A Look at True Detective- Season 3, Episode 3: “The Big Never”

So just what has Roland been up to since the Purcell case first ended? Let’s find out in “The Big Never.”

The Big Never- Wayne, Roland, and federal detectives go over Purcell ransom note- HBO, True Detective

The episode begins in 1990 with Jim and Alan talking with Lieutenant Roland West. We flashback to 1980 as the detectives go over the note left at the Purcell home. They wonder if it’s possible that Julie is alive, but Roland believes that she is.

The Big Never- 1990s Roland West talks with Alan and Jim about the Purcell case- HBO, True Detective

In 1990 Roland tells Jim and Alan that the detectives worked on surveillance all day. He’s a bit fuzzy on the details, but he figures that Wayne has a better memory.

The Big Never- 2015 Wayne gets a CT scan at the doctor's office- HBO, True Detective

Is that right? Well, let’s jump ahead to 2015. At the doctor’s office, Wayne receives a CT scan and tells the doctor that nothing’s wrong with him. He believes that he knew what he was doing when he was out in the street, saying he went there for a reason that he can’t remember. Henry asks his father if he remembers driving him home…Heather drove him.

The Big Never- Doctor concerned with Wayne's health- HBO, True Detective

As for where Wayne found himself, the doctor asks if this has any significance to Wayne. And it does, as Henry discusses the interviews with Elisa Montgomery. The case was never fully solved. The doctor gets Wayne’s frustration with the disease, but Wayne is irritated that the doctor won’t even call the disease by its name. Wayne reiterates that if he gets put in a home, he’ll off himself.

The Big Never- Wayne and Amelia discuss Julie Purcell's emergence in 1990- HBO, True Detective

In 1990, Wayne and Amelia sit outside a Walgreens and discuss Julie’s sudden emergence, with Wayne saying that she needs help. Amelia proposes they go to a motel and just drink and have sex all night. That’d probably be the best idea. Amelia suggests that Wayne talk to the officers in regards to the prints, but Wayne knows that there will be obstacles.

So Amelia suggests talking herself, given that she is an author with a book about the case. She figures that she could talk to the sheriff. Wayne suggests checking in on the kids by using the pay phone, but Amelia would rather call in from the motel. Damn, Amelia really wants to go to that motel.

The Big Never- Roland and Wayne decide to talk to Ronnie Boyle and the Purcells again- HBO, True Detective

In 1980, Wayne and Roland go over the note and how they should re-examine things. As they drive, Wayne notices some kids playing in the field. They wonder whether Will and Julie Purcell lied to their parents. It’s time to talk to not just Tom and Lucy, but the Boyle kid and anyone else who could help.

The Big Never- Jim and Alan talk with Roland in 1990- HBO, True Detective

In 1990, Roland tells Jim and Alan that Wayne figured the kids were telling stories. Wayne was almost transferred to Roland’s location twice. Why bring this up?

The Big Never- Ronnie Boyle, played by Lennon Morgan, tells Wayne and Roland about his friendship with Will Purcell- HBO, True Detective

Well, let’s go back to 1980. Roland and Wayne talk with Ronnie Boyle, played by Lennon Morgan, who says the Purcells could see his new puppy. He hung out with Will a little at school, but that’s the extent of it.

The Big Never- Roland and Wayne talk with Tom and Lucy about Ronnie Boyle- HBO, True Detective

The two then talk with Lucy and Tom about Ronnie Boyle and if he ever came by the Purcell house. He never did, though. But the Purcells would normally go to his place. But it looks like they didn’t really play together. Tom just wants to know where Julie is, and Wayne assures Tom that they’re focusing on what’s personal. The detectives want to go through the children’s items, figuring that they may have overlooked something.

The Big Never- Wayne examines some items in Julie Purcell's room- HBO, True Detective

They don’t know what they’ve overlooked, but it must be there. So they start examining Will and Julie’s rooms again, though Wayne isn’t a fan of Lucy eavesdropping on him. Roland finds a map with a trail on it, while Wayne goes through a notebook and finds various messages scribbled on scraps of paper. He pockets them and looks at the bag- from Hoyt Foods- before he and Roland head off with their evidence to process.

