True Detective Roundup (S3E1 and S3E2) *SPOILERS*
Whew – take a collective deep breath. True Detective is back. After a disappointing second season that saw very little critical acclaim, the future of the show was cast in doubt. But, HBO elected to roll the dice and shoot season three. They cast Mahershala Ali as the lead, and from a story standpoint, it certainly seems like Nic Pizzolatto tried to take it back to its season one roots. So far, so good. Let’s hit the review.
Let this serve as your final reminder that there are definitely spoilers within this post. Episodes one and two both dropped last Sunday, and I’ve given y’all an entire week to catch up. But, if you don’t want the show spoiled, DO NOT SCROLL ANY FURTHER.
Okay – those of you left, you sure you want to read on?
HOLY SHIT. I was actually a fan of season two of this show – I mean, I think after season one, expectations were through the roof, and did it live up to that? No. But, I’m also on record saying that season one is the greatest single series of television in history. So, that’s a hard bar to meet. All that considered, I was a little skeptical of season three going into it.
But, two episodes in and I am HYPE. Things are simpler than they were in season two – we’re back to a spotlight shining on a single performance. Five years ago, it was Matthew McConaughey. Now, it’s Ali. Really, this is his show. His performance, at least two episodes in, has been phenomenal. It doesn’t have the same supernatural feel of the first season – watching that, you always had this creeping sense of dread. Like some boogeyman was going to pop out at any moment. But, you still have the right amount of spooky, and there’s so much weird shit going on that you do get a different sense of dread. Almost like the “my-God-what-have-you-done” sense of dread.
What do we know?
The setting? The Ozarks. You get that creepy middle-of-nowhere vibe. The story is taking place in three separate times – 1980, 1990, and 2015 – with detective Wayne Hays at the center of it all.
In 1980, we have a ‘missing persons’ case as a young boy (Will Purcell) and his sister (Julie Purcell) go missing. Eventually, Will is found dead (broken neck), posed as if he’s praying or something, in a cave out in the woods with a couple of creepy dolls left along the trail, and a wealth of sketch ass people surrounding the family.
In 1990, we have a state attorney (or whatever the guy’s position is) interviewing Hays. In E2, we realize that they’ve found Julie’s prints at a drug store robbery scene. She’s still alive, and “the wrong man was incarcerated.” Hays is showing signs of memory decline, as it’s mentioned in the interviews that he doesn’t remember things too clearly.
In 2015, a TV producer is attempting to interview Hays about the case. Maybe she has some new information? Regardless, Hays wants to see the interview through, though it’s clear that talking about it stirs up old memories. His wife (Amelia Reardon) has died, and his daughter is out in Los Angeles. It’s clear that Hays doesn’t exactly have a shining family life. This case has taken its toll on him and his family – and it’s clear from the jump that even in 2015, they still don’t know what truly happened.
So, who dun it? LFG.
Clues we have
The dolls – The dolls have to be clue numero uno. They’re creepy as shit – nice homage to the spirit of season one. The interviewer, in 2015, tells Hays, “the dolls were a good clue.” But, his colleagues wanted to make a different play – they made the dolls public knowledge and asked the town to help out. They publicly tipped their hand. We don’t know exactly what happened here – but it sure sounds like it ends up being quite the blunder.
The peephole – When they discovered the peephole in the brother’s bedroom, it sent chills up and down my spine. They never really address it up front, either. It sure seems like Hays and his partner Roland West (played by Stephen Dorff) are pointing the finger at cousin Dan, who stayed with the Purcell family for several months (more on him later). I don’t know that it’s necessarily a direct link to the murder, but I think it’ll end up being a more indicator that this family was more fucked up than we thought.
Amelia’s book – Apparently, Amelia wrote a book about the case. It’s shown prominently several times, but we never really get into it.
The note – In E2, the Purcells receive a ransom-style note that reads “children shuld laugh” with letters cut out of magazines. One of the letters are misspelled and reddit is freaking out because Hays mentions he struggled with dyslexia at some point. But – and there’s no telling how many times I’m going to say this this season – it would be stupid for Hays to be the killer. It’s either an honest note from the killer or the killer planting it to throw the detectives and family off.
The watch tower – the Devil’s Den or whatever they called it. I’m mainly including it here because they kept showing it in a way that made me think there’s some significance here. It sure seems ominous.
The kids – You had those three teenagers who saw Will and Julie right before they were abducted. We don’t know what they saw, but we saw one of them scolding another on the playground at school. People have drawn parallels to the West Memphis Three, but Pizzolatto has said there’s no basis there. Regardless, these kids know or saw something. They aren’t telling the whole truth. There was also the kid who Amelia talks to at school who thought the dolls were something passed out at Halloween. That’s a huge revelation.
Tom Purcell – The dad sure seems like a broken fucking man. That’s for sure. I think he’s largely innocent except for his obvious ignorance, but it was interesting to hear his mother in law (I think) tell detectives that he’s not who we think he is. They also posit that Julie is not actually his daughter.
Cousin Dan – The dude who stayed with the family for several months and left his Playboys under Will’s bed. Feels like another dead end lead, but he is at least somewhat connected to the peephole….I mean, he stayed in that room. He also seems to be a little angry about the whole thing – saying “she needed a strong man” and whatnot. Again, I think the family isn’t going to be connected to the actual crime itself. But, I do think that it’s because of how fucked up this dynamic is that the crime is able to happen.
Brett Woodard – The “trash man” is a bit creepy…I’ll give y’all that. But, it’s way too obvious. Still, in the future, we hear a line about “…you know what happened to him.” I imagine either this whole thing is pinned on him in 1980, or he’s killed as the town begins to panic with hysteria. Some sort of vigilante justice.
Ted LaGrange – The pedophile that Hays and West kicked the shit out of in the barn. Another dead end lead in my opinion, though he could reasonably be the guy who this gets wrongfully pinned on, too.
There are a lot of moving parts here, and that’s part of the fun of this show. The period in between episodes can be downright excruciating as we watch and re-watch, hunting for any clue we can find (watch again – and notice that the photo in the middle of the three hung in the living room has been removed). Ultimately, in season one, we didn’t get some shocking conclusion. It was right in front of us all along. I’d say that’s going to be the case again this season.
If I had to guess now, we’re going to spend the season learning about how fucked up the Purcell family was. That made the kids susceptible to an act like this – whether it’s from a family member actually linked to the killer(s) or whether it’s from the kids running into these people looking for an escape from home. I don’t know, but the town seems on the verge of hysteria. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think pressure mounts and the detectives put the wrong guy in jail because of it.
We’re going to be chasing a lot of people this season, but I think the answer lies in 2015. Hays has been leaving notes to himself. Whether it’s by reading Amelia’s book all the way through (he admits he hasn’t done that), or discovering a clue he left for himself in the notes. I say they find something that pins it on the right people. Or, not – maybe this season ends with everybody dead and no one solves the mystery. It is True Detective, after all.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that Pizzolatto has said there will be no “unreliable narrator” gimmicks this season. What Hays is recounting, that happened.
Finally – hey, nice nod to season one with the “spiral circle” drop. Did you guys catch that?
Questions moving forward
- Who did it?
- Who do they incarcerate for it in 1980?
- What happened ‘between Julie and her father’ that they allude to?
- How the fuck is Julie alive?
- What happened to Amelia?
- What happened with Hays’ daughter?
Feel free to posit your theories in the comments below!
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley