There’s something very familiar going on here…
The episode begins after the 1990s period, but before 2015 with Wayne dropping Becca off for her first day at college, though he doesn’t want her to go. Frankly, she doesn’t want to, but she’s going anyway. After all, she’s confident that he can make it on without her. Right now, they just need to focus on getting her moved in.
We then jump back to 1990 as Wayne arrives at a crime scene. He scales the same tower that he climbed back in the premiere and finds Roland waiting for him as he looks over the dead body of Tom Purcell, and next to him is a suicide note.
Following this, Wayne arrives at home. Amelia mentions seeing an aggressive black man with one eye at her reading. He asked if she knew about Julie and Amelia recognizes him as the one who bought the dolls. She figures that maybe he’s the reason that he ran away. Wayne finally tells Amelia that Tom Purcell killed himself by blowing out his brains…after Wayne and Roland went at him.
In 2015, Elisa asks Wayne if it’s possible that Tom didn’t commit suicide. The medical report reported that maybe Tom had been struck in his skull, but there was one giant contusion. An independent report proved that the gunshot wouldn’t produce a similar clot, so this shouldn’t end the investigation. Like 1980, a man winds up dead and the case suddenly closes.
Speaking of, back in 1990, Wayne and Roland remember 1980 and what they drove Brett Woodard to, but Wayne is confident that they did their job. Wayne wants to keep going, but Roland is focused on Tom’s apparent suicide and how the officers drove him to it. Roland tells Wayne that if they find Julie, great, but how often does a 10 year old case get solved? Roland is doing this as a favor to get Wayne’s career back on track.
Roland threatens to have Wayne put on a more menial job, but still, Wayne wants to keep going. However, what do they have? Do they need to find Sam Whitehead because Amelia saw him? Roland advises Wayne to let go. It’s their job. You work out your shit. Wayne asks Roland if he’s been drinking, but Roland just storms off.
We jump back to 1980 as Roland pays a visit to Tom, who is planning on leaving town. He’s doing whatever it takes to stop feeling, as there’s no one left to feel anything for, anyway. His kids don’t want anything from him now, so what’s the point? When Roland asks Tom where he’s going, Tom responds that he’s going nowhere.
Roland initially refuses to move, but he gives Tom his personal number in the event that Tom finds himself in a jam. Yes, Tom doesn’t need Roland’s help, but the day may come. If it does, Tom has it.
Amelia goes on her own investigation to Margaret, who is making wreaths for Decoration Day. Amelia asks if Lucy knews a Black man with one eye. There were other men, but Margaret never knew Lucy to socialize with Black men. This man may have given Julie the doll and could be her abductor. Upon mentioning Halloween, Margaret gets a scrapbook and shows Amelia a photo of Will and Julie.
Though Amelia is drawn towards the two ghosts in the background. Amelia wants to borrow the photo to make a copy, but Margaret prefers that Amelia not do that. Margaret then says that if she lets Amelia borrow the picture, she would like it back tomorrow. As for whether she would ever leave town, the thought never crossed Margaret’s mind. After all, someone has to stay and remember.
Back to 2015, as Roland arrives, Elisa brings up Amelia’s proposed, and then cancelled, book. She asks if Wayne ever shared information with her about the case and if the research suggested a larger conspiracy, like a cover-up. Not to Wayne’s knowledge, no. He asks if Elisa has evidence of something like that.
Back in 1990, Wayne and Roland arrive at a hotel in search of Dan O’Brien. The employee there worked the last two nights, but his wife also covers shifts.
Following this, they discuss whether this would’ve cleared Tom. It’s possible that Dan left, but Roland figures that Dan is now in the wind.
So Elisa plays Gerald Kindt’s address to the press about Brett Woodard’s conviction being overturned in light of Tom’s suicide. However, Wayne wasn’t satisfied with the attorney general’s conclusion.
