The important thing you need to know about True Detective Season 3‘s timelines is that they’re not designed to screw with you.
Seriously. While presenting one case over three different timelines, decades apart, isn’t the most straightforward way of telling a story, True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto is adamant that the timelines don’t exist to trip the viewer up or obscure the truth.
“I wanted to sort of be like, ‘no tricks up my sleeve,'” Pizzolatto told Den of Geek. “Because 2015 and 1990 are happening at the same time as 1980, you’re sort of constantly being told what is going to happen, like, all the time, you know?”
The three timelines in True Detective Season 3 cover the case of the missing Purcell kids in West Finger, Arkansas as it develops in 1980, 1990, and then 2015. This isn’t a Pulp Fiction or Roshomon-like situation where stories overlap and intersect in a dubious, non-chronological order. True Detective Season 3 is simply telling a story so big and consequential to the characters involved that it spans more than one specific period in time…just like True Detective Season 1 did.
As Detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) says in the season’s first episode, “I used to think back then it was before ‘Nam and after ‘Nam. But now it’s before the Purcell case and after the Purcell case.” Some things are so big and so consequential that they stick with us, even as our memories begin to fade and degrade.
Now, just because True Detective Season 3 isn’t actively trying to mislead the viewer doesn’t mean that the presentation of the timelines is always completely straightforward or easily understandable. Sometimes the story does bleed into other decades or we receive information in say, the 1990 timeline that we’re not privy to in the 1980 timeline.
It’s understandable that some may want to follow the Purcell case and the lives of Wayne, Roland West (Stephen Dorff), Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo), and Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) in as chronologically-sound an order as possible. So here we will fully explain the True Detective Season 3 timelines. Each week we will catalog the development in the Purcell case as they happen in each of the three distinct timelines.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 8: Now Am Found
Purple Wayne Hays traverses through a Vietnamese jungle, searching for something.
Amelia wrote an article saying that there are a number of clues being ignored in the Purcell case and state PD is very mad. Wayne accepts a role as a glorified typist in the PR office instead of being forced to write an Op-Ed denouncing Amelia’s “sources.” His days as a detective are over…for ten years.
Wayne and Amelia have a big fight regarding the article Amelia wrote about the case. Wayne is drunk and wants her to leave. Amelia then visits Wayne at the bar. Wayne, in true Wayne fashion tells Amelia he wants to marry her.
Hoyt (Michael Rooker) takes Wayne out to the mountains for their discussion. He reveals that he had a GPS tracker on Harris James (woooooah big technology, Mr. ‘90s!) and can therefore find out where Wayne buried him and prove Wayne is a murderer. This buys Wayne’s silence for more than two decades.
Wayne and Amelia have another frank discussion in a bar. Everything they have is all tied up in a dead boy and a missing girl. “You want to write your real book, write it. I probably won’t read it but it will be great. I think I should quit. Let’s put this thing down that’s not ours.” Amelia doesn’t think their problems can be solved with one date night a week or whatever it is normal couples do, but they’re going to quit their respective jobs and give it a shot anyway.
Roland picks a fight at a bar. And he does so spectacularly, getting his ass kicked by a group of large men. Later, when he’s outside the bar at his lowest, he sees a nice stray dog. He hugs and pets him.
1990-something or 2000-something
Wayne Hays is Chief of campus security at the University of Arkansas. Amelia is a professor there. They smile at each other from across Amelia’s classroom.
Wayne and Roland visit Harris James’ widow and finally get the name of the black man with a white eye who they’ve been pursuing for decades: Junius Watts.
The elderly detectives break into the Hoyt estate and uncover the pink room. There is a vast child’s drawing of a castle on the wall with three little characters: Princess Mary, Sir Junius, and Queen Isabel.
Wayne and Roland meet with Junius Watt where they get the full story of what happened to Julie and Will Purcell. You can read all about that over here. But briefly: Julie lived with the Hoyts for years to replace Isabel’s dead daughter, Mary. Junius helped Julie escape when Isabel was becoming increasing unhinged. Isabel later killed herself with pills. Junius tells the detectives that he has some bad news about Julie.
Julie eventually made it to a convent in Fort Smith. Wayne and Roland go to visit it themselves. They discover that Julie lived here happily for years but died from complications of HIV/AIDS in 1995. Wayne and Roland run into a nice groundskeeper with a daughter named Lucy and that’s it. That’s the only ending the two old men think they’re going to get. Roland says he will come to stay with Wayne certain days of the week to keep him company and help Henry out.
The next day, however, Wayne reads more of Amelia’s book in which she discusses Julie’s childhood friend Mike Ardoin. Mike always thought he’d marry Julie. Upon reading this, the ghost of Amelia is conjured up in Wayne’s imagination. Amelia lets Wayne in on a few more secrets. As an adult, Mike just happened to work at the convent Julie was taken in by. They fell in love and built a happy little life together. The nuns helped to fake Julie’s death.
