The last decade has seen the rise of anthology series, making a comeback for the first time since the early days of television. But even TV shows that have completely separate seasons aren't immune to the tug of the crossover. Last year, American Horror Story, the series responsible for reviving the genre, did a crossover season. True Detective is not following suit quite so closely. However, this week's True Detective easter egg sure feels like the series considers all of its seasons as part of a single shared universe. Warning: Spoilers for True Detective Seasons 1 and 3 follow.
Fans have been impatiently waiting to see if the new season of True Detective would refer to the events of the first season in their "present day" part of the timeline. After all, the cases are somewhat similar, even if they start in a different place. Season 1's case was the disappearance of a prostitute, while Season 3 begins with two children going missing.
With both sets of detectives working not far from each other geographically, and the same high-level cover-up barring both sets of detectives from solving their cases, it was not long before fans started wondering if Season 3's solution would also involve large-scale sex rings and cults.
It turns out they weren't the only ones. Elisa Montgomery also sees a similar angle between the two cases.
Season 3 begins when Montgomery comes to interview Wayne Hays, stirring up the old memories from 1980 and 1990. At first, it seems like she's just reporting on the Purcell case for an episode, with little idea of solving it, like Amelia's book back in the day, recording the events as they happened. However, like Amelia, Elisa has an ulterior motive. She wants to solve the case, and she believes Hays is the key. As the season goes on, her questions become more leading, and it's obvious she has a theory.
After spending the entire interview stalling at her questions, Elisa finally shows her hand, in hopes Hays will tell her she is correct. She believes the Purcell children were sold by one of their parents to a sex ring, and as part of explaining her reasoning, she pulls up a newspaper article detailing the events of the Season 1 finale, with Rust Cohle and Marty Hart's faces and the headline "Former State Police Officers Stop Alleged Serial Killer." Elisa's interview takes place in 2015, so the headline is three years old at this point.
Hays nods quietly; he remembers reading the same article. But he won't agree with her. He gets up and tells her it's time to leave.
Elisa's theory sounds good, but at this point, the show has already established the answer lies in a different direction. Lucy Purcell didn't sell Julie to a sex cult. She sold her to the richest man in town, believing his family and his daughter, who'd lost a child, would be a better environment for Julie to grow up. There's no conspiracy: Just one man and the power of money.