Things are heating up across all three of our timelines as we reach, by the end of this week’s episode, the midpoint of the third True Detective go-round. We still don’t know too much for certain. That’s fine. It’s probably how it should be. The back half of the season is for answers. This is still Raising Questions time, as we discussed last week, and buddy, we do have some new questions. A lot of our new questions popped up in the 2015 timeline, which was refreshing. That’s starting to feel like the place where the real answers will be. We know whatever happened in 1980 ended up going sideways, and whatever happened in 1990 didn’t tie up all the loose ends. So now, Wayne is back on the case and he’s bringing his demons with him. I’m here for it.
A few preliminary notes before we dig in:
– One of the bigger complaints about the first two seasons of the show was their thinly drawn female characters. The men on the show were all dark and brooding and had issues but a lot of the women were murder-obsessed groupies, perpetually angry housewives, or nymphomaniacs. Some of the stuff that Amelia did this week — her bedroom eyes and crime talk at dinner, the fight/sex thing in the kitchen and bedroom — felt like it teetered toward that. This season has played earlier seasons’ greatest hits in a few ways but I hope this isn’t a sign we’re going down this particular road with her.
– Not a great week for the Purcells! I mean, most weeks haven’t been, with the possible exception of our glance at the Jesus-finding, mustache-free Tom in 1990. Tough to have a good run when you’re going through the kinds of things they are. But still. Tom is taking swings at people in bars and dropping the n-word (and apologizing profusely later) and Lucy is throwing people out of the house while calling them the c-word (and definitely not apologizing for it), and both of them are drinking too much and talking openly about suicide with strangers. Tom is sleeping on Roland’s couch now because his other option was jail. Could be going better is what I’m saying.
– If you’re the type of person who still watches opening credits in the fourth episode of a season, you might have noticed Deadwood creator David Milch getting a co-writing credit for this episode, along with Nic Pizzolatto. His involvement in the season was reported months ago, but it was still a little wild to see his name up there.
Okay. Let’s go.
1980 — The investigation zeroes in on the church, due in large part to Will’s communion pose in the cave and, now, to the creepy straw dolls that were made and sold by a member of the congregation. Wayne is “90 percent sure” their suspect is involved in the congregation somehow. That seems to clear a few of our original suspects — we’ll get to this shortly — while opening up a path to many more.
1990 — What do we have here? We have the seeds of marital discord and we have surveillance footage of a Walgreens and about 100 unanswered questions. This is still the timeline we know the least about, by design, although now we know that whatever they discovered was “haunting,” as per Wayne’s later discussion with the director. Wayne is officially a member of Roland’s task force and the Attorney General is being kind of a tool about it. We don’t like him. He seems slimy. A part of me wants to put him on the list of suspects just out of spite, even though he almost definitely didn’t kill Will Purcell.
2015 — Well, after having menacing visions of his deceased wife last week (complete with threats and taunts that now seem much more in character), Wayne is now seeing about a dozen Vietcong soldiers in his study. Kind of a lateral move, all things considered. He also sees a car outside, which raises the old “is he losing his mind or being watched or both?” conundrum.
All of this complicates things quite a bit as Wayne is very much working this case again. He visits his son — also a detective! — at work for help finding Roland and he visits the director in her hotel to see what else she knows. She knows… something. There’s a cat-and-mouse game brewing here between them, with each party slow-playing their information to see what the other knows. We don’t trust her. She’s up to… something.
Wine glasses — This is why we don’t trust her. Two wine glasses despite telling Wayne she was alone. This isn’t so much evidence in the Purcell case as it is evidence of… again, something. Wayne noticed so we make a note. Also, remember how she and his son seemed awfully chummy last week, using first names and acting all familiar? Could be a thing. Or maybe she just brought some guy home from a bar and didn’t feel like telling a strange old man about it when he popped up at her door the next day with murder questions. What do I know? I’m not the detective here.
Security camera footage — Heeeeyyyy Julie Purcell. There you are, scurrying about the Walgreens, looking all kinds of shifty, like a shoplifter and/or a woman who’s been missing for a decade and doesn’t want to be found and/or is scared. This is somehow both more and less interesting than anything they found in 1980. On one hand, it’s our first visual of Julie since we saw her on the bike in 1980 and that feels important. On the other hand, it just confirms what we mostly already knew: She’s alive and at one point went to a Walgreens. This describes me, too, for the record.
Mysterious fake aunt — Julie told the priest about meeting her aunt, which is interesting because Julie didn’t have an aunt. Was this the female half of the interracial couple in the fancy sedan that we learned about last week? Was it someone else? Did Julie just make something up to get the priest to leave her alone? All possibilities. We know the kids lied about playing with their friend and his cool new dog and now we know Julie was making up members of her extended family. These kids had secrets.