I had barely finished my 2,000-word-plus deconstruction of how the finale of True Detective might play out—complete with freeze-frame screen captures and tons of what Marty Hart would rightly dismiss as "conjecture"—when it suddenly hit me. I was re-watching the series' penultimate episode, and there it was, right up on the screen. As Hart had promised more than once, the solution was right there under my nose—under all our noses.
Let's begin with what we already know about the elusive, mythical central villain of the show, the Yellow King. Well, there's the obvious: He's a king, and he's yellow, the latter possibly being a synonym for blond. An entire segment of True Detective interpretation has hinged on the idea that Marty Hart might himself be the Yellow King, because in the show's promotional image his blond hair is cut from the frame, forming a "crown."
But why should the blond hair and the crown have to be one and the same? What if there were a Yellow King candidate who had blond hair and a crown, whose yellow-ness could be distinct from his king-ness?
Are you with me yet? No, not Marty's daughter Audrey. Yes, she's blond and, yes, she stole her sister's crown in 1995. But series creator Nic Pizzolatto has been vocal about his aversion to misdirection, so we can safely conclude the Yellow King is not a Yellow Queen. (Besides, Audrey was way too young to commit those complicated 1990s murders.)