Wayne gets the address of Mike Ardoin and drives over there where Julie is tending to her garden with little Lucy. But just then Wayne’s memory gives out. He can’t remember why he’s there. He briefly interacts with Julie to ask where he is. She gets him some water and keeps an eye on him waiting for Henry to arrive and bring his father home safely.
Henry arrives with Becca and the two Hays kids bring their dad home where he sits in the sun and watches his grandchildren play.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 7: The Final Country
Roland goes to see Tom. Tom is packing up to leave and go “nowhere.” Roland gives Tom his number.
Wayne does some dishes at Amelia’s. Amelia talks about how she’s writing an article….though maybe it will be more than just an article. Wayne kind of begrudgingly gives Amelia his blessing to write the book.
Wayne arrives to a hunting tower on the outskirts of town where Tom’s body has been discovered. There is a gunshot wound to his head and a gun lying next to him. There’s a note that reads “I’m sorry. I’m going to see my wife and son.”
We find out via Elisa’s MacBook Air that back in 2015 that back in ’90, Attorney General Kindt pinned Tom for the murder and exonerated Trash Man.
Amelia goes to see the condemned Purcell house where Lucy’s friend, Margaret is now living. Margaret shows Amelia a picture from Halloween of the kids. In the background are two “ghosts” – adults dressed in sheets. Later Amelia goes to the Saw Horse bar to ask about Lucy. The bartender saw Dan O’Brien talking to a black man missing an eye.
Dan has officially gone missing. His car is at the motel, but he is not.
When cleaning out his desk, Wayne suddenly is granted the phone records from Nevada in ’88 that he requested. Later he tells Roland that there was a phone number called 8 times the night Lucy OD’ed. It was the Security Department – Harris James’ personal line. Harris James flew to Vegas before Lucy OD’ed and flew back after. After much discussion, Wayne finally convinces Roland to go “talk” to Harris themselves instead of escalating the news up the chain.
Wayne and Roland pull Harris James over in the dead of night. They abduct him and bring him to one of the many abandoned cabins in the woods. They beat him senseless to the point where Harris says he needs to be un-handcuffed because he thinks he’s punctured a lung or something serious. When they do, Harris reaches for Wayne’s gun and Roland shoots him dead.
Roland is upset to say the least about Wayne convincing him to go along with it. In a string of insults he stops just short of saying the “N” word. “Say it. Say it, motherfucker,” Wayne says. “No. I just want you to know I’m thinking it,” Roland replies.
Wayne returns home and burns his bloody clothes in a fire pit. Amelia sees him doing it but he says he can’t talk about why. The next morning Wayne still refuses to talk to Amelia but then he gets a call to the house. It’s from Edward Hoyt, himself. He’s outside in a fancy car. “I think we may have some things to discuss,” Hoy says. I’d like to discuss the events of last night as I understand them. I could come inside if you’d like.”
Wayne goes outside and is ushered into the backseat of a car, which speeds off.
A new timeline appears! Sometime between 1990 and 2015, Wayne drives Becca to college. He’s very sad to see his daughter flee the coop.
“Did you ever think it was possible Tom didn’t commit suicide?” Elisa asks Wayne. Turns out there was a contusion at the base of Tom’s skull that suggested a killing blow.
Roland turns up to Wayne’s interview with Elisa. Elisa finally drops all pretenses and asks what she wants to ask “Did any of Amelia’s research suggest a larger conspiracy? Like a cover up?” Elisa reveals that there was a black man with a missing eye who went by “Watts” going around looking for Julie. She brings up the fact that there were actiive pedophile rings in Nebraska and Louisiana in which the world’s rich and powerful mixed the occult with child abuse (here we get to see some newspaper clippings of our old friends Rust and Marty!).
Instead of responding warmly to this new evidence as one would expect, he excuses himself permanently from the interview process. “I’m tired of walking through the graveyard. The story is over for now,” he says.
Wayne and Roland meet with a woman who used to be a housekeeper at the Hoyt mansion. She knows Harris James. She also knows that the Hoyts had a daughter who never left the estate. One night she took the car out and put it through the guardrail. The girl was watched over by a black gentleman with a white eye named Mr. June.
Later Wayne and Roland talk about Amelia. Wayne reveals that Amelia “talked” to him the other day. The conversation is interrupted, however, when Wayne sees a car outside…a real car this time. Wayne goes outside to antagonize the driver of the car. Roland gets a picture of the license plate as it speeds off.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 6: Hunters in the Dark
“Hell of a day when a gun fight’s the second most exciting thing that happens to you,” Wayne says in a post-coital glow with Amelia. They discuss how due to his time in the war Wayne doesn’t spend much time remembering the past.
Wayne discovers that he’s been cleared in the Woodard shooting. Unfortunately he also learns that the AG is pinning the Will and Julie murders (yes, murders) on Woodard. Wayne disagrees with this call. “No. This isn’t all of it,” he says. Later AG Kent holds a press conference to announces that the cops have their (dead) man.