In 1980, Amelia reveals to Wayne that she’s writing an article about the case- as for whether it’ll go in a paper or magazine, she’s not sure yet. She asks if Wayne has ever read In Cold Blood and reveals she’d like to write about the community. She feels that she has a voice. After all, she didn’t go to college to be like her mother. Wayne, in the middle of vigorously scrubbing a pan, says that Amelia should go for it.
Someone, should, anyway. Amelia wonders if this would be a conflict of interest and if this would jeopardize Wayne’s job, but people just wanted the case closed. Doesn’t mean that it’s solved.
Even after Tom died, Elisa reveals that a black man with one eye went looking around for Julie. He went by the name “Watts,” though, and may have been a procurer.
Roland tells Henry that he advised Wayne against speaking with Elisa Montgomery. He isn’t trying to rat on Wayne. He brings up how Wayne has a loaded gun on his desk when in his office reading through those files.
Elisa shows Wayne the dolls and their symbols. Two detectives in Louisiana solved a similar case. You remember them, right? Elisa believes that the Purcell case is similar- the parents may have sold them off. These groups take runaways. Wider investigations are curtailed. In both Louisiana and Nebraska, high level people were implicated. Wayne, meanwhile, was transferred in 1980, then he left the force in 1990.
Did Wayne really see no sort of forced conclusions? To Wayne, though, there’s no certainty or clarity. You just do your best and learn to live with ambiguity. Elisa is disappointed- she knows that Wayne never went along with the official version and wanted him to fill in the missing blanks. However, Wayne’s brain is a bunch of missing pieces. Ultimately, Wayne wishes that he had answers for Elisa, but he doesn’t.
Elisa pleads with Wayne to consider this, but Wayne is tired of walking through the graveyard. The story is over for him. He then goes to Roland and mentions the one-eyed Black man and that Roland should write it down, but Roland wonders if Amelia would want this for Wayne. But he believes that Wayne would want him to remember this. Wayne mentions the name “Watts” and goes off.
Then we go back to 1990 as an officer brings Wayne some phone records from Nevada. As he goes through them, he gets a phone call, but he ignores it. While Amelia gets the kids ready for their bath, Wayne calls for Roland West to access more records.
Amelia visits the bar where Lucy used to work and asks if a mixed couple ever talked to her, or even just a Black man missing an eye. The man never saw him with Lucy, but Dan was talking to him at one point. Before this conversation can continue, Amelia rushes outside and finds…the kids sleeping in the backseat, safe and sound, just where she left them.
The next day, Wayne brings Roland the phone records. One number called eight times less than two days before Lucy overdosed. They all go back to the Hoyt corporation- Harris James’ personal line. Harris James also took a flight to Vegas the day before Lucy died and came back the day after. The feds would do nothing with this information.
The evidence was planted at Woodard’s and the prints probably came from the toys in the woods. Wayne wants to ask hard what Harris James was doing. This all had to do with Hoyt, so if they can get to his boss, they can make major progress. Roland can bring it in, but they can’t do things like in the 1980s because if Harris doesn’t talk, they’re screwed. The most they can do is make their case.
Wayne has been thinking about Tom and suicide note. They have to do this for Tom. If Harris James doesn’t talk, they get him far enough to break him. Maybe even take him out to that barn. This is how they make up for letting Tom down. They can’t let this slip through their fingers.
In 2015, Wayne and Roland speak with a former Hoyt employee and ask about Harris James. The employee has seen him more than known him- James ran security for Mr. Hoyt. The family had no luck except in business. The woman raised the daughter, Isabelle, but she didn’t have much of a family. Her husband and daughter died in a car wreck in 1977, but Isabelle remained troubled. She never left the estate.
Then, one night, she took her car out and put it through a guardrail, causing a huge accident. After that, Mr. June watched over her. Who is Mr. June? He was a Black man who stayed in the main house and was close to Mr. Hoyt. Only Mr. June could go to some places where Isabelle was. Nothing on what his first name may be or acquaintances, but as far as any details, he had a dead, left eye.
