Hi and welcome back to True Detective for the last time this year; sorry I'm late but I caught a bunch of the Academy Awards (yay Olivia Colman!) and it knocked me out of TV and celebrity in general for a bit. PLUS
I've been packing for a trip to meet my fellow recapper, the awesomesauce BeckyMaeCray! Wooooooooo!!!
Okay, let's get to the showwwww. This is the season finale of True Detective where everyone muddy will become clear and they'll probably throw a bunch of swerves at us just to watch us contort. Guaranteed we'll have at least one new time period. Onward!
Quick setup for the unitiated (oh no, baby, you need to go back to the beginning, I'm going to spoil the whole show for you in two sentences!), we have been bouncing between separate and defined eras:
- 1980, when Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and Detective Roland West (Stephen Dorff) were assigned to the case of the missing Purcell children: Will and Julie. Will was found dead, Julie presumed the same and a local trashman Vietnam vet Brett Woodard convicted of both crimes
- 1990 is next, Purcell case is re-opened when evidence of Julie being alive surfaces (fingerprints), ending in some murky paternity questions and the suicide (totally murder) of the Purcell patriarch Tom (Scoot McNairy). The police decide to again pin the case on a conveniently dead man.
- 2015 is the closest to the present, Wayne is retired and fighting a degenerative brain disease (dementia or Alzheimer's, I don't believe they specify) while reliving the case for an investigative journalist TV show. They have all kinds of evidence that Wayne didn't have BUT IF THIS ENDS UP IN THE RIDICULOUSLY UNLIKELY ENDING THEY ARE PITCHING LIKE SEASON ONE I WILL RIOT
We open in...1995? I tell time by Wayne's hair and he's got just that touch of grey going on. His wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo), who wrote a book about the case, is back teaching and they look strangely happy. Usually they're either humping or fighting, or fighting then humping or some combination thereof. It's exhausting to watch.
And then we're back in 1990 where we left off last episode which is odd in its convenience. Wayne had just gotten into the car of the local millionaire, Edward Hoyt (Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead! I loooove his voice, I wonder why I didn't recognise it?) after some threatening talk.
Quick recap of that: the Purcell matriarch Lucy (Mamie Gummer) was thought to be responsible for the weird note delivered to the house after the kids went missing; I think she gave Julie to her daddy Hoyt who unintentionally killed Will along the way. Hoyt's head of security Harris James (Scott Shepherd) has just killed Tom Purcell, after all, which he didn't get a chance to confess to before detectives Wayne and Roland murdered him kinda by accident. Hoyt was suspected of also killing Lucy for Hoyt, but again: super difficult to get confirmation or a confession out of a guy you just shot.
Back to 1990! Hoyt takes Wayne for a walk in the woods to talk about being a soldier; Wayne isn't in the mood for bonding, fanks. Hoyt wants to know about Harris James, Wayne deflects unconvincingly and then we're talking about Julie.
Hoyt's not dumb, though, he knows Wayne and Roland killed Harris, he wants details. Wayne does the Three Conversations Bluff (first time "no, never!", second round "well I maybe saw this one guy" until finally "okay, we might be pregnant"), but Hoyt's drinking and losing patience.
Some banter about family (now I'm thinking maybe Hoyt didn't father Julie but stole her for his sick wife) and then Hoyt pulls back a little bit more of the curtain. It seems there were cameras watching the detectives follow Harris, who was also carrying a fancy new beeper with a GPS inside.
**I call BS, nobody knew about GPS back in 1990, pfft
Some more pussyfooting around; Wayne thrusts and parries but he's holding a losing hand (**I am TERRIBLE at sports metaphors) being that Hoyt absolutely has him cold for the murder of Harris James. He throws in a sweetener by suggesting that Julie would be in danger if Wayne keeps sticking his nose in and brings up the hotline call.
How could HOYT have heard the hotline call?? It was just police who heard that, right? They didn't play that on the news, did they? No way they would have done that in an active investigation, so how did Hoyt hear it?
In 2015, elderly Wayne and Roland are pumping Harris James's widow (Roxanne Hart) for information about a one-eyed black man she called Junius (Steven Williams) who wanted to know if Harris had "found the girl".
Things are heated in 1980, the case was wrapped up prematurely with the violent death of Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes), regardless of how much Wayne disagreed with it. He went so far as to encourage his then-girlfriend Amelia to write about how the conviction was false, this is what torpedoed his career. They ANGRY.