The call from Julie (which came from a pay phone at a truck stop) certainly sounds like an indictment of Tom so Wayne and Roland are forced to roughly interrogate their little buddy. Tom plum loses his mind when he learned about the peephole in Will’s closet and starts screaming, bestial.
Wayne is wearing real ties now. He and Amelia have an oblique conversation suggesting that neither of them is happy with their home lives.
Wayne and Roland talk to Tom’s mechanic boss from 1980. They discover that Tom was on the outs even before the case due to his drinking and the fact that his co-workers found out he was a likely homosexual. The detectives later search Tom’s home and discover a Christian pamphlet reading “Homosexuality can be cured.”
Wayne and Roland catch up with Harris James. He’s the chief security officer at Hoyt Foods now. It’s a much cushier gig than his previous life as a highway patrol officer. Wayne clearly believes that Harris was paid off to plant evidence.
Amelia visits a home for young women in need. She meets with a young girl who knew Julie. Julie went by Mary or Mary Julie or Mary July. She would routinely talk about being a Queen in a Pink Castle.
Amelia later holds a reading for her recently published book, Life and Death and the Harvest Moon. While there, a black man with a milky eye (Sam Whitehead) approaches her and publicly shames her for profiting off the story of the Purcells.
Our old friend Dan O’Brien calls the Purcell hotline and wants to meet with Wayne and Roland. They meet the very high and very paranoid O’Brien at a waffle joint where he says he wants $7,000 in return for information he has about Will and Julie’s disappearance. He reveals that Lucy was his stepsister and they…uh…used to be intimate. He also intimates that Lucy was murdered.
As the Arkansas state PD is contemplating Dan’s “offer,” Tom is let out of his holding cell and happens to hear the news about Dan. Drunk and fully off the wagon, Tom tracks Dan down to the cheap motel he knows he likes to stay at. Tom pulls a gun on Dan and demands to know about the peephole in Will’s closet. Dan insists that he knows nothing about it. Dan then reveals that he knows who was financing Lucy’s trip out west and therefore also knows who would have a problem with her asking for more money.
Tom makes his way, still drunk, to the Hoyt mansion. He breaks in as someone watching him on the security feed. He makes his way to the basement and uncovers an almost literal dungeon. At the end of the dungeon hallway is a room…an all-pink room.
Tom views something in front of him and says “The hell….Julie?” Someone in a suit approaches him from behind.
Meanwhile Wayne and Roland have an argument about Wayne’s clearly obsessive involvement in the case. Roland intimates that Wayne doesn’t want to go home to his family and Wayne angrily demands to be let out of the car. Wayne walks back to the Purcell’s condemned home in the dead of night. There he discovers that what he thought was a “peephole” was likely just a way for Julie and Will to pass messages back and forth.
Elisa says that the Julie phone call ended up being a real turn in the case. She also intimates that Tom eventually joined Lucy and Dan O’Brien as people who died as a result of this case.
Elisa is kind of all over Wayne, to the point where it seems as though she’s trying to get him to confess to something. “I wonder if one day they’ll drain a quarry with him in it,” she says of Harris James. She also purses a line of questioning regarding Harris James that is almost identical to her conversation with Wayne yesterday. Wayne gets overwhelmed and says he is done for the day.
Wayne reveals to Henry that he knows he’s having an affair with Elisa. How does Wayne know? “I’m still your daddy, boy. Also I was once a fair to middling detective.” Wane and Henry then have a frank conversation about fatherhood, family, and their various regrets. “Y’all made a coward of me,” Wayne tells his son. “I’ve been terrified since the day you were born. Maybe you know what I mean. Can’t hold back anything from the people you love.”
Later Wayne tells Roland what he knows about the peephole in Will’s closet – that the kids used it to pass notes. He also tells Roland that Elisa mentioned Harris James again. Wayne goes to the bathroom and when he returns he is surprised to see Roland. He asks Roland to check out the window to see if there’s a dark sedan on the street. There isn’t.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 5: If You Have Ghosts
There’s a slaughter at Trash Man’s place. The lead hick kicks open the door, only to be blown apart by a claymore. Trash Man starts shooting from a broken window with a semi-automatic rifle. Several more Arkansas locals and some Arkansas police are killed. One accidentally shoots Roland in the leg in the process. In the melee, Wayne gets the drop on Trash Man and is forced to kill him.
Wayne is beside himself at the hospital, waiting for Roland to get out from sedation. Amelia comes to visit him and Wayne goes home with her where they make weird love for the first time.
A cop finds Will’s oddly pristine backpack under Woodard’s front porch.
The new task force places an APB out on Julie but is keeping the public out of it this time. They run through what they know about the particulars of the case. Lucy OD’ed in a hotel room in Paradise, Nevada in 1988. Dan O’Brien last turned up in Vegas in ’87.
Tom is forced to hold a tearful press conference to address Julie. Guess we’re not keeping the public out of it after all. David and Josie Woodard, Trash Man’s kids, want their father’s name finally cleared.
