True Detective Season Three will return…right now!
The episode begins on a rainy day in 1980 with the detectives canvassing the area in search of Julie. Wayne and Roland later leave the coroner’s office and learn that Will died from blunt force trauma and a cervical fracture. At the same time, Wayne explains this to Alan and Jim in 1990 as their discussion continues. Someone broke Will’s neck, brought him to the cave, and folded his hands, just as Wayne found him.
He asks Wayne about the Oklahoma situation and Julie’s whereabouts? How many sets of prints were taken? Are officers sure she was a robber and not just a customer? Plus, if officers had Julie in custody, they wouldn’t be talking to Wayne right now. Jim jumps in and reminds Wayne that he can’t divulge any information from an ongoing investigation. Nor can they share items to anyone other than the prosecutor’s office.
Either way, Alan promises Wayne that once he finishes for today, the two of them will talk afterward. With that said, what happened next?
Right, so Wayne and Roland went to Tom’s place of work: Wilson Body Works. They made parts for school buses. Among everyone from West Finger that they spoke to, no one had an idea about the origin of the straw dolls.
They even spoke with Mr. Brett Woodard, played by Michael Greyeyes, who tells the detectives that he saw the kids headed west. As for his home situation, he explains to the two that he salvages trash that he can sell. Before all this, though, he came back from overseas in 1972 and took up some work in carpentry. His marriage didn’t end up working out, though.
Woodard is glad to hear that Wayne also spent some time as a soldier- was called Purple Hays over there, too. Woodard does miss having a family. He’s surprised to hear that Wayne would volunteer to serve, but Wayne doesn’t give it much thought anymore. Woodard explains that he’s not a burnout type of soldier who comes back and causes problems. He pays his way.
That much Wayne understands. He’s got a job, too. To be honest, he doesn’t have much of a life. So why punch in, Clark asks? Wayne doesn’t ask himself questions like that. Could be that he’s too chicken-shit to do so. Though Woodard knows that this isn’t his world, he admits that he became proficient at following orders. He misses when “don’t get killed” was the only thing on his to-do list. It’s hard to unplug from that.
Roland asks if Brett if he likes kids, but then how in the world do you answer a question like that? Plus, Brett has two kids of his own, but his wife won’t tell him where they are. He believes that if he hadn’t left, they kids would’ve been fine. But to enlist and then come back, he couldn’t put himself back in that same story. He asks if the detectives have ever been a place where you couldn’t leave, but couldn’t stay at the same time.
In 2015, Wayne and Henry looking at what’s left of the the West Finger Community Center, with Henry asking his father if he remembers the place. After a moment, Wayne confirms to his son that he does remember.
Back in 1980, the police assemble the public to discuss the case. Gerald Kindt tells the citizens to establish a curfew. Kids are to be in by 8 P.M. Some kids don’t go to Devil’s Den, but parents know what happens there, like bums and drugs rampant in that area. Some ask about Brett Woodard and whether Julie is still alive, but the officers can’t discuss the situation in detail just yet.
Wayne and Roland pass out a pair of Xeroxes: one of Julie Purcell and another of Will’s backpack. In 1990, Wayne tells the Alan and Jim that Kindt, now State Attorney General and Alan’s old boss, was very vocal during the investigation. But Wayne and Roland didn’t work for him.
In 1980, Wayne and Roland talk with a younger Alan about how Will’s broken neck has been cleared. Though the mystery of the dolls is still up in the air. Alan asks Wayne what vibe he’s getting, and he feels that the people are worried. Maybe it was a neighbor that killed Will, but that could be his redneck radar.
He goes to Amelia, who tells him that the kids at school are feeling pretty scared. He hands her a flier with one of figurines that he found in the woods. She believes it’s something that would be found in a craft store, but she’s never seen the kids with anything like that. Since she can keep the flier, she’ll ask around. Amelia then heads off for the night.
