TV

‘True Detective’ Case Files: Surveillance Footage And Booby Traps


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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.

The Timelines

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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.

The Evidence

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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.

The Suspects

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Freddy Barnes — Freddy Barnes is guilty of being a punk and a bully and of looking like an underfed Tim Riggins but he is probably not guilty of murder. He broke down in that interview room, man. That is not the steely resolve of a psychopath. He did provide some useful information about Will (was looking for Julie, ran off into the woods), but we can just about cross him off our list.

Any number of one-eyed black men in or near Arkansas — We know from Patty the Casually Racist Church Lady that an unidentified black man with one good eye purchased something like 10 of her creepy straw dolls at a church fair. The same straw dolls that Wayne found in the woods. We don’t know if this one-eyed man was Mr. Whitehead — as he pointed out, farm equipment and industrial accidents left a bunch of people with bad eyes — but it’s a good thing I’m not on the jury, because “we have proof he purchased 10 creepy straw dolls” is enough for me to find anyone guilty of anything.

Anyway, the big question here is whether the unidentified one-eyed black man who bought the dolls is the same guy with the scar and fancy sedan that was introduced last week.

Trashman — I am now prepared to cross Bret “Trashman” Woodard off of my suspects list, which is great news for him. Less great news for him? The episode ended with a redneck mob kicking in his door and possibly setting off the landmine booby trap he wired up. I feel bad for this guy. He seems decent enough. He’s just caught up in a bad “well, that non-white guy who drives a go-kart around and collects trash and lives in a weird junkyard sure creeps us out” situation. And now he might have blown one of his assailants to kingdom come in front of some detectives. It hasn’t been a good stretch for the Trashman.

Amelia — The internet was a-flutter last week with theories that Amelia killed Will. As far as I could tell, the motive used to justify these theories was something along the lines of “she did it so she could write the book and become famous,” which seems like a reeeeaaaal stretch. And this is coming from someone who just said he’d convict someone of murder for having some creepy dolls in their possession. Could she have done it? Sure. Am I dying to know what exactly her spirit was taunting Wayne about last week with that whole “what you left in the woods” thing? Of course. But if we’re using “to become a writer!” as motive for crimes people write about, we’re gonna have to lock Stephen King up for decades.

Cousin Dan — We learned this week — in the 2015 timeline, from the director — that Cousin Dan’s body was found in a quarry. Now, I’m not one to jump to conclusions. I’m not much of a theorizer. But this show has apparently broken me to the point that my brain started whirring with ideas when I heard this, ones like “well, if Dan cut the hole in the closet and wrote those notes and was abusing Julie, maybe she ran away and got revenge later and dumped the body.” I have, to be clear, no proof of any of this. But people had no proof of that Amelia thing either. We’re all too far gone already.

A bear — Nothing that happened this week ruled out the possibility that a bear killed Will and dragged him into the cave and that Julie fled with nothing but the clothes on her back and a lifelong, justified fear of bears.

Loose Ends

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– I do like that Wayne had no idea who or what a Donahue was, almost as much as I did not like that the slimy prosecutor took the case to television to lift his own profile. I should also point out that we really hit the Hey, Remember The Other Seasons Of This Show trifecta this week. We had:

  • The aforementioned things with Amelia becoming a murder-obsessed nymphomaniac all of a sudden
  • Acts of violence on a trash-filled property that related to a creepy occult-style murder
  • Slimy politicians mucking things up

Oh, and our main character is having visions. And there were a few groaner lines of dialogue (most of what Roland said about the priest, “dick holster,” etc.). It’s a whole thing.

– Heeeyyy chubby Governor Bill Clinton, posing for a picture with Roland West, getting ready to run for President. I see you up there.

– I can’t wait to see what Stephen Dorff’s character looks like in 2015. I’m giddy. I hope he has a mustache and a bolo tie.

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