Welcome back to the third season of True Detective, this time with the excellent Mahershala Ali and a competent cohort of contemporaries. We aren't quite understanding the shape of our mystery yet, but that's par for the course for one of the best shows on HBO. Rolling S3:E04 after the break.
I won't go too deep into the past three episodes, but you can read them here if you like:
Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) is our lead, taking us from the investigation of two missing children, William and Julie Purcell, in 1980 to the reopening of the case in 1990 and finally the TV serialization in 2015. Along the way he loses his career, one daughter, possibly a wife and big chunks of his memory. Let's see what we find out tonight.
Last time we ended on Wayne and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff with the WORST SisterGoldenHair wig, I mean it has feathered bangs!!) finding a clue; William Purcell was found dead in a pose that looks a whole lot like his first communion picture. So we open at a church, Wayne and Roland want to know why Will is in a group and the only one with his eyes closed. I guess he blinked? suggests the creepy priest as I carefully write down his particulars for research.
He does have useful information to impart and not just creepy altrusims to address to the ceiling; it seems the kids' mom Lucy (Grace Gummer), was excited about seeing an aunt, which she does not even have. AND the weird dolls found by where William was found dead are sold by a member of the clergy! What's up Patty Faber? Pastor Weirdsy says you're a good, dear woman, who'd you sell those chaff dolls to??
The priest even takes a run at Wayne about his Catholic background, Roland and I are skeptical entirely of everything about him, although Roland is mostly concerned with someone choosing a hump-free life.
Wayne got a clue out of the fella before leaving, William always looked after his sister Julie, protecting her. Was Will killed to get to Julie?
Patty Faber does seem like a peach, no lie, and she remembers clearly selling ten of the dolls to a "negro man, like yourself" with one dead eye. That's the full length of the description, a query about handsome or ugly only yields a reference back to the black skin involved. Guuurl.
Wayne walks out of her house and into 1990, where he can't stop grinning about his new assignment on the reopening of the Purcell case and his wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) could not possible care less. She's still pissed about his getting salty with her the other night, not supporting her work on the case. He shouts back and we have marriage-fighting, yaaay. I did note this one with particular interested. "Made to feel. Yeah, you're this person things just happen to. You're this grown man with no agency of his own."
She's not wrong, but Wayne has been throwing himself up against the wall of advancement for several years with no results. How long can you do that and not give up?
The fight is overheard by both of their young kids, Wayne turns up the TV on the way to continue expressing himself.
I hate marriage-fights. There are no winners. I do love that he asks her to stop talking shit about him, she challenges him with an "or what?" and he threatens...to cry. THEN after she walked away, he walks away and of course he's in the wrong. This is a very unhappy, bored and controlling woman who would now like to hump. And regardless of her "major cognitive dissonance", Wayne is down.
The kids hear that too.
They're sad after, as usual. Opposites. But can you do it forever?
Back in 1980, they start looking for the dead-eyed blackman at the liquor store ("RACIST" snorts Wayne) and find their suspect immediately at a trailer park across town. Mr. Whitehead insists on talking outside; a loose collection of men gather behind the detectives as they talk.
What's odd is that Mr. Whitehead denies buying the dolls, what isn't strange is that he's suspicious of the detectives intentions. Roland's dry sense of humour (knowing we're not going to solve the racial complexities of our day...where were you the night of the 7th?) does not ease Mr. Whitehead's mind. He calls over the group of men that have been assembling, asking Wayne how he can wear that badge. "It's got a clip on it" deadpans Wayne.
It gets ugly fast, someone in the crowd hits Roland with something thrown and Mr. Whitehead hustles the detectives into his place to deliver his alibi. He swears he isn't the only one-eyed black person in town, what about the people on the chicken line?
YES WHAT ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE?? The kids mom Lucy worked on the chicken line AND was stepping out on her husband AND the factory put up a big reward.
Information gathered, they use Mr. Whitehead as a human shield on the walk out to their policecar with a ruined windshield.
Roland claims to be less prone to shoot black people than white, I wonder how that works, really.
We're in 2015 for the first time this episode, Wayne's called his son Henry (Ray Fisher) to join him at the police station. Henry is mostly concerned that his dad went out alone, Wayne's got some kind of degenerative brain disease that leaves him in unlikely places without memory. Scary AF.
Wayne's been writing notes about the case, if not for the sake of the case for his own brain. He asks for Henry's help to find Roland, because Henry is also a detective! Wayne needs Roland's memory.
We're in 1990 again with Wayne and Roland meeting up with some old faces; FBI Special Agent Whatsit Greg Larson (Brett Cullen, who is not Chris Cooper, in case you were wondering) is now the Attorney General and he has Blevins with him, whom we don't know but would like to make sure everyone is on the same page. The whole point is to make sure the guy they tapped for Will's murder doesn't walk because it turns out that Julie is still alive. They take a minute to strongarm Wayne into agreeing, spilling the beans about how much Roland had to do to get him into the team.
Wayne and Roland have no plans to do that whatsoever.
Hey, what's happening with Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) who was targeted by a violent mob then ran out with a child-size bag??