In 2015, Henry tells his father that they’ve spent enough time with this. On the drive back, Wayne explains that he often has trouble seeing and remembering Amelia. He knows who she is, but he’s having trouble piecing together certain parts of their lives. Henry wonders if his mother would want Wayne to keep doing this, but going over the case apparently helps him remember things.
Then Wayne asks when’s the last time he saw Henry’s sister, Rebecca. The last time was at Amelia’s funeral, and then maybe on a the phone a few months back. Henry asks if his father wants to keep talking to that reporter, but Wayne wants to know what she knows. Henry, though, believes this is all a ruse. To him, Elisa Montgomery doesn’t genuinely care about the case- she just wants people to watch her shitty show.
Plus, Amelia would want Wayne to move on. But then, the two of them always did have different ideas.
Back in 1980, Wayne and Roland are introduced to Special Agents Burt Diller and John Bowen. See, the feds are going to take the lead with the kidnapping, even though this will apparently also be a task force with a common goal. Everybody shares everything. As for going forward, there’s a multi-state APB on Julie Purcell.
Then Wayne and Roland head to Will’s funeral and speak with Dan O’Brien, played by Michael Graziadei, who admits that yes, he left a few magazines behind. He doesn’t recall seeing anyone out of the ordinary talk to Will or Julie. The kids kept to themselves, even though things were often tense between Tom and Lucy.
Dan was close to the kids, but they didn’t see him often before he stayed. Dan thinks that Tom is an alright guy, but he feels sorry for him. He believes that Lucy always needed a strong male. Dan won’t be in town for long. Though the family could use him around, he’s needed back at work and couldn’t get the time off anyway.
Then the detectives ask Dan about his alibi. While a neighbor probably can’t vouch for him, he instructs them to check into the Starlight Bar in Springfield. He had a few drinks and then went home to go watch CHiPs. He’s open, albeit a bit snippy, with allowing the detectives to search his home, but he’d rather they get back to looking for Julie.
Later, the detectives speak with some Tom’s parents who figure that the children are lost. They haven’t even spoken to them since last Christmas. Mom believes that Lucy doesn’t like them and goes as far as saying that Lucy runs around on him. Before Mom can start speculating that Julie isn’t even Tom’s child, Tom himself comes out and orders the questioning to stop.
Okay, back to 2015, as Elisa Montgomery shows Wayne a series of true crime blogs. Well, at least they aren’t podcasts. And fun fact: at various times since, large-scale pedophile rings connected to people of influence were uncovered in the surrounding areas. Take the Franklin scandal, for example: it’s theorized that the straw dolls are a sign of pedophile groups, like the Crooked Spiral. Wayne doesn’t agree with that.
Side-note, did she just say Crooked Spiral?
Anyway, Montgomery then asks Wayne if, with what happened in 1990 and him leaving the force, his leads and theories were ever discounted because of his race. But Wayne never really got that vibe. Why the question? Because Montgomery is interested in the intersectionality of marginalized groups within authoritarian and systemic racist structures.
Okay, back to the dolls. They were a significant lead, yes? Well, Wayne attributes that to Amelia’s help.
Back to 1980, Amelia shows the kids the photo of the dolls when she spots two of the teens getting rough with another. Amelia then asks one kid, Mike Ardoin, played by Corbin Pitts, if he’s seen the doll, and he has. At Halloween. Someone was passing them out, and Julie got one. Mike met the brother and sister because they lived over at the next street.
Tom returns to work, though it’s evident from the moment he walks in that everyone else feels he should be at home. But Tom doesn’t want to just sit at home with everything he’s going through right now. One employee pulls him aside and reminds Tom that he’s on leave, but he didn’t ask for that. With everything that’s happening, his presence is disruptive. People have other things on their minds. That’s how accidents happen.
So Tom believes that in the eyes of the others, he’s the guy that no one wants to be right now. Regardless of how he feels, the others instruct Tom to not come back to work at the moment. Tom takes it a step further: he quits.
