Although the penultimate episode of True Detective gave a significant number of clues, there are still plenty of mysteries to be solved going into the Season 3 finale. And one of those mysteries is what happened to cousin Dan on True Detective? Viewers last saw Michael Graziadei’s Dan O’Brien in Episode 6 when Scoot McNairy’s Tom Purcell assaulted him in his motel room in 1990. After that, he went missing until his skeleton was found in a drained quarry in southern Missouri. There are plenty of theories about cousin Dan and his involvement in Julie’s disappearance. But when this season ends on Feb. 24, what happened to him isn’t guaranteed to be revealed.
At the beginning of this season, Dan was one of the number one suspects in the case of Will’s death and Julie’s disappearance. But as the season continued, it seemed more likely that Dan only had an inappropriate relationship with his cousin Lucy — and not with her children. In Episode 6, he reemerged in the year 1990 to tell Hays and West that he believed Lucy had been murdered and that other people were looking for Julie.
Tom then confronted Dan and he admitted that the Hoyt family had been paying Lucy. And while it’s clear that Harris Jamies murdered Tom and made it seem to look like a suicide after he snuck into the Hoyt home and saw the pink room, it’s not clear if Harris James or the Hoyts were the cause of Dan’s disappearance.
As fans on Reddit have wondered, it is possible that Tom killed his cousin-in-law Dan. After all, it certainly has been implied that Dan and Lucy’s relationship may have been sexual and that he could have even been the father of Julie or Will. But it doesn’t seem like Tom was capable of murder — especially when he was probably more focused on finding out the truth about his daughter. Instead, it’s more likely that a Hoyt associate either threatened or disposed of Dan or that Dan fled of his own volition after he gave Tom the information about the Hoyts. Especially since Dan seemed to be one of the only people to truly comprehend how dangerous the Hoyts really are.
Either way, Dan’s fate is that he died and his body was found in a quarry. But had he done something to facilitate Julie’s disappearance? Maybe. And did anything sinister happen to him between when Tom confronted him and when his remains were found? Most likely.
If Julie had been the daughter of Lucy and her cousin, maybe they willingly sold her off to the Hoyts because of the shame. Whether or not Julie was his biological child or not, Reddit user TheRealNumberNine does believe that Dan helped Lucy sell Julie to the Hoyts — and quite possibly was in town when she was abducted. As user Blottergrass outlined, it seems Dan most lied about his alibi when he was questioned by Hays and West in 1980. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
But if you believe that Dan was innocent of any involvement between Lucy and the Hoyts, then it’s far more likely that the powerful family just had him killed off after he told Tom about them. And if that’s the case, the season finale may not even feel the need to go into what happened to Dan back in 1990. Instead, he’ll just be another casualty of this crime. But now that Michael Rooker has entered the show as Mr. Hoyt, Dan theorists have a small kernel of hope that the truth about Dan may finally be revealed. It just may turn out that this creepy cousin wasn’t as evil as we all thought at first.
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