We continue to get closer to answers, as True Detective poses more questions. And it’s insanely satisfying.
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.
This episode was the closest to a turning point for the show that we could get. After Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) is chased home in 1980 by some angry townspeople, he sets up traps and a mine and readies for war. The townspeople have believed that he was responsible for the disappearance of the Purcell children, and they’re ready for blood. But Woodard has been prepared for this. This is the world he’s comfortable in, and these men aren’t prepared. Woodard ends up killing almost everyone there, and shooting West in the leg.
Hays gets into the house and is forced to shoot Woodard in the head to prevent him from killing Hays. After the madness Hays goes to the hospital and has trouble calming down, Amelia shows up and ends up taking him home where they sleep together for the first time. As the cops begin to process Woodard’s house over the course of three days, they find the backpack belonging to Will Purcell under the front porch, and Julie Purcell’s sweater in the remains of a fire.
It’s revealed that Woodard was posthumously convicted of the kidnapping and murder of the Purcell kids, and the detectives never pushed back against the idea that it was Woodard. In 1990, Hays realizes that the backpack was pristine in the destruction of the Woodard house, and it would have been impossible for the backpack to not have had damage to it if it was there when the mine went off. Someone had to plant the backpack and sweater there during the three days it took to process the house.
Before the realization on the backpack, Hays and West work on figuring out if the girl in the Walgreens video is in fact Julie. Her father Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) accidentally sees the image and is asked by Attorney General Kindt (Brett Cullen) to make a statement, asking Julie to contact the police. Hays and West are worried this public announcement could put Julie in danger, but they’re forced to go along with it. It’s revealed there that Woodard’s children are the ones that pushed to reopen the case, and that they believe their father was innocent.
The episode ends in 2015, with Hays and his son going to West’s home. The two former partners talk and it’s revealed that West has been angry with, and hasn’t spoken to Hays for 24 years. Hays doesn’t know why West is angry, but we know that they worked together and killed someone associated with the case years ago. It’s implied that it may have been either Tom Purcell, or Lucy Purcell’s cousin Dan after Hays says that Dan’s body was found recently.
The biggest question mark at the end of the episode, and reveal that leaves more questions than answers is a phone call in 1990 to the tip line given after Tom’s comments on TV. A woman stating she’s Julie Purcell, calls in and says that Tom isn’t her father and implies that he was responsible for the kids disappearance and Will’s death. Tom is brought in to listen to the recording in an interrogation room, and isn’t sure what exactly is going on. But at this point it’s implied that the case may now be pinned on him.
Once again, this episode was truly fantastic. The season continues to build in the exact right way, just as season one did. In a way this season is flowing better than season one, as there was a slight dip after the turning point with the confrontation with Reggie Ledoux in episode 4 of season 1. But this season continues to build and wind in different ways, that keeps you hooked throughout. On top of that, the performances by Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff are phenomenal. Each one of them deliver so much more than what’s in the script, and in doing so, make the show intensely compelling. There’s only 3 episodes left, but I could watch another eight episodes of this show if it continues on this streak.
True Detective airs each Sunday at 9pm. You can catch previous episodes through HBO’s VOD services.