Then Roland asks about Watts. The employee’s daughter arrives, and Wayne thinks that it’s his Becca. After 1981, the employees at Hoyt were restricted on where they could go. Isabelle seemed to be getting worse. Following this, Wayne says that he shouldn’t have said anything about Tom and trying to make him go after Harris. He apologizes for what happened, as he didn’t realize how different they were.
Wayne hopes that they can move past that, but they’re past it as far as Roland is concerned.
As we jump back to 1990, Roland and Wayne wait outside Hoyt Foods and soon begin tailing a particular vehicle. They follow it to a stretch of road before turning on their police lights. As the two approach the vehicle, they find Harris James in the driver’s seat and ask him to step out of the vehicle.
Wayne enters the vehicle and starts searching it when he finds Harris’ gun. Roland forces Harris out of the car. The two bring him to their favorite barn and show the call lines of Lucy calling multiple times, Harris going to Vegas, him re-interviewing witnesses, but Harris plays dumb. Wayne asks what happened to the kids in 1980, and when he doesn’t talk, Roland starts beating the hell out of him.
Wayne figures that Dan said something, and Harris James found him. Harris maintains that the two shouldn’t care about the Purcells, but Tom is dead. Harris says that he wouldn’t hurt a child. They figure that Harris planted the evidence in 1980, all for the fact that he has something for children. Or he has friends who are into kids. As Harris slumps to the ground in pain, he offers to talk if he can walk out of this barn alive.
Harris, feeling he’s in great pain, asks to be released from his cuffs. As Wayne releases him, Harris attacks. Before he can do much, though, Roland fires two shots and kills him.
As the two dig a hole, Wayne tells Roland that Harris gave them no choice. Roland, though, is furious, as he did just kill a man. Whatever Harris knew is gone. He calls Wayne manipulative and a bunch of other names, but one particular word is running through Roland’s head. He doesn’t say it, but he wants Wayne to know that he is sure as shit thinking it. I think we all know the word, Roland.
In 2015, Roland and Wayne go over Harris’ location and him maybe helping Hoyt. As for the black man, Dan O’Brien must’ve had an arrangement with him. Roland figures that Wayne would’ve kept on this. Wayne then brings up something Amelia told him: that he didn’t know himself. Yes, somehow, Wayne’s dead wife said this.
Wayne then looks out the window and spots that same black car sitting outside. He heads out to confront the driver, but they speed off. Luckily, Roland manages to snap a picture of the license plate.
Wayne then starts heading towards a flame he spots in the distance. He happens upon his 1990 self as we see this Roland burning his clothes that he wore. Amelia heads out and asks what Wayne is up to and where he’s been. But Wayne says that he can’t talk about this. Okay, but Amelia wants to talk in the morning.
The next day, Wayne and Amelia do indeed talk, with Amelia saying that the two of them haven’t been honest, but they can still turn it around. However, Wayne tells Amelia that there are things she’s better off not knowing. Still, Amelia wants to know everything. Luckily, the phone rings, thus ending this conversation.
The caller turns out to be Edward Hoyt, who tells Wayne that there are some things to discuss, namely Harris James. He want to discuss the events of last night. He can come inside and acknowledges that Wayne has a family and two kids, and Hoyt knows both of them by name. As Wayne spots the two vehicles sitting outside, Hoyt tells Wayne that they should keep this between themselves.
Hoyt has been patient and threatens to take his information to the prosecutors. But no, Wayne will be out in five minutes. Wayne apologizes to Amelia that after this, he’ll tell her everything. But right now, Amelia has to trust him.
So Wayne heads outside and is welcomed inside one of the vehicles as the episode comes to a close.
Alright, let’s take a minute to exhale as we come out of the penultimate episode. Fantastic tension, questions answered, questions raised, and a real sense of dread as we head into the season finale.
