Ghosts can’t haunt you unless you let them. Hopefully.
The episode begins in 1990 with Roland and Wayne in a meeting with other detectives. Roland tells the detectives that they’re putting an APB on Julie Purcell, but keeping the public out of it. That could hurt them if Julie doesn’t want to be found. Like Wayne said, someone else might be looking for her. They’re sending a flier of her to Oklahoma and Missouri state police, but the other detectives doubt this is Julie.
One detective suggests showing it to Tom Purcell, but he wouldn’t know what his daughter looks like right now. He could make this woman into his Julie even if she’s not. This sort of news would probably just hurt Tom, and Roland won’t do that. So as of now, they don’t know it’s her. If they find her, then they can ask.
Then one of the detectives presents a file from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department. It’s about Lucy’s death: she died on August 12, 1988 and was found by housekeeping at a motel in Nevada, where she’d been staying for three weeks until she overdosed. Fuck, that’s depressing. As for Dan O’Brien, no luck on him yet.
He did about nine months in Missouri Correctional for bad checks, but he dropped off the map in 1987 after ending up in Vegas. That brings us back to Lucy. Another detectives starts reading reports from what former residents said. It’s worth nothing that apparently one resident was interviewed by a detective in plain clothes, but there’s no record of that interview.
Then, out of nowhere, Tom Purcell enters the room and identifies Lucy in her photo. Roland and Wayne escort him out, but Tom is quickly apologetic. He asks if that room in the photo is where Lucy stayed. It turns out that someone wanted Tom to make a statement to the press, so he asks Roland if there’s any news.
He then asks about the girl in the black-and-white photo, prompting Wayne to show him the surveillance footage photo and ask if he recognizes her. When Tom asks if this is indeed Julie, Roland orders Wayne back in the squad room. He then takes the flier from Tom and tells him to go home, saying that he’ll give him a call later. Still, Tom wants to know if that’s what Julie looks like right now.
As Wayne looks over some photos from the Brett Woodard altercation, we jump back to where the previous episode ended, with a group of men ready to break into Woodard’s home. When one of the men kicks in the door, it triggers an explosion that knocks the men off of their feet.
A shootout commences, with Brett taking shots at both the men and other approaching officers. When another bomb is triggered and knocks some men off of their feet, one of them manages to get a shot that nails Roland in his leg.
Wayne confronts Brett before he can shoot Roland. Brett admits that he had Wayne in his sights. He doesn’t miss unless he means to miss. Well, isn’t that comforting? Also, Brett is aware that he would’ve been fully within his rights to defend himself, but that changed when he took out those cops. Wayne promises that there are veterans’ affairs programs that can help this work in Brett’s favor, but therein lies the problem.
Brett doesn’t want this to work in his favor. Wayne realizes that Brett is putting this on him, but as Brett says, nobody made him take the job. Brett will count to three in his head, and on three, he promises to kill Wayne. When he does, just as Brett turns, Wayne is forced so shoot Brett in the head, killing him. Officers arrive on the scene as we jump back to 1990.
There, Tom Purcell speaks to the press and asks that if Julie can hear him, please call him or the police. He apologizes for letting the years go by, but he just wants to be sure that she’s okay. If anyone has any information, he asks them to come forward, as the police have a hotline. More than that, there will be a reward. Right now, Tom just wants his daughter back.
One reporter asks if Tom now believes that Brett Woodard was innocent. Tom isn’t sure about that. For so long, he thought his daughter was gone, and now she’s back. That’s all that matters to Tom right now.
As Roland escorts Tom away, Gerald Kindt takes the stage. A reporter asks about the petition to have the original conviction overturned. Julie Purcell’s sudden reemergence doesn’t change the state’s conclusion, though, which is that Brett Woodard murdered Will Purcell and kidnapped Julie. What he may have done with her, they can’t know.
By the way, Jim and Alan are also at this press conference. Alan speaks up, saying that David and Josie Woodard want their father’s name cleared. They all understand the violence that Brett committed, but they view it as the actions of a man persecuted by the violence of others. Not only is he innocent, but his posthumous conviction was fraudulent.
This isn’t a mandate against Kindt, but against a lack of due process that allows something like this to even happen.
Alan then goes over to Wayne, who wants to know where all this bravado was in 1980. This is out of line, yes, but Alan says that the press is the only kind of language that Kindt understands. Wayne right now wants Alan to consider how Tom Purcell is feeling. He then asks if those people with him and Jim really are Brett Woodard’s kids.