The Big Never- Lucy tells Wayne and Roland that she used to work at Hoyt Foods- HBO, True Detective

Turns out that Lucy used to work at Hoyt Foods, though the detectives don’t explain why they need to know that particular detail.

The Big Never- Roland tells Alan and Jim that he hasn't seen Wayne that much anymore- HBO, True Detective

In 1990, Roland tells Jim and Alan that he hasn’t seen Wayne that much anymore. But there were no hard feelings between them, as far as Roland was concerned. Once they stopped working together, though, they just stopped. Sometimes it’s like that with people.

The Big Never- Wayne goes shopping with Henry and Becca in 1990- HBO, True Detective

In 1990, Wayne shops with his two kids, though he’s far too fixated on everything other than Henry and Becca.

The Big Never- Amelia talks with detectives about Julie Purcell's fingerprints- HBO, True Detective

Meanwhile, Amelia talks with a couple of detectives about the Purcell case. They show him the partial prints, saying they are definitely a match. Amelia asks if any prints were found behind the pharmacy, and they weren’t, but the store wanted to get back to business, so the officers couldn’t finish the investigation. One of the detectives offers to talk more about the case with Amelia. Over food.

The Big Never- Becca goes missing while Wayne and Henry are shopping- HBO, True Detective

Back at Wal-Mart, Wayne continues shopping with his kids, but all of a sudden, Wayne and Henry notice that Becca is missing. Minutes pass with Wayne suggesting that the store go on lockdown.

The Big Never- Becca returns to Wayne after wandering off- HBO, True Detective

He even flashes his badge to get the store guards to listen to him, but then Becca pops up out of nowhere. Turns out that she wanted some chips. Wayne rages at his daughter, but he soon hugs her as the three leave.

The Big Never- Wayne and Roland speak with a manager at Hoyt Foods- HBO, True Detective

Back to 1990 as Roland and Wayne arrive at a Hoyt Foods factory. They speak with a manager at the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center- he tells them that they help children who need medical treatment.  The board voted to contribute to its help. Mr. Hoyt endowed the foundation after they lost their granddaughter a couple of years ago.

Wayne asks about the chicken line, based on Lucy’s past work, and then asks for names of employees at the factory. As for Mr. Hoyt, he’s been in Africa since mid-October. Roland mentions that Wayne is a bit of a hunter himself. He really likes to mention that, doesn’t he?

The Big Never- Roland gets an anonymous tip on Julie Purcell's supposed location- HBO, True Detective

So they bring their evidence back to the police department and review their evidence late into the night. They get a phone call and learn about Julie apparently being held at a snake farm in Huntsville. Sounds plausible. Roland places it on the federal detectives, who will no doubt handle this tomorrow. Apparently this lady’s dreams always come true. How about that?

All of this information is about Will’s game, the two figure. Roland isn’t seeing the bigger picture yet, except that Boyle played a lot and the other kids didn’t play with him.

The Big Never- Roland tells Jim and Alan about questions that arose during the Purcell case- HBO, True Detective

1990, Roland tells Alan and Jim that many questions arose from this case. Who gave Julie the doll? Who played the game with Will? And where did the kids go after school? After all, they were meant to be with the neighbor boy, right?

The Big Never- Wayne and Amelia talk about the poem- HBO, True Detective

So what happened next? The park was shut down except for search parties. State park is about 2500 acres. Amelia joins Wayne on the hunt as he explains the search process. She brings up his process of tracking men during the war, and he brings up her marches. It’s funny how the protests stopped once the draft ended, Wayne says. He brings up the poem and how Amelia called it “Time,” but you can’t say his name. Why?

It’s because we’re in time and of time, but you separate yourself from something when you name it. Thus, we can’t be separated from time. Wayne thought it meant was the name of God, like how the Hebrews weren’t supposed to say God’s name. Wayne then asks her out to dinner.

