True Detective Season 3 tells the story of two children who go missing in the Ozarks in 1980 and the two detectives tasked with solving an apparent murder-kidnapping in three different timelines. Pretty early on in the season, the show dropped a massive bombshell: Julie Purcell, the younger sister of the sibling pair, was still alive. Her fingerprints were found at the scene of a Walgreens robbery in 1990, making her 21 years old. Theories about Julie Purcell on True Detective immediately started swirling amongst fans — to say nothing of detectives Hays and West.
Hays concludes in the earliest timeline that the investigators are missing something, something that's staring them right in the face. He just can't seem to figure out what it is. It's an elegant and prescient metaphor for the mind of an Alzheimer's patient, which Hays of course turns out to be in the 2015 timeline, also struggling to see the forest for the trees. There's a mountain of puzzle pieces to try fitting together, though, and fans have dutifully taken up the mantle, as the season unfolds across three and a half decades. How did Julie survive all those years when her brother was so swiftly murdered? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Elisa The Documentarian Is Somehow Connected To Julie
Although Elisa seems a little young to actually be Julie, who would be in her 40s in 2015, it's been suggested that Elisa may be connected to Julie in some way. Perhaps Elisa is Julie's daughter, or an otherwise close relative or friend? She seems exceptionally angry with how poorly the case was handled in a way that suggests she has some personal connection or personal reason to feel aggrieved that Julie was never found. Being angry on her mom's behalf would explain why her emotions are running so high and why she's taking everything so personally.
Julie Has A Different Biological Father Who Kidnapped Her
So both the Purcell children were kidnapped, but only Will was murdered. Viewers know that the kids' mom, Lucy, was deeply unhappy in her marriage and she speaks pretty openly about her guilt over having multiple affairs. It's possible that Tom Purcell may not be Julie's biological father, and that whoever it is kidnapped the kids out of anger. Maybe Julie's biological father murdered Will to get back at Lucy and kidnapped Julie to raise her himself.
Julie Killed Her Brother & Ran Away
This one admittedly feels like a stretch since Julie was physically smaller than her older brother at the time of his death. But the idea that Julie killed Will and ran away is supported by the ransom note left at the Purcell's house, which was misspelled in the way a child would write and written in the voice of an unhappy kid to boot. While most people seem to think the peephole looking into Julie's room was made by an adult in her life, it can't be ruled out that Will himself may have drilled it and was perhaps abusing his sister in some way.
She Was The Victim Of A Pedophilia Ring
There are a lot of shady adult men in the picture, too, and an obvious theory is that the Purcell kids were kidnapped simply because they were together. Will was killed off because he was disposable — the kidnappers really wanted Julie. Between the town pedophile Robert, who doesn't have an alibi for the night of the kidnapping, and Lucy's cousin Dan, who stayed in Will's room for a few weeks, kept Playboy magazines there, and may have been responsible for drilling the peephole, it definitely seems possible that there was a larger conspiracy to sell Julie into a pedophilia ring. This could also serve as a through line connecting Season 3 to Season 1, which was also about a pedophilia ring in the south.
As True Detective Season 3 approaches its halfway point, only one thing is certain: viewers are going to have a lot more questions before they get answers.