True Detective starring Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan

While virality is often associated with pre-meditated actions by corporate spinsters marketing products; What if a movie or television show (and its viewer’s need to solve a plot mystery) were to become viral? This is what’s taking place with HBO’s incredible show True Detective. The show is nearing its season finale (on Sunday), and theories about who might be the evil mastermind are reaching viral proportions. Read on for more about this relatively recent phenomenon.

Fuelling this need to solve the mystery is the serial unfolding of True Detective. More than any other medium (including movies), fans are forced to wait at least a week before the next helping of plot progression. This combination of a well-done, popular, and mysterious story with a slow burn leads to massive interest by Internet denizens. This has all the hallmarks of what we at MovieViral cover.

A similar recent example happened with BBC’s Sherlock. After the second series (season) finale “The Reichenbach Fall” in 2012, the titular hero appears to commit suicide by jumping off a roof. What transpired after this episode was an incredible deluge of theories and speculation about how Sherlock may have faked this including the use of fake bodies, masks or even drugs. The story had created an unintended viral phenomenon.

True Detective starring Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan

This is creates an especially challenging problem for shows that are released all at once, such as House of Cards. Given that users are at different places not he continuum of a “binge”, how are they to feed the possible viral machine caused by discussion? One possible solution I see is providers like Netflix offer a siloed discussion space just after the end of an episode for those that may wish to discuss what they just watched. This space would need to somehow be free of spoilers, and available to everyone. The logistics of this scenario would keep any sort of mysterious story element from going viral.

And viral is what True Detective‘s central mystery has become. Blogs, news sites and forums have all exploded with theories about who the central killer is. There is currently a very active SubReddit devoted to all sorts of bizarre theories. Every week, the tightly constructed series offers more subtle clues about the so-called “Yellow King”, but no reveal will come until Sunday’s season one finale. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto has promised resolution to the many questions. Expect it to be a huge episode.

True Detective is an 8-part mini-series airing on HBO. The show stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan. Season 1 ends this Sunday, March 9th, 2014. has been reacquired by its original founders. Please pardon any interruptions during this transitory period.