The Big Never- Amelia presents her new information to Wayne- HBO, True Detective

Flash forward to 1990, as Amelia presents her findings to Wayne, who is reading her book. Well, sort of, as he kept seeing his name. He asks if she’s drunk, and she only had a drink at dinner since a detective took her out to eat. But she got a lot of information of him. Julie was most definitely a customer based on the prints. Wayne confesses that he didn’t get any of the items at Wal-Mart.

The Big Never- Wayne wants Amelia to stop mentioning his name in her book- HBO, True Detective

The kids are fine, and Wayne is fine, but he doesn’t want Amelia to continue mentioning his name. He tosses the book away and suggests that Amelia check on the kids. Though Amelia reminds Wayne that she sees the kids way more than he does, Wayne has said his peace.

Well, I’m glad that Wayne and Amelia remained such a loving couple…

The Big Never- Wayne finds the spot where Will was killed- HBO, True Detective

In 1980, as the search continues, Wayne happens upon some D&D dice. Upon further exploration in the woods, he finds a bag with some toys inside. He explores further and spots blood on some nearby rocks. He eventually ends up on the road and later tells Roland that this is where the boy died. Somebody carried him to the cave. Officers checked the field reports- no one talked to their next person of interest.

The Big Never- Roland and Wayne talk with a person of interest about the Purcell case- HBO, True Detective

This person tells the detectives that he already spoke to a detective- a white guy in a suit who had a badge. He asked if the man had seen anything about the kids. He said that he saw the kids come down his road two or three times in the afternoon, as well as a nice looking brown car with a man and woman. But it wasn’t the same day. A black man and a white woman, in fact.

Most times, people come out to this location. On, and the man does mind if the detectives search his place, so he asks for a warrant. And he refers to Wayne as son.

The Big Never- Elisa Montgomery tells 2015 Wayne that some people were never questioned by police during Purcell case- HBO, True Detective

In 2015, Elisa Montgomery asks Wayne if there were sufficient search and interviews with witnesses. It turns out that some people were apparently never questioned by the police, but they remember seeing officers go door-to-door. Wayne figures that some were overlooked. Some residents did have repeat visits by officers, and some remember a brown Sedan driving away from Devil’s Den on the day of the murder.

There’s no mention of the Sedan in the police reports. It was new and upscale- unusual for the area. And the vehicle kept driving around. Charles Sneider reported that his boy and a friend remember a black man near the cul-de-sac by Devil’s Den, but no one came to question him. None of this is mentioned in the official reports.

The Big Never- Wayne ends interview with Elisa Montgomery for the day- HBO, True Detective

Elisa figures that this alone points to flaws in the investigation. Wayne asks Elisa if they’ve found something. Henry interrupts the investigation, saying that it’s time to stop this, and Wayne agrees. This is enough…for today.

The Big Never- Wayne, Roland, and detectives go over toys found in bag- HBO, True Detective

Back to 1980, Wayne and Roland go over the items found in the bag. The toys do need to be process, but Wayne says that they need to photograph the toys first to show Tom and Lucy.

The Big Never- Brett Woodard warned by locals to stay away from the kids- HBO, True Detective

Then we revisit Brett Woodard, who finds himself chased and surrounded by a group of men who wonder why he’s lurking around the areas where the kids play. Brett reminds the men that he has kids, but the men force him out of his go-kart and tell him to stay away from the kids.

Brett is able to put up somewhat of a fight, but he’s overpowered and outnumbered. With a gun in his face, Brett is told to stay away from the kids or his life could be in danger.

The Big Never- Roland meets with Tom Purcell in 1990- HBO, True Detective

Jump ahead to 1990 as Roland meets with a reformed Tom Purcell and asks if he talked to Alan’s firm. They did approach him, yes. Roland asks if his Tom supports reopening the investigation, and Roland is aware of the fingerprints. Tom thinks about Lucy often- she apparently died two years ago. He had her body brought back from Vegas. Tom is doing well- he’s been sober for five years.