But before talking about any of that, we must discuss the Louisiana elephant in the room. There have been a few hints towards Season One, and the direct reference of the case solved by Rust and Marty shows how the events of the first season inform what’s happening here. The similar dolls, the missing children, the connection has finally been made here that links this season to the first one.
I love this payoff and I appreciate that the episode doesn’t dwell on it. It’s brief enough that if you’ve seen the first season, you immediately recognize the reference. But if you haven’t, you just get the sense that the situation with the Purcell kids is similar to another case in Louisiana. I didn’t think we’d get a reference as direct as this one, but man am I happy that we did.
Onto the episode itself, it may have been titled “The Final Country,” but this felt more like a final countdown. Throughout, there have been questions of a cover-up. The three timelines have helped fill in the blanks and inform us of details either omitted or glossed over in another period, all culminating with some huge revelations in this episode and helped with some fantastic tension and dread. A great score will do that.
Was there indeed a larger conspiracy afoot? It seems so, and from what we can tell, it all goes back to Hoyt Foods, Edward Hoyt, and Mr. Harris James. It seems that based on the last episode, perhaps Tom got a little too close and paid with his life. Could he have committed suicide? Possibly, but that would make too much sense.
Tom, in his final moments, was in a very fragile state and looking to prove his innocence. With him getting the blame for what happened to Julie, combined with learning about what happened to Lucy, this is another narrative that would fit for the sake of closing another chapter in this story. But as Wayne and Roland know, it’s not the truth, even if Tom’s misery could’ve led to him taking his own life.
If Tom confronting Dan was any indication, it’s that he would do anything to prove his innocence. Offing himself would not help his case, so it’s clear that someone else orchestrated this. My money is on Harris James, and when Wayne followed the paper trail and phone records, everything brought the detectives back to Hoyt Foods.
But it’s here that things took a turn for the worst. Back in the same barn where the two tortured Ted LaGrange, Harris James’ torture was taken a step further when Roland killed him. Perhaps this is what led to the falling out between Wayne and Roland. After all, Roland has mentioned that the two did something. Plus, Elisa pointed out before that Harris James disappeared during the 1990 investigation. Now we know why.
As Roland points out, it’s difficult to solve a 10 year old case. It’s even harder to solve it in 2015 when your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. With each jump forward in time, we see how challenging it is to piece together this jigsaw puzzle. Wayne’s memory issues continue to plague things for a moment, but he’s not too far gone, even if it is painful to see the quick lapses in his memory.
This case is his life and he’s poured so much into it that it looks like he would give everything to see it closed. Roland, for the most part, still has it on his mind, but he’s managed to move past it. I wonder whether he truly believes the case is still worth pursuing or if he’s just doing what he can to help Wayne find some peace by solving this case once and for all.
Amelia, in her own way, continues to investigate as well. The question still remains just why she’s so interested, but between going to Margaret and asking questions about whether Lucy knew Sam Whitehead, she’s still doing her part to also fill in the blanks with the case. She wants to be as involved as possible, but she sometimes runs the danger of getting too close.
After all, she wanted to know what Wayne was doing. Amelia, your husband was standing in the dark and setting his clothes on fire. Is that really the type of person you want to talk to at the moment? I get her intentions. Like her original idea to write an article, she wanted to write about the community. But again, there’s a point when she may get too close. Could that be what got her in the end? Just a guess on my part.
But then we get the phone call from Mr. Edward Hoyt, who is a player we have heard of, but never seen or even learned much about right now. He seems to know a lot about Wayne’s family, and with the finale upon us, this will definitely be one hell of a meeting. Also I won’t give it away, but even though he was on the phone, I recognized that voice. Chances are that you did, too.
How will the Purcell case finally close? What does Mr. Hoyt have in store for Wayne? Where does the friendship between Roland and Wayne go after what they’ve done to Harris James? Is that gun sitting on Wayne’s desk in 2015 going to be used? Here’s hoping we find out, but there are so many questions and only one episode left.
Join me next time for the season finale of True Detective. See you then.