lines of inquiry

True Detecting True Detective: Let’s Lay Odds on Who the Killer Is

Photo: Warrick Page/Courtesy of HBO

We’re this close to the True Detective season-three finale, so the solution to the mystery ought to be in sight, right? Wrong! While some elements of the case have become clearer (good-bye, Harris) and some plausible explanations have surfaced — most plausibly Elisa’s child-slavery-ring theory — much of it remains fuzzy. What’s more, this seventh episode kept introducing new characters, and with them, new possibilities. So many new possibilities. Too many new possibilities. Nonetheless, let’s try to figure it out.

Tom Purcell (Scott McNairy): 10,000 to 1

Last week’s odds: 30 to 1

Photo: Warrick Page/Courtesy of HBO

Poor Tom. After playing drunken detective last week, he met an untimely fate atop the observation tower. Suicide? That’s the official story. But we know better. Last seen walking into the Pink Room as Harris James crept up behind him, he apparently became a man who knew too much in a hurry. We won’t completely eliminate him just because Elisa does put forth the theory that he might have been involved in selling his children into slavery. But ultimately it seems like Tom was just more collateral damage.

Harris James (Scott Shepherd): 8 to 1

Last Week: 8 to 1

Let’s keep the late, unlamented Harris’s odds as they were. He’s obviously guilty of something, even if only of being an accessory after the fact.

Lucy Purcell (Mamie Gummer): 4 to 1

Last week’s odds: 4 to 1

Photo: Warrick Page/Courtesy of HBO

Let’s do the same with Lucy. Again, she’s clearly guilty of something. And while Elisa’s child-kidnapping-ring theory seems quite possible, does Lucy really seem like a woman who would sell her own children into slavery? Oh, right: She totally does. But she also seems like maybe too obvious a suspect for a season that probably still has some narrative tricks up its sleeve.

Cousin Dan O’Brien (Michael Graziadei): 4 to 1

Last week’s odds: 10 to 1

Then let’s go ahead and lower the odds on Cousin Dan, who seems increasingly like some kind of partner in crime to his cousin. What crime? That’s to be determined.

Mr. Hoyt: 2 to 1

Last week’s odds: 3 to 1

We finally meet Mr. Hoyt! Or at least we meet his voice. And he seems guilty as hell. Like, John Huston–playing-a-man-so-corrupted-by-wealth-and-power-and-with-so-little-regard-for-good-and-evil-he-hardly-seems-human-anymore-in-Chinatown guilty. But, hold up: If Mr. Hoyt was the man behind it all and Wayne met him in 1990, why is he still wondering what’s going on in 2015? Hmm …

Lori (Jodi Balfour): 1,000 to 1

Last week’s odds: 100 to 1

Hey, where’s Lori? Is Lori ever coming back? Is that the twist? Probably not.

People Surveilling Wayne: 5 to 1

Last week’s odds: 25 to 1

Okay, it now seems like whoever’s been watching Wayne (a) actually exists and (b) is up to something. Keep an eye out for ominous-looking sedans.

Alan Jones (Jon Tenney): 100 to 1

Last week’s odds: 15 to 1

With no reason to lower the odds, we have every reason to raise them.

Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen): 10 to 1

Last week’s odds: 10 to 1

We’re keeping these at 10 to 1, but maybe they should be lower? If Elisa’s correct in alleging a child-kidnapping ring involving those of wealth and power, surely someone in law enforcement has to be involved, right? And the rapidly ascendant general attorney of Arkansas just makes sense as a suspect. What’s more, he’s shut down the Purcell investigation twice, once in 1980 and again in 1990. On the other hand, he’s also the one who reopened the investigation in the first place, leading to an embarrassing press conference in which he had to admit he got the wrong man ten years earlier. Whoopsy! That can’t have been part of any far-reaching conspiracy, right?

Lucy’s Friend: 500 to 1

Last week’s odds: N/A

We’ve seen Lucy’s friend — did anyone catch her name? — before, but mostly just hanging around comforting her friend. This week she gets a full scene, one in which she provides Amelia with a seemingly important photograph. She seems to think her friend is innocent and she seems fairly innocent herself (if a little racist).

The Hoyt Housekeeper: 1,000 to 1

Last week’s odds: N/A

Sometimes you just need characters to dump a lot of facts at once, and that’s the role played by the former housekeeper to the Hoyts this week, who tells Wayne and Roland about Mr. June, Miss Isabel, the fact that parts of the Hoyt estate became forbidden around 1981, and so on. Thanks! (It seems highly unlikely that she’s involved in the crime herself, however.)

The Priest Roland Doesn’t Like: 1,000 to 1

Last week’s odds: 100 to 1

Still MIA. If he were to make a return, would anyone remember?

“Mr. June”/“Watts”: 5 to 1

Last week’s odds: 5 to 1 (previously listed as “Dead-Eyed Mystery Man and His Female Companion”)

If these seem like long odds — unchanged from last week — for an obviously suspicious character, consider this: Why would a guilty man keep looking for Julie? Why would he get so angry at Amelia’s reading? Something here doesn’t add up. (Unless we’re overthinking it, because he really does seem suspicious as hell, especially if he was hanging out with Lucy and Cousin Dan. Does anyone nice ever hang out with Cousin Dan? We’re probably overthinking.)

Someone We Haven’t Seen Yet: 5 to 1

Last week’s odds: 5 to 1

The odds of us meeting someone brand-new ought to be fairly long at this point. But all of a sudden we have to contend with a Miss Isabel, who seems to have lived in tragic isolation during the time frame of the crime. Is she still alive? Will we meet her next week? Someone else? It could happen. This is True Detective, after all, and we won’t know anything for sure until next week.

Previously eliminated suspects:

• True Criminal producer Elisa Montgomery
• Henry Hays
• Steve McQueen
• The Junkyard Fox
• Wayne Hays
• Roland West
• Amelia Reardon (Yes, we’re aware of the theory. No, we don’t think there’s anything to it.)
• Amelia’s Ghost
• Ronnie Boyle
Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax
• Tip Line Tipster
• Unnamed Surly Farmer
• The Woman Who Could Do More Push-ups Than Anyone Else in the 1980s
• Ghosts of the Viet Cong
• Mr. Whitehead
• Dear Good Woman Patty Faber
• Brett Woodard
• Freddy Burns and the Purple VW Beetle Toughs
• The Runaway Questioned by Wayne and Roland
• The Insolent File Clerk
• The Cigarette-Smoking Runaway Questioned by Amelia
• Tom’s Old Boss at the Shop
• The Pushy Local TV Reporter Who Harangues Lucy

This post is updated weekly throughout.

True Detecting True Detective: Who’s the Killer?