Roland and Wayne interview Freddie Burns as an adult. He’s not doing too well and clearly blames Wayne’s rough treatment of him as a kid as the cause. Freddie mentions coming across Julie on the night in question and her saying “I don’t know where they went,” referring to her brother and another unknown person.
Roland and Wayne interview a transient familiar with Julie. She said her name was Mary July. She couldn’t get straight what year it was. Said she was a secret princess. She’s a Princess from the Pink Rooms. She said she lost her brother and was looking for her brother.
Wayne and Amelia visit Roland and his lady friend, Laurie, in the Foxwood suburbs. Roland’s lady friend just happens to be the same woman he chatted up at the church all those years ago. Amelia wants to talk about the case naturally and Wayne has an angry meltdown in from of Roland and Laurie.
Back at home Wayne reveals that he’s upset Amelia flirted with Salisaw. But he’s really upset with the fact that he sees her as “voyeur.” Wayne has a complicated relationship with this case. He’s obsessed with it and clearly so is Amelia but he’s upset that Amelia is obsessed with it. Thankfully Henry and Becca remind their parents that they’re never supposed to go to bed without saying “I love you.” The whole family reads The Jungle Book as Wayne hallucinates seeing his ‘80s self outside the window.
Wayne is getting pretty intense on the new task force already. He stays up all night and snaps at an evidence processor when he sees there are some fingerprints missing from a file. His obsession pays dividends, however, when he realizes that the backpack at Woodard’s was most certainly planted. As was Julie’s shirt that they found in the fire print. He brings this evidence to Roland who seems at a loss. If they bring this information to Allen or Kent, the task force will get shut down.
A call comes into the hotline from Julie. Wayne, Roland, and Tom all listen to the recording in horror. It says, in full: “You’re looking for me. I saw on the television. I saw him on the television. Leave me alone. Make him leave me alone. That’s not my real name. Tell him to leave me alone. I know what he did. The man on TV acting like my father. Where’s my brother, Will? I don’t know what he did with him. We left him resting. No you won’t. You work for them. Tell him to leave me alone. He took me and I’m never coming back. Just leave me alone.”
Elisa tells Wayne that Harris James, one of the officers who processed the Woodard scenes, went missing during the second investigation. Wayne says he didn’t know this. Elisa can’t help but point out that a lot of people involved in this thing are dead.
Wayne finally begins to read Amelia’s book. “Babe, I should have read this a long time ago,” he says after gleaning some important information about the letter left at the Purcells. He then has a bit of a freak out, seeing the brown car outside, and thinking that young Henry and Becca are missing.
We finally catch up with Old Man Roland. He has lots of nice doggies. LOTS of them. Big ones and little ones who all like breakfast. Wayne arrives with Henry and is surprised to see Roland lives alone out in the wilderness now. He was always a people person. Roland is pissed with Wayne but Wayne can’t remember why. They haven’t spoken in 24 years. Roland threw all the accolades from his career into the White River.
Wayne and Roland talk about the TV people and Wayne tells Roland the news about Harris James and Dan O’Brien. “How you gonna talk to these people with what we’ve done?” Roland asks Wayne. What if he accidentally reveals something? It’s clear that Roland and Wayne did something monstrous back in ’90. Perhaps even killed Harris or Dan. Wayne mentions that he believes Lucy left the note herself, just to help Tom move on.
Roland begrudgingly agrees to once again join Wayne and finish this investigation once and for all.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 4: The Hour and the Day
Roland and Wayne arrive at St. Michael’s Church of the Ozarks to investigate the photo of Will in prayerful repose. The children in the first communion photos are posed similarly to the way Will was in death. Their hands are folded in prayer, and Will is the only one who has his eyes closed in the photo. The priest says he took the shots himself, and guesses that Will probably blinked. He also says Will and Julie were good kids and part of a youth group. Last time the pastor saw Julie was excited about seeing an aunt. Julie doesn’t have any aunts…
The pastor is also able to identify the chaff doll. Patty Faber makes those for the church fair. Wayne is starting to believe that Will died defending his sister. This was always about the girl.
Wayne and Roland pay Patty Faber a visit. She says a black man with a dead eye bought 10 dolls off of her at the fair for his nieces and nephews. Wayne and Roland head to Davis Junction past the railroad tracks where most of the black community in northwest Arkansas lives. The trip does not go well. A liquor store operator identifies Sam Whitehead as the man with the deadeye but Sam says lots of folks here have dead eyes. Wayne and Roland barely escape.
Wayne and Roland get alibis and fingerprints from everyone at the church. They’re reasonably certain the killer attended that church. Roland wants to attend the church now having seen how many attractive single women attend. Roland spots a cute believer and realizes “God is love.”
