This True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 8
True Detective season 3, episode 8, “Now Am Found,” closes out season 3 with the most insidious twist a series as dark as this can present, a happy ending. More than just happy, it is positively uplifting. And the thing that keeps it afloat is the lies it took to get it to rise. True Detective is about deception. At the close of the last episode, Detective Wayne Hays drove off in the limo of a very important figure in the community. Edward Hoyt, here played by Michael Rooker, who sideswiped Kevin Costner’s New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as he looked for the true conspirators in a presidential assassination in Oliver Stone’s JFK.
We get a short flashback to Hays as campus security at a college his wife Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) teaches at in a scene somewhere between the 1990 and 2016 timelines. It is around the same time Wayne’s daughter goes of to college. Then the audience learns its first lesson of the day. The most powerful man in that section of Arkansas knows everything he needs to know when he needs to know it. But is completely in the dark about things he has no desire to look into. Hoyt and his entourage take Hays out to a remote area where they can talk things out. In the midst of their battle to get information and give nothing, Hoyt blinks, and gives in to some real inside information. He opens up about his own family and answers far more than any confession can do. Rooker makes it look like an accident and then allows himself to fall into it until he swallows it with the last swig of the booze which keeps his Kentucky windage hanging to the left.
Hays and Hoyt were both soldiers, each getting a particularly bad view of combat. Hoyt has a battlefield advantage. He’s got Hays and West’s squad car on his corporate surveillance video and the exact location of his missing security officer Harris James through the GPS on his corporate beeper. All Hoyt wants to know is if he’s going to need a shovel. Hays keeps his cool, asking if Hoyt’s got anything he wants to confess. Most of the conversation is held near a steep drop. This is allegorical, but it registers physically as we see how easy it would be for either of them to topple the other, or themselves, over the side.
Deceit floats through the scene even as Hoyt warns Hays not to start the proceeding by lying to him. Hoyt gives more than he gets, because he thinks he has it all. But he is the final key to unlock some of the last mysteries. He also unlocks Detective West, who takes over as lead detective with a “goddamn right” which put such an authoritative cap on an inspiring moment. One he finds, as an old man, that he’s got to pick a few locks and bolt cut some chain links, he’s in. The two old and confused cops go through the tunnels of time. The pink room is all it was cracked up to be, complete with a crayon castle wall mural featuring Sir Junius with an eye patch.
Junius Watts is an imposing figure through much of True Detective Season 3. His pursuit roused a crowd and cowed Amelia at a book signing, though he impressed the woman who made chaff dolls for St. Michael’s annual fundraisers. But when Hays and West finally confront the man, all he wants is to be punished. He admits everything. He was close to Isabel Hoyt, was deeply moved by the tragic death of her husband and child, and only wanted to help. One thing led to another and there’s a death and a missing girl and a whole community up in arms. Watts even fingers Harris James as the man who picked Julie Purcell off the chicken line to arrange play dates with her soon to be new mommy. But it’s the lithium that puts Watts over the edge. He sees himself as a hero, until he realizes he’s truly irredeemable to himself. He says he’d welcome an execution from the two visiting ex-cops, or gladly go with them and turn himself in. Hays and West deny him both, though West does suggest if he really wants the job done right, Watts should do it himself.
The Hoyt family did not need the mechanisms of a larger cabal to get away with a generation of a family crime, which led to the deaths of several people, or to cover it up. They’re just rich people who see justice with a price tag and an instinct for who’s on sale. In the 90s timeline District Attorney Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) is another powerful man with secrets to hide. He wants Hays to throw his girlfriend Amelia under the bus for writing a piece about the cops going after a quick conviction of the West Finger killer. Hays gets busted down to secretary for D Company’s public information office when he balks at signing a statement burning Amelia. But he burns her in his head. He roasts her when he drinks. Wayne and Amelia’s relationship is tied in to a dead boy and a missing girl and the things they don’t tell each other never allows them to be what they need to be with each other.
Amelia remembers Hays is the kind of young man to join the army because if he get hot killed, his family would get $10,000 and his mom would be rich. But he makes the point that the case killed their lives, and the only thing to fix that is to start their lives over. When pressed on how to move forward from the grievous accusations and bitter hostility he threw at Amelia at their breakup, all he can think of is marriage. There seems to be no way Wayne and Amelia can come back from their breakup. He blames her for his demotion. He blames himself for his devotion. Ejogo keeps Amelia amazingly restrained. She wills this scene into a grounding as Ali is the one about to lose gravity.
The acting throughout the third season has been phenomenal, subtle and misleading. Wayne Hays remembers more than he forgets but Mahershala Ali plays his cards too close to catch the difference between subterfuge and a fugue state. Even the scene when Hays gets lost and stumbles onto Julie Purcell and her daughter, we wonder if he really got lost or was just looking for an ending to a story. The solutions Watts gives in his mea culpa were only the details, the specifics of the case. They don’t give the same sense of closure to either of the detectives, even after they have folded their hands. In the poker game of criminal justice, Hays bluffs everyone including himself, and possibly Roland West.
Stephen Dorff is equally evasive, though far more open in his deceptions. The pair feed into each other in their scenes together and bleed into each other as opposite bookends when a book is being thrown. West appears to truly empathize with victims and suspects and yet can give an angry cop glare which can elicit a confession from the most hardened perp. Hell, I’ve never set foot in Arkansas in my life and was thinking about copping a plea during some of the questioning.
After picking a bar fight, and doing really well until he’s completely outnumbered, Roland discovers his love of dogs. The conversation that leads up to the throw-down is downright charming. Dorff is, of course, the kind of actor who can throw a baby in traffic to get away from an angry nemesis with a gun. Ali can play a piano player who’s never heard Little Richard.
Ali is especially adept at capturing the physical movements of old age, even his pursed lips speak of a silent age. The pair works as long-time comrades. There is a genuine affection between the two. When Hays starts packing up his desk he promises their friendship won’t end, they’ll still grab a beer or go to a game, but West wants more. This is his partner and he can’t believe he’s leaving. And over what? Pride? West is hurt.
Purple Hays is internal, observant and intuitive. One of the best timeline transitions finds him sitting in a bar with the man he used to be. True Detective finds a redemption we never knew was necessary. The final deception is done by the holy sisters themselves. They have always known the fate of Mary July, a young runaway they took in after a tragic early life, and it lay in a happy home. The series gives the “lawnmower man” a happy ending. In the first season, the first glimpse we got of the serial killer was him cutting a crooked circle in a patch of grass. True Detective Season 3 ends with Mike Ardoin, a landscaper, finding the love of his life. No one foresees a happy ending, it is a most unexpectedly delicious twist.
True Detective season 3, episode 8, “Now Am Found,” 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.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.