As for Wayne, he’s still on the job, but there hasn’t been a major crime in awhile. But he and Roland have lost touch. Tom tells Roland that he didn’t have to check on him. He pulled Tom out of that hole five years ago and helped him when few would. Tom then asks if Roland would pray with him.

The Big Never- Roland prays with Tom- HBO, True Detective

He does, as Tom asks God to save him from anger, resentment, judgments, and prophecies, as well as his need to control. Tom lives in God’s infinite compassion and asks for the Lord to hold him dearly and that Tom never hold too dearly to anything of this world.

The Big Never- Wayne records a message about interview with Elisa Montgomery- HBO, True Detective

In 2015, Wayne records a message to himself as he recounts today’s conversation with Elisa Montgomery, saying that he knew. Oh, and there’s a gun on Wayne’s table.

The Big Never- Vision of Amelia appears to Wayne in 2015- HBO, True Detective

He remembers Amelia’s words and begins to see an illusion of Amelia, who asks if he’s waking up to the illusion as things fall apart. At the end of all things, is Wayne waking up to what he withheld? Does he confuse reacting with feeling? Compassion with feeling? And did Wayne harden his heart against what loved him the most?

Wayne tells Amelia that he doesn’t deserve this, but it’s happening anyway. As visions of younger Henry and Becca run by, Wayne asks Amelia how much he has to lose, and Amelia responds that he must lose everything, just like everyone else. He tells Amelia that he lost Becca, but she tells him that he didn’t. At least, not the way he thinks. He’s worried about what’s left in the woods and Amelia tells him to finish it.

And like that, Amelia is gone.

The Big Never- Wayne gets a message from the lieutenant- HBO, True Detective

As we jump back to the 1980s, Wayne arrives at work when he learns that he’s got a message- the lieutenant wants to meet with him. Seems that Wayne is moving up in the world.

The Big Never- Brett gets something from his home- HBO, True Detective

After his beating, Brett goes home to retrieve an item that he has covered in a bag. It’s difficult to determine what it is, but based on how Brett is carrying it, this looks like it could be a body. Or a weapon. I’m not really sure, to be honest.

The Big Never- Roland shows Tom and Lucy the photos of the toys found in the woods- HBO, True Detective

Roland shows photos of the items from the backpack to Tom and Lucy, and neither of them recognize anything shown. It looks like the kids had a play area in the woods. And the toys had Will’s prints on them, as well as another set of prints and straw dolls.

The Big Never- Wayne and Roland ask Tom where one of the photos in the album is from- HBO, True Detective

Wayne, meanwhile, goes over a baby album and shows Roland that one of the photos is reminiscent of how Will was found in the woods dead with his hands folded. As Wayne shows the parents the photo, it’s revealed that this photo is from Will’s first communion when he was 10 years old.

The Big Never- Roland meets up with Wayne in a bar in 1990- HBO, True Detective

Then we go to 1990 as Roland meets up with Purple Hays in a bar in the middle of drinks. Wayne and Roland reunite and catch up as Roland mentions that he’s in charge of a new task force. Unlike others, Roland lacked a big mouth. With affirmative action, Wayne could’ve been Roland’s boss. Roland asks Wayne if he feels like being a detective again, because they were good at that.

The state is reopening the Purcell case and wants Roland to lead it. Roland then asks Wayne point blank if he wants to get back to work or not. As Wayne apologizes about the pigmentation line, Roland responds that he’s not. The two reunite as they set to work on this case once more.

While we don’t see the two kids after the premiere, the disappearance of Will and Julie is enough to get the ball rolling not just with the investigation, but also what happened in the years to come. Again, the multiple timelines help us fill in the blanks with what happens over the three periods. But as the investigation continues, it shines a light on apparent problems that arose.

The Big Never- Roland puts a note on the board- HBO, True Detective

What exactly did the detectives overlook in 1980? Given how thorough Wayne is in his investigative work, it’s baffling that he could possibly overlook something. He’s uncovering things that no other detectives have. But by 2015, we learn about massive oversights, details overlooked, and information withheld. Surely the detectives wouldn’t just overlook a key detail for the sake of closing the case.