They insist he write a rebuttal for the paper, or be put on a desk or forced to resign. Roland can't believe Wayne will not sign a written essay of bullshit, but Wayne had his own code of honour. He knows he shouldn't have encouraged Amelia and given her confidential information, but if he goes back on it now, he's hanging her out to dry.
Roland wants to know: what about their relationship?
Wayne insists they'll still see each other, the first time I've seen Wayne lie unconvincingly.
Spoiler alert: they do not hang out, grab a beer, go to a game.
2015 Wayne and Roland break into the Hoyt estate, it looks as though it's gone to seed. Suppose somebody catches them, queries Wayne? "We're old and confused" says a determined Roland hahaha.
They break into the old room where Tom was last seen before he was murdered; Julie had talked about living in a "pink palace" as a kid and this room is extremely Barbie. This is where they kept Julie.
Roland can barely believe it, she was right there under their noses this whole time. Why didn't they know? Why didn't they find her? Wayne had a family to think about, Roland didn't even have that consideration.
Wayne is regrouping in 1990 after his meeting with Hoyt, Amelia comes to join him and ask him what the fuck? She saw him burning his suit at 3 am (covered in Harris James's blood) and then with his disappearance in the morning: is there someone else?
He explains that it's the case; it's always been the case and that is as much as he wants to explain about burning a bloody suit at 3 in the morning. Amelia wants this to be a joint decision, he demurs.
I love how surprisingly straightforward Wayne is about his feelings in his marriage; he has done things he's regretted (like promising to tell her everything) because she wanted him to and he wanted her approval. He'd like to stop doing that moving forward.
She's not sure she wants to move forward, though, what kind of relationship can there be with this big secret? She's so scarily manipulative so Imma try to focus on the story but I can't promise anything. Wayne suggests they already have one huge secret that's a part of their life together: "a dead boy and a missing girl."
As always, Amelia comes close to the edge of an ultimatum and backs away after unsettling Wayne completely.
In 1990 Roland makes himself feel better getting beaten up by a bunch of bikers, it must be exhausting having all that testosteroni floating around. A stray dog befriends him in the parking lot and Roland finally gets the cuddle he's been needing the whole time.
Wayne and Amelia come to an understanding, they've been consumed by this case for too long. They'll put it down, quit both their jobs and find a new way to be together without riding shotgun to the Purcell case.
In 2015 the fellas head to see the long-awaited Junius Watts. They greet him with guns drawn, try not to kill this guy before you find out what happened!
It was Junius that has been watching Wayne; I guess that vignette with Roland getting the license plate number was real, even if it cut away to not-real right after.
We're not finding anything out yet, we switch back to 1980 as Wayne learns the Public Information ropes. Basically that seems to be sitting in a room full of typing women and counting minutes until home time.
Junius starts: he's been with the Hoyts since their first chicken farm until he lost his eye on a hook. Junius was moved to the house to help look after Hoyt's daughter Isabel, who lost her husband and son in a tragic automobile accident. She had a hard time dealing, like you would, and eventually smashed up her car. Harris James was the patrolman on duty, helping the family by covering it up.
Then one day Isabel (Lauren Sweetser) saw Julie at a company party and was convinced that was her dead daughter Mary. Junius made a deal with Julie's mom Lucy for Julie and Will to play with Isabel (that's totally not creepy) with Junius (oh even better) and then Isabel asked to adopt her.
Sometime along that time, Isabel stopped taking her medication and slipped fully into the illusion that Julie was actually her departed daughter Mary. When Will tried to save Julie out in the woods, Isabel pushed him and he hit his head on a rock and died.
Junius said they left Will, but we know that Will was posed like his first Communion picture, what are the odds of Junius knowing that? Slim and ZERO.
He also exonerated Hoyt, he didn't know anything about it being as he was away on safari.
Harris James helped the family again by planting evidence in Brett Woodard's house, Julie's mom Lucy took a lot of money and Julie went off calmly to live with Isabel in the pink palace. It went well for a couple of years, especially since Isabel started feeding Julie Lithium when she was 10.
Junius helped Julie run away when she was grown, which led to Isabel committing suicide.
Wayne and Roland track Julie to a convent, where they find the story of a happy young woman named Mary July who died of HIV some years before. Junius kept looking for her, he drew her a map but she never turned up.