Wayne and Amelia have a fancy dinner. Amelia reveals herself to basically be a My Favorite Murder listener and the two have a pretty sexual conversation. Roland is called to the Saw Horse bar on the edge of town where poor Tom has gotten his ass kicked. Tom realized that Lucy was screwing her boss and pitched a fit. Now Roland takes the poor guy back to his place. “I can’t be in that house, man. Every inch of that place is them kids. I can’t sleep there. I just want to die all the time,” Tom says.
Amelia visits Lucy to drop off some of the kids’ stuff. She tells Lucy that if she’s holding any information back, she has to tell Wayne. Lucy does not react to this well. At first, Lucy first opens up but then accuses Amelia of judging her and trying to get information for her cop-boyfriend, Wayne.
Wayne and Roland confer with their FBI counterparts on the case, who tell them their prosecutor is going to appear on the talk show Donahue.
Meanwhile, Roland and Wayne interrogate Freddie Gibbs again because his prints turned up on Will’s bike. Turns out Freddie was just an asshole who stole Will’s bike and drunkenly crashed it into a tree in the woods. Wayne gives another chilling description of prison rape, but when Freddy breaks down they conclude he had nothing to do with Will’s murder.
Brett “Trash Man” Woodard enrages the local hicks once again by innocently asking their kids for a can to recycle. The gang pursues Trash Man in a fleet of pick up trucks but Trash Man guides them back to his house, which he has booby trapped. One of the men kicks in the door that we know to be rigged with a claymore and..credits.
Wayne and Amelia have a fight about the Purcell case. Wayne is upset that Amelia has so much ambition, Amelia is upset Wayne has none. They settle the argument with some aggressive lovemaking. Wayne and Amelia block their kids from the fight but can’t hide the make up sex from their grinning kids.
Attorney General Kent comes to a meeting with Wayne and Roland. Kent wants Roland and Wayne to find evidence to uphold the original conviction, and also says Wayne might be able to get his career back if he does. Roland assures Wayne that he has no intentions of following the AG’s directive. Roland walks with a noticeable limp now. Wayne reminds the task force they may not be the only people looking for the decade-long missing girl and they are racing against a clock.
Roland and Wayne visit the Sallisaw PD where they are able to view the CCTV footage from the Walgreens. Wayne sees Julie in the grainy black and white image.
Wayne turns up at the Arkansas State police department to see his son, Henry. Turns out he’s a cop as well. Henry is concerned that remembering the case drove his father to have an episode, showing up at an old investigation scene. Wayne asks him for help looking up a few old things and for help finding Roland.
Wayne goes to Elisa at her hotel room. Wayne makes a deal with her. He’ll continue to participate in the documentary but he also really wants to know what else her researches have uncovered. She agrees and as a teaser lets him know that Dan O’Brien’s body was uncovered some time ago.
Wayne is home at night processing his thoughts about new evidence into the tape recorder. It sounds like he is addressing Becca directly in the recorder. “I don’t think I’d ever forgive myself, losing track of you like that,” he says and then reiterates he failed over and over again. Vietnamese soldiers appear all around him in his room as he mourns his failures.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 3: The Big Never
The detectives analyze the letter left delivered to the Purcell’s. The address was handwritten so they’re not dealing with a brainiac. They can’t glean any other meaningful clues from it though. Wayne and Roland are feeling like they’re missing something big. They want to walk the case back all the way to the beginning. Wayne suggests talking to Will’s friend Ronnie Boyle again.
As it turns out, Ronnie wasn’t really a good friend of Will – Will clearly used “going over to Ronnie’s house” as an excuse to leave the house unsupervised. Wayne and Roland deliver this rough news to Tom and Lucy and ask to look through the kids’ things again. Roland discovers a little map among Will’s drawing. To my untrained eye it kind of looks like the woods where Will’s body was discovered. Wayne finds some disturbing note cards in Julie’s notebook that read “Don’t Listen” and “I’ll Always Keep You Safe.” He also finds a bag from Hoyt Foods. Lucy confirms that she worked there briefly in the chicken department.
Wayne and Roland pay a visit to Hoyt Foods. The company has set up an Ozark Children’s Outreach Center that is offering a cash reward for the discovery of Julie. Wayne and Roland are annoyed that they haven’t coordinated with the county prosecutor’s office but it turns out they have. Looks like county prosecutor is not coordinating with THEM. Wayne and Roland ask for the names and start dates of every Hoyt Foods worker – all 700 of them.
Later in the headquarters of the Julie Purcell Special Task Force, Wayne and Roland go over some of the evidence they’ve acquired. Wayne looks at drawings of a kitchen interior and an ornate castle that Julie drew. Roland ponders a secret Dungeons and Dragons-like game that Will used to play. But with whom? “All this stuff’s about that game,” Roland says. “Couldn’t find his dice but I’m not seeing anything – except he played a lot. The other kids didn’t play with him.”
Wayne and Amelia join another search party, combing the woods for clues. Wayne confirms to Amelia that he used to track men in the war. Amelia marched against the war. “Funny how the protests stopped once the draft ended,” Wayne says. Wayne then finds some dice in the woods and a backpack with toys in it. He also finds some blood and hair on a nearby rock. This is where Will was killed and his body was dragged to the cave.
