Roland met with Cousin Dan in 1990, the theory gained momentum.
He claimed that Lucy — the mother of the Purcell kids — was being paid hush money to stop talking about the case. Fast forward and Tom Purcell — the Purcell kids’ father — overhears this new development in the police station and decides to visit Dan on his own.
A little threatening goes a long way, and next we see Tom driving into the Hoyt family estate, breaking into the basement, and opening the door to the “pink room.” It’s the same room that Julies described to another girl when she was a runway.
A man comes up behind Tom and (we assume) knocks him out. That man is Harris James (Scott Shepherd), who was the cop who “found” Will’s backpack at Woodard’s house in 1980. It’s also revealed that Harris left the police force to work for Hoyt Foods.
In Season 1, we had the Tuttle family. Sam Tuttle was Errol’s grandfather and he raped Errol and his sister. Apparently, his behavior was an open secret apparently because Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Son of Sam Tuttle and cousin of Louisiana Governor then U.S. Senator Eddie Tuttle) had a videotape he kept of a woman’s rape and possible murder in his safe as insurance.
Reverend Tuttle also helped cover up the sexual abuse that took place at his Wellsprings Foundation, which was an initiative to bring religion to rural schools and operated by Tuttle Ministries — a megachurch.
True Detective, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO