True Detective S3:E05 If You Have Ghosts Recap

We're back in the woods in True Detective S3:E05, why am I not hearing as much about this season as previous two? I know we all like a little "all right all right all right" COURSE, but I would definitely put this story up against the others in a minute. Let's roll into the fifth installment after the break!

You know about the time shifting on True Detective, yes? If you don't, we are watching Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) investigate the Purcell case (one missing child, one murdered child) in three time periods:

  1. In 1980 when the kids first went missing, the Purcell son was found dead and his sister Julie presumed the same
  2. 1990, the case was reopened due to evidence that Julie was alive
  3. And finally 2015, Detective Hays being interviewed for a TV show that has its own theories as to what happened to the kids

Today we open in 1990, Detective Hays is on the task force re-investigating the case with his old partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) who has had a much better career in the between time than Wayne has.

They're brainstorming over how to look for Julie Purcell (Bea Santos) when her dad walks into the investigation room. Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) walks in as they're discussing the death of Julie's mother Lucy (Grace Gummer) and Lucy's hinky cousin Dan (Michael Graziadei); Tom's stunned by the picture of his dead wife and missing daughter. Also: they haven't shown him the picture Wayne pulled off the surveillance tapes, Roland is worried about hurting him more before they know it's her for sure.

Wayne overrules that and shoves the picture in Tom's face, Roland pulls rank haaard, sending Wayne back to the investigation and facing Tom's defiant fear alone.

We ended last time with Vietnam vet Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) making a disastrous move to defend himself. He's the town junkman, somehow some locals had decided he was also a pedophile, on account of him being non-white and weird. They were about to launch their second murderous attack on him when he blew them up and started shooting. Detectives Wayne and Roland had just arrived when everything went kablam; they're now embroiled in a gun fight with the idiot locals who were hellbent on killing Brett.

Roland gets shot in the leg by the racist morons, Wayne goes round the back to see if he can reason with Brett. They have a bit of a rapport, both having served in Vietnam and being non-white their whole lives.

I called this move disastrous above because it is the end of the road for Brett Woodard. He's killed people, not just the ones breaking down his door with guns but cops too. Not Wayne, purposely, but others and life is over for him. He just needs Wayne to pull the trigger.

Wayne does, we all sit on the floor and cry for this life over for no good reason.

We're back in 1990 with Tom giving a TV interview asking Julie to come forward; he doesn't know anything but "my daughter's out there and for so long, I thought she wasn't."

Ahhh shite, Brett's last stand was even worse than I thought. They took his extreme self-defense as an admission of guilt and pinned the murder and abduction on him. By the by, the higher ups are fully invested in Roland and Wayne fortifying the murder conviction for Will Purcell.

But. On Brett? He was a veteran with a sort of medium stable life, no noticeable PTSD but who had lost his family due to melancholia and supported himself by collecting bottles. How far does this distrust of non-white people with unconventional lives go in this town?

Attorney General Kindt (Brett Cullen) gives a speech for the cameras supporting his conviction of the dead Brett Woodard, to be interrupted by Alan Jones (Jon Tenney) who used to be on his side. Alan is now with the Woodard kiddos, grown and looking for the overturning of the fraudulent verdict against their dad.


It's pretty obvious that they want the case to just go away, why else would they pin it on someone already dead and not able to defend himself? And not killed in the act of committing the crime, either, he was just talking to some kids about their bottles when The South Shall Rise Again made their move.

I can't wait to see the evidence!

Wayne yells at Alan for making the press conference a pissing match about the Woodard case and not Julie; he's scared to see Brett's kids too, since he killed their dad. He's still mad Brett committed suicide by this cop in particular, "Motherf****r made me carry his water."

Wayne and Roland go back and re-interview Freddy Burns (Rhys Wakefield), he saw Brett the night the kids went missing, but he was heading in the opposite direction from the kids. But he did it, right? Freddy wants to talk about Brett's death anyway and make up some lost points from the night everything went south.

Wayne used to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder, okay, an entire massive Redwood tree, just balanced precariously and did I say "used to"? That would be inaccurate. Because while Roland wants to talk about is who Will meant that night when he said he was looking for his sister but "they" were missing, Wayne wants to continue a penis-measuring contest with Freddy, who is all the way game.

Wayne really scared Freddy that night, floating tales of prison rape by black men, which was kind of Wayne's schtick at the time. Was it necessary? Was it even useful? Is Wayne as much of a bully as Freddy was?

Roland just wants to know who "they" was!!

Roland continues to try and work the case, but Wayne has a lot of resentment to get off his chest. He does not like being told he's responsible for Freddy's shitty adult life (he does have a baby!) and he's not willing to entertain the thought that some white men might have a shitty deal in society. AND when he was Freddy's age as a teenager, he was in the jungle with a gun so THERE.

Roland thinks maybe they should go back and look into the toys found in the woods again maybe? There was a set of unidentified prints. What does Wayne think?

Wayne can't believe this kid is implying he made him skip college; this whole generation is full of *&^&^%*ies.

Now we're in interview with someone seen in the drugstore with the person they think might be Julie, sounds like a mobile group of homeless teens. The girl was going by Mary July, who was a "little nutty" because she thought she was a secret princess.

Okay then you need to lock us ALL up after The Little Princess, tell me you didn't think that was the best book ever as a girlchild you big liar?!