They are, but more than that, they know just who Wayne is. But Wayne doesn’t need this on his conscience.
Following this, Wayne and Roland pay a visit to an older Freddy Burns, who tells the two that he saw Brett Woodard, but he was heading away from Devil’s Den, while Will and Julie headed towards it. That doesn’t mean much, Roland says, since Brett could’ve doubled back. Freddy remembers seeing Wayne in the paper as the man who killed Brett, but the detectives turn the story back to the Purcell case.
If Freddy saw Will on his own, where was Julie? Freddy doesn’t know. He remembers seeing a nervous Will who didn’t know where “they” went. The two ask if Will said “they” specifically, but Freddy grows antsier. He berates the two for not being good at their job and coming back to pin this on him. He calls Wayne a “black motherfucker,” saying that if there’s something Wayne can do to him, he should look at Freddy’s life right now.
Roland diffuses the situation, saying that they only need Freddy to remember what happened. More than that, Wayne believes that Freddy might be in his current state of affairs because he likes bullying people smaller than him. Roland ends the questioning and leaves one of his cards with Freddy, who still remembers Wayne’s vivid threat of ass-rape in prison. To be fair, that was a rather graphic description.
On the road, Burns’ words have stuck with Wayne, who finds it difficult to believe that a White man in America could possibly have a hard life. Freddy did verify Brett’s location, but that doesn’t mean much. However, the “they” makes Roland believe that they need to figure out just who Will and Julie were meeting in the woods.
More than that, he suggests running the unknown prints on the toys found, as there was no database in 1980. Wayne, though, is still fixated on Freddy. When he was Freddy’s age during their first encounter, he was in the jungle. The jungle, folks! In essence, he thinks that generation is a bunch of pussies.
The two interview a person of interest and show him the surveillance photo, as he recognized the woman. They had a good thing going on, but she didn’t stay long. She identified herself as Mary July, but she never got close to this guy. He found her nutty, as she shared stories about being a secret princess from the pink rooms. No idea on where she is. This guy tried talking to working girls, but many of them ended up tricking.
He never saw her do drugs, but based on her stories, it certainly sounds like she did. However, she mentioned that she had lost a brother. This gets Wayne and Roland’s attention. Apparently the two were separated when she was young, but no one could pin down if it seemed like Mary July was running from somebody. Wayne and Roland ask for names, all while letting the man know that they’re not in trouble.
Based on this information, Roland isn’t sure that this is Julie, but with the description of a missing brother, Wayne is confident that this has to be her. Until they find her, this is Julie as far as he’s concerned.
We cut to 2015 as Wayne tells Elisa Montgomery that he and Roland questioned many people, but either nobody knew or no one was speaking up. Elisa asks if Wayne was aware that Harris James, the man who processed the Brett Woodard case, went missing in 1990 during the second investigation.
She shows a photo, and Wayne has no idea about who this is, but the field statements says that Wayne talked to him in ’90. A lot of people around this case are either dead or missing. Wayne knows that. Most people he knows are dead.
We jump back to 1990 as Wayne and Amelia visit the Foxhood suburbs to dine with Roland and Lori. You remember her from the church scene last time, right? Anyway, they got this home after Roland’s promotion. Now, instead of calling for someone to fix some shit, he has to fix that shit. The two couples reminisce on their first encounters, though it turns out that Lori and Roland were on and off.
Then Amelia, for whatever reason, asks how the case is going, given that she saw Tom Purcell on television. Wayne doesn’t want to discuss it, but Roland doesn’t have much of a problem. He mentions the runaway, but Wayne kills the conversation. He can’t quite kill Amelia’s curiosity, given her book, which comes out next week. At the very least, Lori would like to read it. Amelia offered to bring a copy, but Wayne shot that down.
He tries to shift the conversation to Lori’s upbringing- she studied poultry science. Huh. There’s a major for everything, isn’t there? There is an ugly amount of tension between Amelia and Wayne that flares up, causing Amelia to excuse herself from the table.
Following this tense scene, we jump back to 2015 as Wayne reads through a portion in Amelia’s book about how grief can be indistinguishable from madness. There wasn’t much laughter in this home, but children should laugh. This strikes inspiration in Wayne, as he digs out the old ransom note, which also says that children should laugh. He says aloud that he should’ve read the book a long time ago.
