True Detective S3:E01 The Great War and Modern Memory Recap

credit HBO

It's time for an all new True Detective from HBO, who's excited?? Me too! This will be the third year recapping this series, but the previous two seasons were on a different and now inaccessible site. My recapping partner is the excellent Veronica, one of the funniest people I know, I'm hoping she'll be able to join me down the road. Without further ado, let's roll into True Detective season 3 with the excellent Mahershala Ali!

We open over a grey forest in a barren-looking town, a young child pedals us towards an elderly Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) in a crisp buttondown. Then we're back in May of 1990 and our handsome detective is being deposed. Ten years later is nothing, he remembers everything.

Some parley and we're to it: the Purcell case is being contested so the agents need to go over everything he knows. It seems our Wayne's been having memory problems, though, he even made audio recordings for his present self for reference. Just in case.

Nov. 7, 1980 is when everything went pear-shaped, let's skip to that time period. It's the day Steve McQueen died, which seems important to Wayne. It seemed a normal day, a single dad allowing his kiddos to go play with strict admonishments to be back by 5:30 before sundown.

**I'm weirded out because the kids have no bike helmets on and not one headphone between the two of them.

Two teenagers picked up a friend in an unironic purple Volkswagon bug as the kids waved at every single person in town on their way to play. Okay, one kid and a friendly-looking woman, one man of colour piloting a car full of junk. The three teens watched our kids very closely, however, in a completely creepy way.

Meanwhile, Detective Hays and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff in the worst butterscotch wig ever) were shooting at rats at the town dump and contemplating the nature of all the recent deaths. Wayne pours some out for his homie Steve McQueen.

Roland suggests they celebrate by engaging the town's sex workers, which leads to exactly the kind of enlightened conversation I have come to expect from True Detective. One thinks he's a romantic, the other a feminist, you guess which one uses the term "Saigon tr*m".

A sad-looking but well-fed fox appears, Wayne saves him from being shot by Roland but you can see he took it as an omen.

It's long past sundown but the kids William and Julie are not back as promised. Dad starts calling around, the kids maybe lied/fudged about where they were going, so that has to ratchet Dad's anxiety up a notch and now he's driving.

Those three teens (casting and costuming straight out of River's Edge) are at a party in the woods, messing around with bikes that look exactly like the ones the Purcell kids were riding.

Our detectives are called, they head to the Purcell place with more weariness than enthusiasm.

We're back in the present where Detective Hays is being interviewed for the True Criminal TV show. Dad Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) is frantic, the 1990 Agents want to know if Wayne thought Tom was lying. So does Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon from Alias Grace) producer of True Criminal, and also: Wayne's wife wrote a book about the case which makes everyone look sad and him defend it carefully.

I guess 1980 was messed up until 1990.

Back in 1980, Wayne asks after the kids' mom, who still lives in town (it sounded like she just took off) but won't be coming home tonight, anyway. The kids have been gone for 6 hours, only 66 hours shy of calling in the FBI, unless...

Tom does not want the detectives searching his house, he doesn't understand why no FBI and no massive team of searchers but he seems most disturbed by African-American Detective Wayne Hays putting his hand on his arm. He remains surly whilst they search.

The working theory was that the kids' mom had scooped the kids and ran off, dispelled immediately by the arrival of Lucy Purcell (Mamie Gummer) who is half in the bag and done up for a night out. It's about thirty seconds before she and her estranged husband get into a physical altercation, yah, she didn't take the kids.

Roland briefs the search teams while Wayne starts digging a bit deeper into the missing boy's room. Besides the skin mags under his mattress, there is a peephole drilled into the wall of the bedroom closet. Going into which room? I think it shows the missing girl's room, specifically her mirror.

The detectives canvass the area, hearing about the purple Volkswagon and teens, the driver identified as Freddy Burns (Rhys Wakefield) and the party spot indicated. Also mentioned is the trashman Brent Woodard (Michael Greyeyes).

A cousin was staying in the house, Dan will definitely have to be checked out as he was staying in William's room and may have been the one that drilled that hole in the closet. People are gross.

Tom is extremely defensive, he doesn't want to hear about William and Julie possibly running away, he wants answers about the trashman, damnit!

Searching commences in the morning, friendly waver Margaret (Emily Nelson) has joined the Purcells as they wait.

We know that Detective Wayne met his wife on the case, I was just wondering if it was Lucy but now I see it must be teacher Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!) because he can't take his eyes off her.

Ostensibly, they're asking about Freddy Burns, but Wayne's swallowing her with his eyes does not go unnoticed.

Freddy Burns is much paler and thinner by light of day, unexpectedly full of yessir and nosir. Other teen Frankie Boyle (Richard Meehan) has to explain his Black Sabbath t-shirt which made me laugh. I forgot there was a time when people though music was dangerous and that charlatans like Ozzy Osbourne were actually satanic and not just high and bored af.

The teens admit to seeing the kids on their bikes right after they left their dad's, there was maybe some younger kids playing with firecrackers.

Wayne goes back to see Amelia Reardon and walks out with her number. It's slightly fraught when he asks for it, she's saying the right things but her body is a whole other level of tension. Interesting.

They're off to see the trashman, whose house is surprisingly clean given the sheer volume of clutter in his yard. Trashman Brent is a Vietnam vet, maybe he had a hard time adjusting. Did I mention that Wayne also served? An APB is put out for the man, Wayne pulls the plug on the interview just then. He doesn't want to be here right now. He runs from everyone, including his son Henry (Ray Fisher), who's been there watching.

We're back searching the fields in 1980, Wayne finding some tire tracks while Roland smokes and complains about police dogs. The tracks lead to a tower filled with the usual teenage trash: cigarette butts and empty liquor bottles. Thanks for sparing us the used condoms, True Detective.

Close by is a bike that looks like William's, Wayne takes a picture and heads further in. He finds a creepy wedding doll fashioned out of hay and corn husks, then another.

He sees very tired, have I mentioned he's all alone? I'm worried for him. He seems young to have a heart attack but his affect is off.

Oh and he finds William. The boy is in a cave, laying on his back fully dressed with his hands in a prayer position. He calls it in as we jump back to 2015 with Wayne reading his wife Amelia's book (I won't even give myself points for that, they practically whispered it in our ears) "Life and Death and the Harvest Moon."

Wayne is shook and edgy, he also thinks the creepy dolls are markers. We are now in 1990, they believe the wrong man was convicted a decade before. Because Julie's fingerprints have popped up, meaning she's alive. That does seem like a valid reason for a retrial, no joke.

An unknowing Wayne sets back into the woods in the night, looking for the second missing child who we now know will not be found dead then or ever, instead showing herself to rob a Walgreens in the middle of the night a decade later. And we're out.

Well. I found the time jumping the only signature True Detective attribute, other than that it was much less trippy than normal which was a nice change. I like a little woo woo with my detective work, but only a wee dram. Honestly, I'm just glad to see Mahershala Ali in another feature, his Juan in Moonlight left an indelible impression, so perfectly restrained but achingly spot on. I'm looking forward to the development of the secondary characters, so far Stephen Dorff could be literally any decent actor in a bad wig. Mamie Gummer threw me off, I couldn't think who she looked like until I looked her up: she's Grace Gummer (of Mr. Robot)'s sister and they both look like their mom Meryl Streep. So there you go. Until next time! Holla at me in the comments if I missed a bunch!