Wayne and Roland discover a pretty impressive farmhouse just outside the woods where Will died. Wayne and Roland confirm that no one has spoken to the owner of this house yet so they knock on the door to interview the farmer inside. The man says someone has spoken to him already actually. “Normal guy. White. Suit. Showed me a badge.” The farmer says that he had seen Will and Julie before, playing in the woods. Not many people come down this road. Just Will and Julie mostly…and a brown car that contained a black woman and a white woman. Wayne and Roland secure a warrant to search the farmer’s property but find nothing of note.
They then show Tom and Lucy the toys they discovered in the woods but they don’t recognize them. Tom is sure he never bought these toys for the kids. Wayne discovers a photo album that contains a picture of Will with his hands help up in prayer like they were in death.
Meanwhile, Brett “Trash Man” Woodard is driving around town in his little go-cart, wanting to pick up trash in peace. Some Ozark good ol’ boys confront and harass him. They beat up Trash Man, telling him to stay away from their kids. Trash Man rushes home to his Trash Home and retrieves a large duffle bag from under a table and carries it outside.
This episode actually opens up in 1990 with Roland’s deposition. It is May 17, 1990 and Roland is speaking to the same two men Wayne was. After glossing over why he was late to the scene of the letter (beating up a pedophile), Roland continues his narrative.
“Wayne had the idea that those kids were telling stories and he was right. Y’all fucked a good detective, you know that, right?” Roland says. Roland tried to get Wayne transferred over twice. Major declined both times. Roland and Wayne don’t talk anymore. They were good friends. But they just had that relationship where it stops when it stops. “Once we stopped working together. We just stopped. Sometimes it’s just like that with some people,” he says.
Wayne and Amelia sit in their car in front of a Walgreens, apparently the same one Julie burglarized in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. A whole lot of HBO viewers (including me) are about to find out that Northwest Arkansas borders Oklahoma. Fayetteville, where True Detective Season 3 was filmed, is about a one hour drive from Sallisaw. Anywho, Wayne seems to be at the end of this rope with this case. He wants to know more about Julie’s prints so he can be done with this. He can’t talk to Sallisaw PD…but Amelia can. She’s a true crime journalist after all.
Amelia secures pictures of Julie’s prints. They didn’t find any behind the pharmacy, just on the shelves. Amelia returns home to Wayne following drinks with a Sallisaw police officer (she really enjoyed her role as honey pot). Wayne is livid that Amelia is enjoying this. This case is hell for him. Just earlier that he briefly lost his daughter Becca in a Walmart and full on panicked.
Following his deposition Roland visits Tom in a trailer home. Tom seems to be doing ok. We can tell because he shaved his mustache and is drinking coffee and not beer. Lucy, unfortunately, didn’t survive the past ten years. “I think of Lucy. I wish she was still around to hear this. Two years ago now,” Tom says. Lucy died in Las Vegas and Tom had her body brought back. He has been five years sober. He and Roland are quite close now and Roland agrees to pray with Tom.
Roland meets a surly Wayne at the VFW. There’s a new task force and Roland is leading it.
“That promotion for merit or did it come with the pigmentation?” Wayne asks.
“I think unlike some others I lacked a big fucking mouth.” Roland says.
Wayne’s big mouth clearly got him in trouble at some point ten years ago. Also Roland was shot at some point ten years ago. Wayne agrees to join Roland’s task force.
Wayne and Henry are at a doctor’s office. Wayne maintains that he went to the Purcell home in a fugue state for a reason, he just can’t remember. The doctor insists to Wayne that he has a condition but stops short of saying the word…Alzheimer’s, presumably. Wayne tells Henry “I told you. You try putting me in a home and I’ll off myself.”
Later Wayne resumes interviewing with Elisa (who is on a first name basis with Henry, which I find…interesting). “Do you feel there was sufficient coverage of the neighborhood during canvassing?” Elisa asks. Wayne does but then Elisa points out that many people have since come forward to say they were never interviewed by police. Two of these witnesses saw a nice brown sedan driving around the neighborhood and then driving away from Devil’s Den. A boy even remembers seeing a black man with a scar in a suit at Devil’s Den. Wayne recalls tire tracks he saw near the scene.
That night Wayne retreats to his room to go over all this new evidence. He then begins to hallucinate. Amelia shows up in his room and has LOTS to say to him. Here’s a sampling:
“Einstein said past, present, and future were all a persistently stubborn illusion.”
“At the end of all things, are you awake to what you withheld? Did you confused reacting with feeling? Did you confuse compulsion with freedom? Did you harden your heart with what loved you most? Oh sweetheart, did you think you could just go on and not once have to look back?”
Wayne eventually responds with, “Where is it? How much do I have to lose?”
“Everything. Same as everyone else,” Specter Amelia says.
“I lost Becca.”
“No you didn’t. Not the way you think. You’re worried what they’ll find. What you left in the woods.”
