This True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 7
True Detective season 3, episode 7, “The Final Country,” opens outside the three designated timelines. It is set somewhere between the 1990 reopening of the case and the 2015 documentary filming of it. Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) is taking his daughter to college. It is a warm scene filled only with the fears of separation. It is a far cry from the terrors he faces on the job, and yet the screams can still be made out.
The collegiate orientation setting segues into a crime scene, made disorienting because it is placed halfway up an outdoor metal staircase. Tom, whose last encounter with the two detectives ended with a shriek of disintegration, is dead from what looks like a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Roland West (Stephen Dorff) is already waiting at the scene, scowling at the body and himself for letting it get so dead. Tom left an ambiguous but apologetic note which the state police can use to bring closure to a case which has been an open wound on the community for a decade.
Wayne comes home to find nothing is closed. Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) is also thinking about the community. She’s decided that the sequel to her book on the original case will follow more of the feel Truman Capote captured in his novel In Cold Blood. Amelia is already nearly panicked by the time Wayne gets home, as she is finally able to share the information about the man with one dead eye who showed up at her book signing. The audience knows he’s working the case as hard as he can, but Purple Hays is still under cover in the 2015 timeline. He lies to Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon), the “True Criminal” documentary maker, with a straight face, about not thinking about how the endings of both the 1980 and 1990 investigations ended with a conveniently placed dead man. No matter how many steps it took to place him there.
We see Wayne make the exact same observation to Roland in a flashback he’s just denied to the filmmaker. His partner takes the blame on behalf of the two of them. Roland is not about to forgive himself. He is not the same kind of cop Wayne is. Though they both take their jobs extremely personally, Roland is plagued with empathy.
Amelia has her own childcare nightmare moment while on the case. A few episodes ago, Wayne thought his daughter disappeared while he was shopping at Wal-Mart. He was about to close down the whole store when she showed up with some free snack samples that were being given away. Tonight, Amelia has to take the kids with her as she interviews the owner of the bar Lucy used to troll for ineligible men. She parks the car, with the kids inside it, in full view through the window of the booth she’s talking at. But she gets distracted when she learns the black man with the bum eye was seen with Lucy’s cousin Dan. As she looks to check on the kids, she doesn’t see them in the back seat. We are all afraid something happened to them, even having been shown that both kids grow up alright. The paranoia surrounding the case is immersive, for both the characters and the audience.
Amelia pounds the pavements like any good detective, visiting Lucy Purcell’s best friend to see if she can get a lead on the one-eyed man who showed up at her book reading. The woman has books of photos and mementoes. She lives frozen in time on the outskirts of town because, as she says, “somebody’s got to remember.” Memory is still a major motivator for all the characters. Elisa Montgomery triggers all our collective unconscious when pulls up an article on her computer featuring two very familiar faces. In 2012 two former Louisiana State police detectives stopped a serial killer associated with some kind of pedophile ring, Montgomery explains, as we see the law enforcers at the center of it are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart.
“In spite of evidence of accomplices, the case never went wider,” she insinuates. Montgomery thinks so many of the players in the Purcell case disappeared, died or were otherwise kept silent because wider investigations into these cases are consistently curtailed. She then goes on to explain about the various dolls found at the different crime scenes. Dolls are used as signifiers in human trafficking underground, Montgomery explains and she pulls up what looks like the blue spirals from a 1988 story on the Omaha, Nebraska Franklin child prostitution ring on her computer.
So what is up with Arkansas State Attorney General Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen)? When he was the District Attorney for the West Finger area in 1980, he clipped the investigators access to total surveillance and his office leaked information on the chaff dolls found at the scene. The DA pushed for a quick conviction of Woodard, and defends Alan Jones’ motion to overturn it in 1990. Is this for political expediency, or does he know more about the Hoyt family planning than he lets on? Tom is an easy scapegoat, but he is also a sacrificial lamb. Maybe Hoyt Industry’s chief security officer Harris James isn’t the only former defender of justice who was bought off. There is no direct evidence, of course, and hearsay doesn’t hold up in court.
Wayne tells Elisa he learned to live with ambiguity. Maybe she found evidence of obfuscation and forced closure on the case from higher ups, but he maintains it is all part of the job. That’s because he’s playing his cards very close to his chest. Wayne also tells her he’s tired of walking down the graveyard and the story is over for him. We can’t believe anything Purple Hays says, except maybe to West, and even then it might only be to get what he wants.
Wayne turns out to be a master manipulator. He does the police work, and does it expertly. But he is still ready to cut certain corners. While Roland insists the pair turn over all evidence which implicates Harris James as the man who shut Lucy up, Wayne believes he can streamline things by taking the man out to the farm in the woods where he and his partner can beat the truth out of him.
The duplicity is set up beautifully. Wayne pours himself a drink in Roland’s home. He looks like he needs it as much as his partner. He does this within 24 hours of commenting on Roland’s early morning drinking. The way Wayne pours it and empties the bottle into Roland’s glass speaks volumes to how he has come around. The pouring of the drink itself is a bonding event which Wayne compounds by reminding Roland they both owe Tom a debt in the form of finding the truth.
There was a lot of tragedy in the Hoyt family, in spite of their business success. Wayne and Roland talk with a housekeeper who raised Isobel Hoyt. She says the troubled daughter of the company patriarch was taken care of by a black gentleman named Mr. June after she ran her car through a railing. As soon as I heard this, this reviewer remembered how Julie sometimes refers to herself as Mary July, like summertime, the month that follows June. The man’s left eye was dead, the housekeeper remembers, though she is not able to place the name Watts, the name Wayne got from Amelia’s lead.
The Harris James interrogation scene is excruciatingly frustrating. It has all the payoffs, a beating, the promise of new information, true pain and a counterattack, all bookended by Stephen Dorff’s angry-Roland-West face. But ultimately it is all lost, made as worthless as West and Hays’ careers would be if they move forward with it, or any aspect of it relating to the case.
We finally learn who Wayne and Roland buried in the woods, but this is not the biggest reveal tonight. The old-timers prove they’re still world class investigators, even when action calls, as Wayne confronts the car that’s been stalking his house at night, while Roland snaps a shot of the license plate on his cell phone. The excitement is short lived because Wayne goes into a fugue state. This leads to the biggest thing he’s been hiding from us and himself, as the camera catches him catching himself burning the clothes he was wearing during the interrogation at the farmhouse.
The final scene undoes everything that came before it. Wayne is in the middle of telling Amelia there are things she’s better off not knowing when he gets a call from Edward Hoyt, the patriarch of Hoyt Industries during the 1990 timeline. He’d like to discuss the events of the night prior, as he understands them. Hays keeps his composure during the entire conversation, which includes some very subtle threats to his family. Ali and Ejogo are magnificent in this scene. They are communicating with each other, they are hiding things from the kids, they are hiding things from each other and hoping to hide it from themselves. All of these things are happening and they can’t do a thing about what’s making them happen.
In the 2015 timeline, Wayne mentions to Roland that he stopped pursuing the case because of a deal he made with Amelia. He says it so casually, you might not even think it that important. But like so many of the clues in True Detective, it is hidden in a very shallow grave.
True Detective season 3, episode 7, “The Final Country,” was written by Nic Pizzolatto, and directed by Daniel Sackheim.
Keep up with everything you need to know about True Detective season 3 right here.