Hays looks back at the aftermath of the 1980 Purcell case in West Finger, AR, including possible evidence left behind at the Devil's Den, an outdoor hangout for local kids. As attention focuses on two conspicuous suspects - Brett Woodard, a solitary vet and trash collector, and Ted LaGrange, an ex-con with a penchant for children - the parents of the missing kids, Tom and Lucy Purcell, receive a cryptic note from an anonymous source.
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 hug 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 hugging 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 hug 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 hugger, it becomes clear that darkness lives on both sides of the law.