True Detective Season 3 Episode 2: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
The events of the Purcell case in 1980 are pretty jam packed in True Detective Season 3 Episode 2. Here’s as brief a rundown as possible for you clue hunters and clarity seekers.
It appears as though Will Purcell died of a broken neck. Shortly after Will’s autopsy, Wayne and Roland conduct an interrogation with Brett Woodard a.k.a. Trash Man. Wayne, Roland, and Brett all seem to understand one another quite well due to their time fighting in the Vietnam War. Brett has clearly been deeply affected by his time there. He can’t seem to fathom how Wayne and Roland can just wear suits and clock in, day in and day out, after what they’ve seen.
The local police department and city prosecutor, Judd Kent* hold a big conference for the town at the West Finger Community Center to air their concerns. Suffice it to say, they are very concerned. Never fear though because the FBI is here! They will be leading the search for the missing Julie Purcell while Arkansas State PD continues to lead the murder investigation of Will Purcell. Wayne hands Amelia a photo of the doll he discovered by Will’s body and asks her if the kids know anything about it. She says she’ll look into it.
*HBO hasn’t provided an official name or title for this character so I’m just going off of context clues and what I hear phonetically.
Wayne and Roland attend Will’s funeral. There they encounter Lucy’s cousin Dan O’Brien. He’s a shifty dude but currently lives in Missouri and offers up some solid alibis. Then they speak with Tom’s parents. Tom’s mom, Louise, makes it clear that she hates Lucy and that she believes Julie may not even be Tom’s child.
Amelia’s detective work with the kids pays off! One of Julie’s classmates says that someone was passing out those creepy dolls on Halloween (just seven days before Will and Julie went missing). With the help of Wayne’s Jedi impression (kids love Star Wars), the detectives learn the exact route that the kids took while trick or treating on Halloween. One of those houses undoubtedly provided the doll.
Wayne and Roland propose to Judd Kent that they keep this information to themselves and institute an expansive surveillance patrol with the entire Arkansas PD in the neighborhoods that the kids trick or treated on. Judd Kent doesn’t seem very open to the idea. Sure enough, that very night when Wayne is getting drinks with Amelia, Judd publicizes the Halloween route via press conference. Judd is trying to get elected to higher office and constituents don’t like being spied on as it turns out.
“I knew they wouldn’t listen to me but you should have stopped that,” Wayne later tells Roland angrily
“Why didn’t you stop them?” Roland shoots back.
“They aint my tribe,” Wayne says.
Wayne and Roland are discouraged by how the week’s events have played out. Their best lead, the Halloween route, has now been shot to shit and the town is in a panic. So they do what any Pizzolatto-ian hero would do: they look for a pedophile to beat up.
Roland has received the name of sex criminal, Theodore Grange, from a contact in Vice. Teddy is in West Finger living under an assumed name. Roland and Wayne essentially abduct him from a bar and beat him up in an abandoned barn. While Teddy is in “custody,” Wayne and Roland do some police work on him and discover that his alibi during the Purcell disappearance is rock solid. Still they throw him in the trunk of thier car and drive hm out of town, effectively exiling him from West Finger.
Meanwhile, Tom and Julie Purcell have received an anonymous note at their home. It reads: “Do not worry Julie is in a good place and safe. the children shud laugh. do not look. let go.”
Wayne wants to know more about Julie Purcell in Oklahoma so he and Alan meet at a local restaurant. The print recovered from the scene is Julie’s full print and there’s surveillance footage but the cops have to wait for some red tape to clear to see it.
“You alright going up against your old boss?” Wayne asks Alan.
“It’s overdue,” he responds.
Alan’s “old boss,” Judd Kent, is now the Arkansas State Attorney.
The two discuss the past a little more. They concur that Roland has done well for himself but don’t say what he’s up to just yet.
Wayne returns home from the deposition to his wife, Amelia and his two kids, Henry and Becca. Amelia shows Wayne an early copy of her upcoming book about the Purcell case. It’s called Life and Death and the Harvest Moon. Wayne is a bit out of it tonight and Amelia doesn’t like it when he’s that way in front of the kids. Wayne tells her that Julie is still alive.
Wayne visits the West Finger Community Center with Henry. It’s fallen into ruin but the sight of it is helping bring memories back. Wayne reveals that the last time he saw Becca was at Amelia’s funeral.
Elisa introduces Wayne to the magic of true crime obsessives on the Internet. The Purcell case is breathlessly covered by sites like True Crime Diva and True Crime Truant. Wayne is impressed.
Wayne tells Elisa that what happened in 1990 led to him leaving the force. The prosecuting attorney decided to take their best evidence and just toss it all over town. They got 400 tips in the first few days and the town was in a real panic. Most intriguingly, Wayne then acknowledges that the event that got him to leave the force was “what happened to Julie and her father.” Not our sweet Tom!
Following the iterview with Elisa, Wayne has dinner with Henry, his wife and their two kids.