In 1980, Wayne and Roland wait outside church for tips from parishioners, Roland's just there for the ladies and comic relief. Father Creepsies bugs Wayne for a confession, Wayne would rather he focus on looking for a black man with a dead eye, fanks.
Wayne and Amelia dine together and discuss the case, could Will's death have been an accident? He tells her about the toys they found in the woods and all of a sudden I'm convinced she was the person they were meeting, for no reason at all.
She talks about her past, she used to be a bit of a mess but don't tell anyone coz it's a secret. Wayne talks about himself but not about his family. It's extremely flirty, she is very much in the driver's seat and enjoying her affect on him.
Roland is at a bar across town, collecting Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) from the backroom. Tom's the kiddos' dad and he's been handling it about as well as you'd expect. He got into a fight at the bar, insisting he's Bozo the Clown since everyone keeps laughing at him.
Again: WHO is laughing at the parent of two kids that went missing, one who turned up dead? Honestly.
He says his estranged wife was sleeping with her boss, which we'd already guessed and we're not even detectives. The boss is off on a safari, maybe he took his daughter with him? There was an intimation that Julie was not Tom's daughter.
Tom is a racist, which we also guessed previously but is nice enough to spell out for us this time, complaining about Wayne being on the case, then drunkenly apologizing profusely. Tom can't go home, he can't be in that house where his children are not so Roland offers him a couch.
Wayne was lead detective in 1980 but in 1990 he's second to Roland and the dynamic is uneasy. Wayne gets shut down once but rallies to offer the theory that Julie may be in danger because she's surfaced again.
In 2015, Wayne visits the director of True Criminal Elisa (Sarah Gadon) at her hotel room. For sure there's another person there, why would she say there wasn't? Wayne and I are confused.
He's there to ask about the research she referenced in their last interview (it ended badly), she had a bunch of ideas that he knew nothing about. He proposes they work together, and not in a sneak-attack on camera way.
She pulls out some pictures of bones; it seems Lucy's hinky cousin Dan O'Brien (Michael Graziadei) showed up briefly in 1990 then at some point was killed and dumped in a ditch. That's all she's willing to share right now but WAIT. Is Wayne's son Henry sleeping with Elisa?????
I am also confused about people in the show; it seems Special Agent Whatsit Greg Larson is actually a prosecutor called Kindt. But IMDB is pretty clear that Brett Cullen is Greg Larson and I'm looking right at him and either way: datguy ends up on Donahue.
Woot, they got prints on the bike!
Amelia brings a box of school stuff by the Purcell house where a drunk and belligerent Lucy is fighting with some mothethumper on the phone. She's also not wearing a bra, suuuuuper distracting. Amelia showed up at just the right time, Lucy wants to chat about having the "soul of a whore." Amelia gently suggests that Lucy might be practicing self-harm via sex.
Lucy has had a difficult life, not knowing her mom and wanting to do better but not knowing how. Lucy felt stifled in her home, she ran around on Tom and everyone else. It's what she does. The sight of a craft expressing love brings her to tears: "I have done such terrible things."
Amelia pushes too hard, suggesting Lucy talk to Wayne and getting thrown out for her trouble.
Brett talks to a couple of girls about collecting their soda cans, spied by one of the violent mob who beat him up.
We're in 1990 with Roland and Wayne reviewing CCTV footage of the pharmacy where Julie's prints were found. In 2015 Wayne makes an audio recording while ghosts of the past gather behind him. I'm guessing these are the remnants of his time in the Vietnam War.
He talks about the estrangement within his family, it started after he lost his daughter in Wal-Mart but he says he maybe poisoned them.
He means that figuratively, right?
He's contemplating suicide and trying to remember how to find Roland when the visions of the past drive him to the window to stare at a sedan parked across the street. Is he being followed?
I knew the teenage boys were messing with the Purcell bikes! It's their prints they just found, Freddy Burns (Rhys Wakefield) admits to chasing Will off and taking his bike but that's it. We get another "black men are going to rape you in prison" threat, c'mon Wayne.
In 1990 Wayne finds Julie on the CCTV footage, woot! But back in 1980, Brett Woodard sees the angry armed mob coming for him, run Brett! He kicks off his boots and does exactly that, heading straight home to set up some booby traps. That kid-sized bag was actually full of guns, he's ready.
The detectives and other police show up as an angry man kicks in Brett's door, to be met with an explosion. And we're out.
HOW confident do you need to be in yourself and your convictions that you would kick down someone's door in front of the police? How much disrespect for law enforcement would you have to have to mill about on someone's lawn with a loaded firearm, again, in front of the police.
I know we're jumping all over the place and that's the point, it's just moving so sloooowwwly! I want to know it all! Who's the aunt? Who took Julie? Who kept Julie, more to the point, and what's the reference to street gangs made about her in 1990? Is the one-eyed man a red herring? How much does race play into Wayne's experience on the case? Everyone is a screaming racist, from what we can tell, but did he get busted down for that or was it his unpopular decisions? Two things can be true, I've heard. Until next time!