Well, that’s one way to send a message, I suppose.
Wayne and Roland speak with Mike about the dolls. Amelia asks if Mike saw Julie get the doll, and it was apparently at the end when all the kids were showing the candy they got. And they were on foot the entire time- they never drove. Oh, and Mike went as Luke Skywalker for Halloween. Kid’s got good taste.
Then Wayne asks Mike if there was a moment when the kids ever split up. Indeed, Will and Julie went to a few different houses, but Julie didn’t have the doll. They split up, yes, but not for long. Oh, and there were two ghosts in sheets. Mike has no idea who they were, though, so Wayne presents a map of the neighborhood, allowing to mark what he remembers from that night.
Following this, Wayne and Roland find Tom going for a walk and pick him up. He tells him about how he married Lucy a few months after they met. They never really knew each other, though. They just had the kids. As Tom has a drink, still torn over Julie’s disappearance, he asks the detectives if they’re going to find her. He’s having some trouble sleeping and he can’t wake up.
Over at Police HQ, Wayne and Roland share their findings with the federal agents and suggest putting the word out to the press and ask the locals if they know who makes the dolls. That would tip their hand, but they could do total surveillance at the 114 households in the marked area. Thus, they can have people search each house.
No warrants, though. It would only take two or three days and more feds could always be brought in if the public knows that they’re helping solve the Purcell case. People won’t like it, but they may still let the officers look around nonetheless.
If people act up, no one will escape the net. If the guy panics, then the officers just do it fast. Problematic at a theoretical trial, yes, but this is more about finding the girl. it could be problematic, even though this is about the girl, not the trial.
Kindt doesn’t like this. The people value their privacy property rights too much and won’t just roll over for random searches. I don’t entirely disagree with that. But in addition, bringing in the public could get the guy’s attention and cause him to flee. Or he kills Julie if he hasn’t already. Kindt disagrees with this plan, but Warren asks Roland to give them some time.
Later, Roland heads to a seedy adult shop at a truck stop station to speak with an undercover Vice cop by the name of Rich, played by Michael Papajohn, there who has been running a sting. He planned to talk with one guy, Ted LaGrange, who has past instances of…ahem, carnal knowledge and enticing of a minor.
He even asked one of the working girls if she had any younger friends and came to this shop looking for special magazines. And Ted calls himself “Robert” now. Of course he does.
Wayne, meanwhile, has a drink at a bar when Amelia joins him. He thanks her for helping with the kid, though Mike’s still broken up about it. Maybe he had a crush on her. Amelia asks why Wayne gave her the picture of the doll, but it was instinct. None of the kids talked to the detectives, after all. Given his history, Amelia figures that Wayne can look up people if he wants to know about them. So did he look her up?
Well, he thought about it. She’s local, dropped out at university, and went out west with a friend. There, she got involved with the anti-war scene. Eventually, she was alone, but she did return in 1974 to get her degree. Wayne, meanwhile, spent a lot of time in the jungle during the war. It’s why he hunts now.
After discussing his love of fictional characters like Batman and Silver Surfer and then tells Amelia that he looked up the poem that Amelia read. He read it, but he’s not ready to talk about it just yet.
Also, Wayne’s never married before. Amelia was engaged for seven months, but she realized that she didn’t want to get married. Neither does Wayne. And he might be crazy for it. He pulls out a clip-on tie and explains that he wears it because he’s preoccupied with the idea of getting strangled by one. Amelia, meanwhile, twice went to St. Louis and met new people while assuming a different identity.
On the news, Wayne sees Kindt presenting the information that he and Roland presented, with Kindt saying that, based on “their” investigation, someone saw Julie on Halloween.sharing his information, giving it away to the public.
He meets up with Roland and says that it doesn’t matter if he’s right. If Roland had said something, the feds might have listened to him. The feds aren’t Wayne’s “tribe,” so he couldn’t have stopped them. Roland’s thrown by the use of the word “tribe” and figures that Wayne is high, but Wayne is fully aware of what’s going on right now.