Maybe you guys can see about getting Becca out here. I’d like to see her,” Wayne says.
Henry’s wife informs Wayne that Becca lives in Los Angeles pursuing a music career. She doesn’t like coming back home. She probably wouldn’t come back for a visit. The tone in which they’re speaking suggests that something really awful happened to the Hays family that potentially caused a fracture in relations.
Wayne takes in this news about Becca for a moment then says again, “Maybe you guys can see about getting Becca out here. I’d like to see her.” Henry leaves the table, frustrated with his father’s failing memory.
Wayne comes to outside of his running car. It’s the dead of night and he’s wearing his nightgown and standing at the corner of Shoepick and Briarpatch. This is where the Purcells lived but the house is now in ruins.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 1: The Great War and Modern Memory
The very first moments of True Detective Season 3 take place in 1980. We know this not because of a time stamp that appears on the screen but because we see a boy riding his bicycle with a baseball card attached to the spoke of the wheel. That, my friends, is the ’80s. Later on we’re given a more precise date by 1990 Wayne Hays in voiceover. It’s Friday, November 7, 1980 – the day Steve McQueen died.
Arkansas state police Wayne Hays and Roland West are enjoying a relaxing night of drinking, chatting, and shooting rats when they receive a call on their radio. There’s a report of missing persons at a home on Shoepick Lane. Wayne and Roland arrive at the Purcell household where Tom Purcell says his children, Will and Lucy have not returned home despite being instructed to do so by 5:30 p.m. According to Wayne’s watch, it is now 9:30 p.m. Central Time. He immediately instructs the other arriving officers to put out an All Points Bulletin about the missing children.
Meanwhile Wayne and Roland investigate the house with Tom’s blessing. Their first theory is that the absent mother, Lucy (Mamie Gummer) has run off with the kids. That theory is disproven almost immediately when Lucy arrives back to the house drunk and sans children. The only suspicious thing that Wayne and Roland discover are some Playboy magazines under the bed in Will’s room and a little hole drilled into the wall in the closet of the same room that provides a peek into Julie’s room. Lucy informs Wayne and Roland that her cousin, Dan O’Brien, lived with them a few months ago and stayed in Will’s room.
Wayne doesn’t go to sleep that first night. The next day he and Roland visit the West Finger K-12 School that Will and Julie attended. They learn that Will and Julie may have attended a party or two that the older kids have at a place called “Devil’s Den.” Wayne also meets beautiful teacher Amelia Reardon.
Later that day Wayne and Roland investigate the home of local “Trash Man” Brett Woodard. Brett is so-named Trash Man because of his penchant for digging through the town’s trash, looking for treasures. His home reflects his Trash Man moniker. Then they join a search party combing through the Ozark woods. Wayne, a talented tracker from his time in Vietnam, goes off on his own, following a trail that only he can see. Deep within the rock ledges of the woods, Wayne discovers a creepy wicker doll that resembles a faceless nun. Then in a cave Wayne finds the body of Will Purcell, well preserved and its hands held up as though in prayer.
Wayne calls Roland and the rest of the searchers over then announces he is going back into the woods to find Julie, even though it’s now dark.
We’re introduced to 1990 Wayne Hays early on. Right after the shot of the boy and his bicycle, in fact. A chyron on the screen reveals that it is May 12, 1990 and this is a deposition. Wayne is speaking to Alan Jones (Jon Tenney), a prosecutor he’s familiar with, and another prosecutor he is not familiar with. Wayne mentions that his wife, Amelia, is writing a book about the 1980 Purcell case.
Wayne is here to discuss the Purcell case of 1980 because the family of someone convicted in that crime is seeking to overturn the conviction. Alan Jones is OK with this attempt. The reason Alan is OK with this is that some new, incredibly compelling evidence has turned up. Julie Purcell is still alive. Her fingerprints turned up in a robbery of a Walgreen’s pharmacy in Salazar, Oklahoma.
An elderly Wayne Hays wakes up and listen to a message that he’s recorded for himself. The message says: “You have memory problems. Don’t whine about it. Today is May 20, 2015. Henry is coming over with people from the TV. But remember why you talking to ‘em. Figure out how much they know. Don’t need no surprises.”
It turns out that a documentary crew for the TV show called “True Criminal” is visitng Wayne at his home to talk about the Purcell case of 1980 and 1990. The host of True Criminal, a young woman named Elisa Montgomery, mentions that Amelia’s book about the Purcell case is now considered a literary classic of the non-fiction true crime genre. Wayne speaks about his wife in a way that suggests she is dead.
Wayne alludes to the story of the “Trash Man” to Elisa and then says “anyways, you know what happened with him.” Shortly after that Wayne becomes agitated recalling the details of Vietnam vet Brett “Trash Man” Woodard’s scattered apartment and tells Elisa that he needs to stop the day. Wayne retreats to his study and his son, Henry (Ray “Cyborg” Fisher) ushers the crew out for Wayne.