He goes to the window and again spots a car just sitting outside.
Back in 1990, Wayne and Amelia arrive back home, with Wayne asking about a so-called divorce. This is based on Amelia referring to him as her “ex-husband” during her trip to Sallisaw. She’s surprised to hear that Wayne even went to Sallisaw, but he comes clean and tells her about the surveillance footage of Julie. Amelia is a bit thrown that Wayne didn’t tell her, but as far as he’s concerned, she’s comfortable having secrets.
She admits that she let a detective think that she was single, but it got him to talk. Amelia feels that Wayne is trying to control her while he goes out and does his thing. She has bigger dreams than making a house for Wayne to brood in, but he’s done nothing but support her. She asks if Wayne really believes that he did something with the detective, and he doesn’t.
But he thinks that she’s a tourist and lifting herself up on other people’s bad luck. That’s not what Amelia does, but Wayne figures that she uses people. They’re just stories to her, but Amelia strikes back, saying that Wayne is using this case to avoid home. He never got himself right as far as she’s concerned. He needs to stop pretending that he’s too dumb to know he’s full of shit.
Fortunately, the children interrupt this stand-off. Henry arrives with a coughing Becca, who is having trouble breathing. Becca wants to sleep with her parents, so they’ll all be sleeping in the big bed. Look, if they all want to get sick, then go for it. But Becca then asks her parents what do they do not, and they respond that they do not go to sleep without saying “I love you.” So they do.
As Wayne heads upstairs, we transition into 2015 as an older Wayne calls out for Becca and Henry. He searches from room to room and then happens upon his 1990s family, as Amelia reads a story to the kids. It might be the calmest moment that Wayne and Amelia have had in a long time.
But it’s from here that 1990s Wayne looks to the window and sees his younger, 1980s self. We then jump to that period as Wayne, at the hospital, tells two detectives that he announced himself to Brett Woodard and told him to drop the weapon. He’s gone through this already and asks for some space. A doctor tells him that Roland is stable and out of surgery, but the doctors won’t know about the leg until the morning.
The detectives need Wayne’s statement again while he’s still fresh, but he won’t be speaking to them until tomorrow morning.
Amelia arrives in a rush after hearing about the news. She wants to know what happened out there, but Wayne is too focused on Roland. He can’t see his partner, though, as he’s sedated. Amelia wants Wayne to go somewhere else or at least get cleaned up, however Wayne picks up on Amelia’s scent- ivory soap and chalk dust. Yes, Wayne wants to get out of here. With that, the two leave the hospital.
Then they head right to Amelia’s home, where they immediately disrobe and start to get hot and heavy in the living room. Wayne soon stops as Amelia leads him into her bedroom. The scene ends with Amelia closing the door. Oh, fine.
Back to 1990 it is, as Wayne goes through a huge amount of evidence and files. He asks a fellow officer about a missing set of prints, as he put them there himself. The box has been sitting for 10 years, so where are the unknown prints? He asks about a log book, but this box has been since 1980 and the log books only go back a few years. Still, Wayne wants to look through them.
In the middle of a smoke break while looking over evidence, the phone rings, but Wayne ignores it. He’s too fixated on the Woodard altercation, which we jump back as detectives comb the area. One manages to fish a child’s jacket out of a barrel, while another finds a backpack that looks to be Will Purcell’s.
Wayne goes over the photos and has a realization. He takes two photos and shows them to Roland, telling them that Will’s backpack was planted at Brett Woodard’s home. Because there was no real trial, no one looked that hard. Thus, when the mortar went off, there’s no way in hell that Will’s backpack would look that pristine. It took about three days to process the scene, thus plenty of time to plant the backpack.
As for the burned shirt, he figures that whoever planted it needed to sell that Julie was dead. Somebody was moving fast when the shootout happened and took an opportunity. But why didn’t Alan’s people say anything? The state keeps putting off the subpoena, so they haven’t seen this. In short, no one was compelled to look too hard.
It’s convincing, but Roland isn’t sure what to do with the information. If they show this to Blevins or Kindt, they’ll shut them down for doing the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. This isn’t just political bullshit to the higher-ups, and if Wayne had learned that, he wouldn’t have been at a desk for the last 10 years.
The phone rings and Roland takes it. Turns out that a call came in on the hotline and this requires both Roland and Wayne’s attention.