Roland finally shares the file on Ted LaGrange and while Wayne wants to get him now, Roland suggests that they wait until the morning.
Back to 2015, Wayne explains that the prosecuting attorney decided to take the single clue and spread it all over town. That got them a few first clues as the town panicked.
Back to 1980, Wayne explains that everyone was scared, including himself and Roland. They head to a diner and pay Ted LaGrange, played by Shawn-Caulin Young, and insists that he come with them. Why? They’ll tell him on the way.
They bring Ted to a barn and cuff him to a post so they can inquire as to why he’s going by the name “Robert” now. Well, Wayne talks, but Roland strikes. They’d like to know why Ted came all the way out here after getting released from Wrightsville. But sticking with that, Wayne asks if Ted was kept in protective custody while at Wrightsville- he was. After all, guys who mess with kids usually don’t make it out with all of their parts.
Ted apparently didn’t come home last Friday. Wayne asks why he killed Will, but Ted insists that he never even saw Will before he was on the news. Then they ask what he did last Friday- as well as his whereabouts on Halloween night- since his landlady said that he didn’t come home. When Ted doesn’t talk, Roland continues beating the hell out of him.
Following this, Wayne and Roland head to Sunshine Hills Day Care and talk with one of the employees, played by Jennifer Pierce Mathus, who knows all about “Robert” and his work at the daycare. She recalls him working last Friday and leaving that evening, but what’s this all about? Wayne and Roland instruct the employee that she will not be seeing this man anymore. And if she does, give them a call.
Jump to 1990 as Wayne and Alan discuss Julie’s prints from the robbery. As for video surveillance, the robbers smashed the camera at the pharmacy. They’ve subpoenaed the footage from three days prior, but they have to wait. Sallisaw’s officers are focusing on the robbery aspect and aren’t really a crackerjack investigative team. Arkansas police aren’t looking for Julie either, as nobody’s on the case. Yet.
Kindt’s office will eventually have to look at it because they’ll be defending the motion to overturn. Is Alan ready to take on his old boss? As far as Alan is concerned, it’s overdue. Wayne then asks if Alan’s talked to Roland, and Alan confirms that the two have an appointment. He’s been doing well.
Speaking of, we rejoin Wayne and Roland as they pull Ted out of the trunk of their car. Roland suggests executing him. No one would care. They could put him in holding, which would mean he’s violated parole and he’d get a full sentence back at Wrightsville. But if Ted talks shit about the detectives, then Wayne will…ahem, “have monstrous niggers fuck him to death in his cell.” Yes, Ted will bleed black cock.
Wayne’s words, not mine.
The two opt to catch up, given that they spent a day with Ted, though Roland will be haunted by Wayne’s vivid description of prison rape. The two receive a transmission from dispatch and learn that Lieutenant Twiggs wants them at the Purcell place. Seems the Purcells got a note.
Jump to 1990, Wayne arrives back at home and looks over the advanced proofs of Amelia’s new book. He doesn’t talk much about the deposition, though.
Jump to 2015 as Wayne discusses Amelia’s book with Ms. Montgomery. It’s as much about him and Amelia as it is about anything else. Elisa asks asks what happened after Wayne left the force and whether that ended the case. Did Wayne have theories about Julie and her father in 1990? To be truthful, Wayne never stopped coming up with theories.
We jump back to 1990 as the Hays family has dinner…well, Amelia and the kids do while Wayne is deep in his thoughts. After dinner, Amelia tells Wayne that they can issue an update for the paperback once this appeal goes to trial.
Both she and the kids notice that Wayne is a bit out of it. Amelia asks about the deposition and if the conviction will be overturned, and that’s when Wayne drops the bombshell that Julie Purcell is alive.