Mary used to talk about being a princess from the "pink rooms", but more importantly, she had lost a brother and was looking for him. Wayne asks for names but they don't get anywhere canvassing.

We skip to 2015 for the first time, producer/direction Elisha (Sarah Gadon) mentioning that one of the police officers who processed the scene at Brett's house went missing. She says Wayne talked to him, but Wayne doesn't remember. Wayne has some kind of a degenerative brain condition and forgets stuff all the time. I don't recognise Harris James (Scott Shepherd) either but Elisha thinks it's weird how many people on the case have died.

In 1990 Wayne and his wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) are heading for supper with Roland and his wife Lori (Jodi Balfour), who we watched him meet at the church a couple of episodes back in 1980. Ohh not wife, which is a touchy subject, as is the police case. Wayne tries to deflect but Amelia is updating her book about the case and wants the inside scoop. Wayne grows angry.

Gross marriage fight in the middle of dinner with a nice couple who don't want to watch any more than I do.

In 2015 Wayne pores over the book he hated so much, finding a strange coincidence. Lucy, Julie and Will's mother who died  8 years after the case begun, she'd said something very similar to what was found on the kidnapping note received: "children should laugh."

What does that mean? It means he should have read this damn book a long time ago!

Wayne thinks someone is watching him.

Oh yay, we switch back to 1990 for some more married people fighting! Now it's Wayne who is on the offensive, calling Amelia a "tourist" and a voyeur exploiting other people's misfortune. Everyone is stories to her, she uses people while staying above it, watching.

They're just getting into it when a cough from the stairs alerts them to the presence of their kiddos. I can see that older Henry (Isaiah Morgan) protects his little sister Rebecca (Kennedi Butler).

In 2015 a frantic Wayne looks for his family in vain, having forgotten that he's 25 years late.

In 1980 Wayne has to answer questions about Brett's death over and over while Roland is in surgery, he backs them up and Amelia arrives, worried. Wayne's default is anger, he will not be soothed.

Apropos of nothing, Amelia is rocking an insane sweep of bangs, but Wayne is more interested in her smell. They go to her apartment where he undresses the moment the door is closed.

1990 Wayne checks the evidence box for the unidentified prints found on the toys, there they are gawn. He yells at the officer in charge of the evidence locker, look Wayne, you just can't treat people like that. You can't be angry all the time and blow up at someone just ignoring tampered evidence boxes.

We're back in 1980 with police processing the scene of carnage at Brett Woodard's house. Here we meet Harris James, later to go missing, but currently identifying a found backpack as that of the missing one belonging to the murdered Will. This is undoubtedly the evidence that convicted Brett but Wayne sees right through it in 1990. The backpack doesn't have a smudge on it, but it was found directly underneath where the explosive was located.

There was a scorched t-shirt inside, Wayne thinks everything was planted but Roland needs to mull over how to handle this. A call interrupts their discussion about who knows more about The Man.

A hot tip came in on the hotline, we know it's important because Roland looks like he swallowed a basketball.

Ahhhh we finally see Roland in 2015! He has much less hair but many more dogs.

*It's clear that Stephen Dorff is going to be a good looking man until he goes into the great beyond, but it's his character's sense of humour that carries us through here. "You show a woman you got kitchen skills, she knows you ain't looking for a cook." Just like that I know what I've been doing wrong!

Wayne and his son Henry (Ray Fisher) pull up outside, Roland calls him a stray with flaws, but yeah, he'll hear him out.

Henry takes Roland aside to explain Wayne's memory, Roland gets a taste himself in his first conversation with Wayne. Wayne doesn't remember why they haven't spoken in 24 years, Roland's gonna pretend he doesn't either.

Now this is unusual, we're back in 1990 with a group of men watching Roland and Wayne interview Tom. Ohhhhh the call that came in on the hotline; it was maybe Julie and she wants her father to leave her ALONE. She repeats that several times to Tom's shock and dismay, saying she has been taken and they left Will resting and we're all Roland: WHO IS "THEY"?

I have a theory! Rumour was back in the day that Julie was not Tom's daughter and I wonder if it was her real father (maybe the owner of Hoyt Foods where Julie's mom worked) who accidentally killed Will while trying to run off with Julie. That covers Lucy writing the kidnapping note but  doesn't account for any other eyewitness accounts given, including a well-dressed one-eyed black man in a brown sedan but I CHOOSE MY CHOICE.

Tom does not understand that he is now very much under suspicion.

In 2015, Wayne explains why he is talking to the TV people; he wanted to make sure nothing came back on them. Say like killing a man? Wait what killing who?? Something about Harris James and the dead Dan O'Brien, then we're onto Hoyt, who came to see Wayne "the day after."

Day after what? And why didn't Wayne tell Roland until now? He decided to let it go, he had a family to think about. Hoyt knew what Wayne and Roland had done, but he didn't know everything.


Whatever they did has left Roland a drunken husk of a person, no woman, no kids and not nearly enough apologies from Wayne.

Wayne doesn't remember what they did. He doesn't remember his life, or his wife or what he did with Roland that ruint both their lives.

They both cry, but Roland will not be dragged back into that quagmire until Wayne begs him to stir some shite up with him. We're out. Until next time!