The Big Never- Roland and Wayne speak with Tom and Lucy- HBO, True Detective

Given how involved Roland and Wayne are and how they leave no stone unturned, it’s interesting to learn about details like people not being interviewed. But then again, it could be the result of federal oversight. After all, Wayne and Roland proposed interviewing the locals, even without a warrant, under the assumption that they would cooperate. The feds thought otherwise.

So perhaps some matters of the case simply were out of Wayne and Roland’s hands. It’s interesting to think about whether this may have led to the two drifting apart. As Roland explained that when they didn’t have a case anymore, things just stopped. It’s just like that with people, but at the very least it’s good to know that they didn’t end on good terms.

The Big Never- Roland and Wayne reunite in 1990- HBO, True Detective

Seeing the two of them meet up again in 1990 and prepare to work on the case yet again was a great way to end the episode.

The Big Never- Amelia and Wayne talk about the poem- HBO, True Detective

I wish I could say the same about Wayne and Amelia’s relationship. It’s interesting to see how things started off on good terms when the two first got to know each other. Despite their differences, they bonded on a deep level and both worked to help one another in furthering the progress on the investigation.

The Big Never- Amelia and Wayne argue- HBO, True Detective

But by 1990, that love isn’t there. At least, not completely. While the scene outside the Walgreens was fun to watch, it became clear that Wayne didn’t like Amelia putting his name out there in her book. Perhaps he’d just moved on with the investigation and didn’t want to be reminded of it.

The Big Never- Wayne yells at Becca for wandering off- HBO, True Detective

We saw last time how deep into his thoughts he became, so perhaps he just grew more and more distant from his family. He hardly paid attention to Henry and Becca when they went shopping, and when Becca went missing, Wayne went from Dad to cop. Once she reappeared, though, Wayne’s instinct was to lash out, but he soon became the father again.

The Big Never- Amelia tells Wayne that he has everything to lose- HBO, True Detective

Wayne said in the premiere that he couldn’t see himself putting a woman and children through a relationship with him. That seems to be paying off here as we see how strained the family bonds become. By 2015, Amelia is haunting Wayne and telling him that, like everyone else, he must lose everything. But what is there to lose?

The Big Never- Gun on Wayne's desk in 2015- HBO, True Detective

His memory is already going, and that gun on his desk was not just for show. If it had no importance, we wouldn’t need to see it. So I’m of the opinion that the gun will be used at some point.

The Big Never- Brett ambushed by men- HBO, True Detective

Damn it, though, I’m also wondering what Brett Woodard will do now. It was established that the locals don’t care for him, and now they’re taking out their frustration on him under the assumption that he’s eyeing the children. Sure, Brett rides around in his cart, but there’s nothing to imply that he has a special interest in kids. As we learned in the last episode, he has children of his own.

He’s a victim of the underlying hatred that people have towards him. His status as a veteran doesn’t matter any more than Wayne’s status as a detective to the officers who aren’t used to taking orders from a person of color. So now I’m left wondering what he’ll do now. If he goes postal, things could go even further south.

The Big Never- Tom and Lucy tell Wayne and Roland about the album- HBO, True Detective

It would’ve been easy for the investigation and show to phase Tom and Lucy out of the story since this is about the search. But I’m glad they remain a constant not just to help fill in missing blanks, but for them to provide extra details on things like the communion photo. The two were at odds when we first met them, but this seems to have united them with the common goal of just finding their daughter.

The Big Never- Tom asks Roland to pray with him- HBO, True Detective

Plus, it’s very nice that Tom managed to reform himself years later. While we don’t know the details surrounding Lucy’s death, Tom has put away the alcohol and found Christ. Like Wayne and Roland, the knowledge that Julie is alive has given him some hope. Also, like the detectives, hopefully he can play a part in this search once more.

Hopefully Wayne and Roland can cover new ground in 1990. But just what other potential missing details are there? Could someone close to Will have killed him, given how his body was found in a similar way to the communion photo? Is Wayne’s memory in further danger in 2015? Here’s hoping we get some answers to this. See you next week.

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