We don’t get to see this, though. We catch up with an older Roland West in 2015 as he feeds his dogs. One of the smaller dogs has trouble getting some food, so Roland brings it inside and feeds it some eggs the next morning. Now that’s service. The dogs start barking at the arrival of a car, and it turns out to be Henry and Wayne.
Wayne is surprised, as he always pegged Roland as a people person, not one who had any use for the outdoors. He needs a moment to get himself ready, as it’s been awhile since he’s seen Roland. Henry suggests that maybe now isn’t the best time for a visit, but Roland exits and greets his old friend.
Inside, Henry gives Roland the rundown on Wayne’s current state. Not only does Wayne not remember their first encounter, but he also may not remember why Roland is pissed at him. Well, that may not be much of an issue.
As Henry heads outside, Roland and Wayne catch up, with Wayne wanting to see photos of Roland’s kids. He figures that Roland and Lori got married, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hey, when you don’t talk to someone for 24 years, you miss some shit.
We cut back to 1990 as Wayne, Roland, and Tom Purcell enter an interrogation room with a tape recorder. Turns out that the caller into the hotline was none other than Julie Purcell herself. She wants Tom, who is apparently just acting like he’s her father, to leave her alone and even says that Julie Purcell isn’t her real name. She knows what he did.
The caller doesn’t say where she’s calling from- instead she wants to know where Will is. Seems that she and a few others left Will resting. The officer tries to get Julie to stay on the line, but she disconnects. A tearful Tom asks where Julie is, but neither Wayne nor Roland answer him.
Back in 2015, Roland tells Wayne that he turned down any offers to talk to the media about the case, but Wayne knows that they’re deep in it. He didn’t want anything come back on them. He tells Roland that Elisa Montgomery showed him some photos revealing that Dan O’Brien was found in a drained quarry in Southern Missouri. Elisa is also onto Harris James, but Roland cuts Wayne off.
He asks how Wayne can talk to these people after what the two of them did. Wayne doesn’t know what he might say or remember. But if Wayne remembers what they did, he’ll remember what to not say. Also, Wayne found out that the ransom note sent to the Purcell parents was written by Lucy. How? Because there were things in Amelia’s book that matched what the mother said. They line up, as far as Wayne is concerned.
Why? As far as Wayne is concerned, maybe Lucy wrote it to make Tom feel better and get him to let go, since she already had. Wayne then reveals that Hoyt paid him a visit- and he never shared this with Roland, but he made a decision. He had other things, like his family, to think about it, so he let it go. Hoyt didn’t say much, but he did seem to know what the officers did. Though he was in the dark on some aspects of the case.
Hoyt passed a few years back, with Roland then saying that Wayne walked away. Not this time, though. Still, Roland is pissed that Wayne would come back 25 years after the fact just to pick up the case. He recounts that in 1980, the two of them stopped being partners. Wayne got married and it’s natural that people drift apart. But right now, this isn’t that. All this time, Wayne never picked up the phone or apologized.
Roland would’ve put that shit aside if he could reminisce with his friend, but right now, he won’t have that. Plus, right now, Roland is alone with no wife, kids, or old friends. So he can drink as much as he wants and he won’t take judgment from Wayne. He knows what he and Wayne did, and Wayne still hasn’t apologized. But Wayne doesn’t remember what he did. Hell, he can’t even remember his wife.
Wayne, now in tears, apologizes to Roland for whatever he did. He then reveals that he’s been working on a file and he reads it every morning, but he’s missing a lot. Roland figures that Wayne must remember some of the details, though. If Wayne needs help killing time, Roland will help. If Wayne ever wants to catch up, that’s fine, but Roland isn’t willing to jump back into that case.
But Wayne believes that Julie is still out there. Still, Roland points out that half the cases Wayne worked on were never closed. Wayne quit, but there were other considerations at the time between him and Amelia. Before Wayne dies or loses what memory he has left, he wants to finish this. Roland tells Wayne that his condition is worse than he thinks, which may be a massive understatement.
Besides, how could a pair of old folks like them get some shit done? Well, the prospect of a 70 year old Black man running around with a badge and gun would give Roland a good laugh, so what the hell? He’s in.
Throughout the season, we’ve seen Wayne haunted by memories of his past. The season has managed to get us caught up to speed on just what’s haunting him in 1980 and 1990, as well as the impact that’s had on him in 2015. More than that, but between the case in 1990 and the discussions with Elisa Montgomery, it’s become increasingly clear that there was a sort of cover-up. The question is why?
