While at the church a hidden image leads the detectives to Joel Theriot. Joel is a tent-revival minister and his congregation point their fingers towards a tall man with scars who they say was the person they last saw Dora with. As the investigation continues a sex offender matching the description is immediately dismissed by Cohle, even though they confess to the crime. Maggie sets Cohle up on a date, prompting Hart to get distracted. Cohle is desperate to prove that Dora's case has a pattern and finds a connection with a case in which a woman was assumed to have drowned.
Season 3: In 1980, Detective Hays, a state policeman in northwest Arkansas, is tasked with finding two missing children, whose parents, Tom and Lucy, are broken-down, regretful screw-up's, mostly interested in blaming each other for their loss. Wayne is accompanied by his gruff partner, Roland West, but just as crucial is the connection Wayne forms with the kids’ teacher, Amelia Reardon, who takes her own interest in the case.
Season 2: A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California. Ray Velcoro is a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, LA County. Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life's work, while his wife and closest ally, struggles with his choices and her own. Ani Bezzerides is a Ventura County Sheriff's detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.
Season 1: In 2012, Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are brought in to revisit a homicide case they worked in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in present day through separate interrogations, the two former detectives narrate the story of their investigation, reopening unhealed wounds, and drawing into question their supposed solving of a bizarre ritualistic murder in 1995. The timelines braid and converge in 2012 as each man is pulled back into a world they believed they'd left behind. In learning about each other and their killer, it becomes clear that darkness lives on both sides of the law.