Jump back a decade as Wayne and Roland arrive at the Purcell home and look at the note that the Purcells received. It explains that Julie is in a safe place, but it doesn’t exactly put them at ease.
In 2015, Wayne and Henry dine with Heather as Wayne discusses how the case is racking his brain. He couldn’t stand how he was in so much of Amelia’s book. Wayne would like to see Rebecca, but she’s playing music out in Los Angeles. Heather did talk to her a few weeks ago, though. As for why she hasn’t visited, she just never really liked this area.
Later, still in 2015, Wayne suddenly finds himself at the intersection of Shoepick and Briarwood. He eyes the remains of a burned out building as the episode comes to a close.
Again, the slow burn of this season so far has made for some compelling storytelling with this season of True Detective as the Purcell case continues to unravel. But let’s start with the bombshell at the end of the premiere.
So, at least in the 1990s, Wayne learns that Julie Purcell is alive. As such, he’s desperate for any and all information, but the local police don’t share his enthusiasm. A case from over 10 years ago probably wouldn’t entice the same emotional reaction from everyone, but like Will’s death, Julie’s disappearance stayed with Wayne throughout his life and even into 2015.
We see how he’s maintained his bond with Alan and now they’re both willing to go against Kindt. This episode does a good job at showing the divide between local and national forces. Wayne and Roland would probably solve this case on their own if given the time, but now they’ve got federal agents coming in and encroaching on their territory.
They say it’s a group effort, but they also stonewall Wayne and Roland’s path. More than that, they take the information and present it to the press as their own. Even though they’re all working towards the same goal of finding Julie, Wayne and Roland feel a bit frozen out in the process.
This is where we get a bit of the racial undertones hinted at in the premiere. While not outright stated, it’s very evident that Wayne is an outsider even as an officer. The officers in the premiere don’t seem to take kindly to being given orders by a person of color. And when Wayne tells Roland that the other officers are a part of Roland’s “tribe,” he points out that they will listen to Roland in a way that they won’t with Wayne.
Like when Amelia talked about growing up in this town, all talk of race relations are underplayed. A lesser show would just throw it in your face, but True Detective hints at the racial angles without shining a direct light on it for the audience.
I said before that Elisa Montgomery’s work could just be an episode of Cold Case, and in this episode we see how the world has glamorized cases like this one. Connecting this to pedophile rings is something that Wayne doesn’t agree with, but the episode points out in flashbacks that these blogs weren’t too far off with their hunches.
After all, Ted LaGrange did some pretty slimy things and while there’s nothing tying him to what happened to Will and Julie, it did highlight how theorists try to connect A to B when discussing criminal cases.
It’s nice to see the origin of Amelia and Wayne’s friendship. Their conversation about their two upbringings felt genuine and showed how different they were, but that this would ultimately draw them together in the end. In a way, they’re both free spirits. Amelia got a bit radicalized when she went out west, and Wayne by nature seems to prefer charting his own path instead of taking orders.
That ties into Brett Woodard’s story of how he only became good at following orders. But coming back to a normal life and settling down with his family was too hard. It’s a no-win situation. He asked the detectives if they’ve ever been in a place where they couldn’t leave, but also couldn’t stay. It sounds like a dream or, worse, a nightmare- and a nightmare is exactly what’s left the town panicking.
Again, the nonlinear storytelling is a great way to fill in the blanks, but it also sets up some interesting plot points that are hopefully addressed down the line. What did lead to Wayne leaving the force in 1990? Was there a falling out between him and Roland? Will Tom’s sadness send him into a downward spiral and cause him to do something that he’ll regret?
How does Amelia react to the revelation of Julie being alive in 1990? If Julie is indeed alive, then what ultimately happened with the case in 1980? And did you catch that “Crooked Spiral” name drop? Remind you of something?
There’s a lot to unpack with these two episodes of True Detective, but so far, the pacing and storytelling are top notch and definitely reminiscent of Season One. We’ll see how everything continues to unfold as we head into episode three. See you then.