Why would Wayne and Roland threaten Junius now? Guns on the table, then they don't take him in. They don't have the authority. They walk away as Junius begs them to punish him, he can't live with this any more. Roland suggests maybe he doesn't, but they're not going to do it for him.
Roland and Wayne stand at Julie's gravesite, Roland telling Julie who she was and Wayne taking personal responsibility for having failed her.
A little girl named Lucy is playing around the convent, we getta see her and her dad quite a bit. Lucy, huh? Did Julie have a daughter?
Back at Wayne's house, the detectives pack up the case files and wonder if this is what closure feels like. Roland will be staying with Wayne a bit, that's much safer. But he's not coming until tomorrow, will Wayne make it through the night? I don't know.
But we're not done yet!
Back in 1980, a confused Amelia wants to know why Wayne's doing the 70s version of ghosting. He's gathered up all her things and tells her to get out of his house if she doesn't like his attitude. And he's not the asshole! He goes on full offensive and
Oh great, more fighting then humping.
Minus the humping.
I can't even tell you how much I wish they HAD ended things right then back in 1980.
In 2015 Wayne picks up Amelia's book about the case, reading the part where she talks about Mike Ardoin, who always thought he would marry Julie when he grew up.
HEY. Lucy from the convent, her dad's name was Mike! It was on his shirt!
Amelia appears to confuse Wayne, walking him down the path I just figured out my own self. What if Julie is alive and the nuns were covering for her with the fake story of her death?
Wayne calls Information and sets off to see Mike, but where's your partner, brosef?? He drives out to Julie's house but forgets where he is as soon as he gets there. In a panic, he calls his son Henry (Ray Fisher) who tells him to ask someone where he is. Julie (Lena McCarthy) is outside with her daughter and helps him out, inviting him to wait in her yard and have a cup of water.
So. Wayne has found Julie but it's locked in the vault of his disintegrating mind, a secret from himself.
Henry shows up to rescue his dad, Henry's sister Becca (Deborah Ayorindae) with him. They've been estranged, but they're healing.
Back at the house, Henry pockets Julie's address as Roland pulls up outside for dinner. Wayne watches his grandkids ride their bikes in the street and flashes back to
HOW IS THIS STILL GOING
drinking heavily in 1980 while a forgiving Amelia slinks into the bar. She wants to know if he meant it, does he really want to stop?
**I would really like this to stop.
He stammers out a proposal instead, she likes the sound of that but he looks tortured. Now he's stuck with her and this life and she's doing nothing but running game. And game.
We're in the jungle with a young Wayne (he only joined so his mama would get his death benefit if he died) and we're out and done season three of True Detective.
Well. Let's talk about how unsatisfying all of that was. We got answers, yep, two sets of 'em! And so much time with that incredibly dysfunctional relationship. I don't need a saccharine romance, but I'd sooner watch anything with Jennifer Lopez or Mel Gibson than another minute of those two together. I get it, we found out what happened and it was even kind of a happy ending, but there were so many bloody holes and red herrings.
Like Julie's parentage; was Tom the father or not? What happened to creepy cousin Dan? Was it all Harris James killing everyone at the behest of Hoyt? And what about the posing of Will's body, Junius just accidentally happened to mirror exactly the same pose Will used for his Communion picture? Come onnnnnnnn. Unsatisfying.
Although. We could look at it like this: Wayne sacrificed finding out where Julie was to protect his family, not that he could make any other choice given his involvement in the murder of Harris James. The murder of Harris James: the ultimate downfall of both Wayne and Roland, the natural outcome given their repeated illegal and unnecessary use of excessive force. So how good were these guys as detectives if their go-to was threats of racially motivated male-on-male rape with a sprinkling of punching someone in the face? Corrupt, morally or otherwise, everyone fatally flawed from within. But still people, and we still care, given how much time I just spent yik-yakking about it, never mind waking up thinking about it.
So maybe it's okay to know that Julie is safe and happy, even if we're the only ones that will remember. Maybe it's okay that we have no idea what happened to Amelia, or Hoyt, or that Brett Woodard died for NOTHING (not okay).
Excellent performances, Mahershala Ali continuing to show why he's the It Man of the moment right now and Stephen Dorff reminding me of his deft touch with humour. Carmen Ejogo was perfect as the educated, befuddling and manipulative partner to our conflicted protagonist; she's difficult to look at directly as she's blindingly beautiful.
Until next time, everyone, thanks for following along on this season of True Detective, cheers!