Halfway through, True Detective Season 3, realizes that sometimes the most exciting thing isn’t an explosion.
The third season of True Detective premiered is in full swing, and we’re taking a look at each new episode. This season has been a return to form with a story that feels much more like the phenomenal first season. The story this season begins with Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali), a Vietnam Vet and former Detective who in 2015 is losing his memory as an old man. Hays is haunted by a case from 1980 centered around the disappearance of Will and Julie Purcell, a set of young siblings who disappeared after going for a ride on their bikes. Hays and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) wrapped up the case in the 80’s only for it to be reopened in 1990 when the person convicted of kidnapping and killing the kids attempted to clear their name after the potential reemergence of Julie Purcell. As we travel through the decades we also see Hays fall in love with the Purcell kids’ teacher Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo). Amelia and Hays would marry after the initial investigation and in 1990 she wrote a book about the case. Now in 2015, Hays works to remember the details of the past while being interviewed by a film crew documenting the case.
The third episode of this season did a great job at slowly building things, taking it’s time to get to the end of the hour, and giving us everything except and explosion by the time the credits rolled. In 2015 Hays is trying to follow the case, realizing that in doing so he’s able to remember the different parts of his life. His life had become so intertwined with the case over the years, that going back to it is like stepping into a time machine and seeing the most important moments of his life. He’s still having issues with things, and with some help from his son, he hopes to find his old partner and fill in some of the gaps.
In 1990 we get to see Wayne and Amelia fight over the way he’s been treating her as she tries to help him with the reopening of the case. After they make up Wayne begins work with Roland’s new team that is opening the case back up. We learn that Lucy Purcell has died and Tom is left alone, trying to stay sober with the occasional help of Roland. As Wayne gets into the case, he finally gets the Walgreens tape where he sees a young woman he believes is in fact Julie Purcell.
In 1980 Hays and West continue to work the initial case, heading to the church the Purcell family attended. After following a lead to the church they discover that a woman from the church had made the straw dolls found in the woods. She says that she sold them to a black man with a dead eye named Sam Whitehead (John Earl Jelks). They head to Whitehead’s place and have trouble getting any information out of him due to his distrust of the police. They head back and begin interrogating one of the teenage boys in town, Freddie (Rhys Wakefield), as his fingerprints were found on one of the Purcell kids’ bikes.
During the interrogation, Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) or the “trash man,” is seen by some locals, talking to a couple young girls. Many in town had suspected Woodard of being the one responsible for the Purcell kids disappearance, as he’s become an outcast there. Woodard was a Vietnam vet that was never able to readjust properly after returning from combat. He felt more comfortable in a war zone than he does now in civilian life. When the townspeople begin chasing after Woodard, he runs home and readies traps for them.
The episode ends with Woodard ready to start a war on his property. The two detectives are pulled out of the interrogation. The townspeople are pulling up to Woodard’s house. And Woodard is ready by a window, with a loaded gun, and a claymore mine set to blow if someone comes through his front door. The episode ends with the men coming up to the house and the image of the mine with the words, “FRONT TOWARD ENEMY” printed on it.
Overall this episode was perfect in the exact way True Detective should be. It was gripping, and kept you wanting more with each scene. And it all led to an ending that was just as explosive as if the mine had gone off. True Detective has a habit of using the fourth episode as a major turning point in the story. And while this is the first time that didn’t include a blaze of gunfire, it was just as intense and built onto the story in powerful ways. This season has continued to impress, and hopefully it will continue in the final four episodes.
True Detective airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO. You can catch previous episodes through HBO’s on demand services.