That we don’t know yet, but it seems that there was something more sinister at play than just two kids disappearing in 1980. Just like ghosts themselves, we see how this has stuck with Wayne. Whether it was having to kill Brett Woodard or discovering that Will’s backpack was planted, this case has become the focal point of his life. He’s buried himself into it, even in old age.
Yet, we also see how unwilling he is to talk about it with family. He wants to keep work separate, even though Amelia’s book is very much entrenched in the Purcell case. It puts her at odds with Wayne when he becomes suspicious of her, even though it’s just him being paranoid. Amelia doesn’t seem like the unfaithful type, and she has nothing to lose by getting information that Wayne could use.
But Wayne doesn’t see it that way. He sees Amelia as someone who uses people just to further her career and create stories. But there’s never been any indication, as far as I can tell, that she’s in this for herself. In fact, she’s been supportive of Wayne. She didn’t have to show up at the hospital to check on him, but she did that of her own volition.
Again, it’s uncomfortable at times seeing the two be so close and in love during the 1980s, but by the time we get to 1990, they’re practically at each other’s throats. While their past dinner scene was warm and comforting, the dinner with the two of them plus Roland and Lori was difficult to watch because of how tense things became.
I get Amelia’s curiosity, not helped by how buried Wayne is in this work, but asking about it at dinner was never going to end well. At least wait until they weren’t all having dinner.
Brett told Wayne that he didn’t want things to work in his favor. That’s a constant for the characters here, especially Wayne. Nothing goes according to plan and there always looks to be something new to uncover. He gets lip from Freddy Burns. Alan’s bravado and standing up to his boss doesn’t factor in until after the first investigation ended, so it’s at a point when it would be of no real good to Wayne.
Roland was shot, Wayne was forced to kill, evidence was tampered with, and at the end of the day, Wayne’s memory is but a shadow of what it used to be. Now he’s just an old man trying to stay afloat. This case is what keeps him going, even though he’s still haunted by everything that happened in the decades prior.
As Amelia’s book said, grief becomes indistinguishable from madness. Plus, he’s having trouble piecing together things that happened.
Somewhere in that list of things would have to be what happened between him and Roland. We’ve been told that the two drifted apart when the case ended, but not how or why. Wayne quit, but there had to be circumstances that led to that. Whatever it was had to have really hurt Roland if it not just brought him to tears, but led him to hold onto that anger for so long.
He’d rather move on and just live out the rest of his life, even in his lonesome. But Wayne can’t do that because even though his mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be, this case has to be closed. The right way. Besides Henry, this case looks to be all that Wayne has left. Now, though, despite where they are, the two look to be on the same page again.
Whether in 1980, 1990, or 2015, Stephen Dorff and Mahershala Ali continue to have amazing chemistry. That entire final segment, you could see the weight of the Purcell case and their personal lives weighing down on both of them. The two had endured and lost so much, but through it all, even if just a bit, their friendship remains intact.
But questions arise out of this and the discoveries made in this episode. For one, who could’ve planted the backpack and shirt at Brett Woodard’s home? If there was indeed a cover-up, why would someone go through all this trouble? Feels like someone either wanted the case quickly closed or a reason to place the blame on Woodard. But from how Wayne and Roland talk, I get the sense that they know more than they’re letting on.
That’s not even getting into the question of what happened to the unknown prints.
Plus, damn it, the Purcell family fell apart just as much as Wayne’s memory did. I feel really bad for Tom, and Scoot McNairy continues to paint him as sympathetic as possible with his performance. We only see him in the 1990 segments, where he’s a man who had gotten on the right track. But the news of his daughter being alive is enough to give him the smallest bit of hope.
After what happened to Dan and Lucy, Tom is on his own. He’s found solace in faith, but Julie was still missing. Until now. To hear her tell him to stay away is a gut punch to a father just wanting to be reunited with his daughter again. Julie says that she knows what Tom did, but what is that? She’s more fixated on finding her brother than the father who wants to see her again.
The case of Julie Purcell continues to unravel, but now that Wayne and Roland have put their differences aside in 2015, what new ground is for them to cover? Can they finally put this case to bed? What other discovers will be made in the decades prior? Hopefully we’ll find out the answers to all of this and more in the episodes to come.
See you then.