TV

‘True Detective’ Case Files: Finally, Some Answers (But Also More Questions)


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There’s plenty to discuss in this week’s episode of True Detective. Some things are becoming more clear, some things are a little murkier, some things were just hard to watch. Not because they were gross or gory or heart-wrenching, mind you. No, I’m talking about the dinner at Roland’s house in 1990. Have you ever been stuck at a dinner table with a bickering couple? It is misery. Easily one of the more uncomfortable possible social situations. If I were Roland or his girlfriend, I would have burrowed a hole under the table and stayed there until Wayne and Amelia left. It’s his house. He can do it if he wants.

But before we get deep into all of it, let’s quickly run through the two most important things we learned this week.

– Your original convicted murderer in the Purcell case? Bret “Trashman” Woodard! This would have been awkward for me as I just announced he was clear of suspicion last week, but we quickly learned that there were/are holes there and that’s one of the reasons the whole case was re-opened and re-examined. He didn’t do himself a ton of favors by staging a shootout on his property and committing what basically amounted to Suicide By Wayne, but by 1990 there are clearly enough discrepancies that you can see the problems with that case. Rest in peace, Trashman. You got a raw deal all the way through.

– Roland West is alive in 2015 and he looks like this:

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The years between 1990 and 2015 appear to have been mighty rough on Roland, as you can tell by his new gut and his morning drinking and the fact that he went from a girlfriend and a big house in the suburbs to a bunch of mean dogs and a cabin in the woods.

We also learned, by the end, that Roland and Wayne are going to team up again to look into the case. Roland seems dodgy about it all and there’s a lot of still-mysterious “the thing we done” and “the reason I’m mad at you” floating around on that porch, but those are issues for later. Right now, the big takeaway is that True Detective just became an Old Guys Solving Mysteries Show and I am ecstatic about it. I hope the next episode opens with the Matlock theme.

Let’s dive in.

The Timelines

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1980 — Relatively quiet week for this timeline, the Woodard situation notwithstanding. (Yes, I did just casually brush aside a shootout that started with a redneck getting blown to bits by a landmine.) I’m sure the show will come back to it at some point because we’ll need to find out what exactly happened to the Purcell kids but, for now, we’re mostly good here.

1990 — Hoo boy. Lots going down here. Let’s start with Wayne and Amelia because there’s space for the rest below. Their relationship is getting ugly and Wayne doesn’t look too great in all of it. He’s bitter and angry and jealous and just generally displeased with her writing and ongoing interest in the case. Some of the things they said to each other cut deep, the way things often can when you know each other well enough to poke directly at the soft spots. Wayne doesn’t appear to have a great relationship with his kids in 2015 (daughter won’t come visit, son is around but there’s obvious tension), and it’s not outlandish to wonder if this is where it came from.

Elsewhere, we’ve got press conferences about Julie’s whereabouts and an answer about Lucy (overdose in a hotel) and a crying Tom being vaguely accused of things. We’ll come back to that.

Also, we know from the 2015 chat that Wayne and Roland haven’t talked in 24 or 25 years, so this “thing they done” that they both keep referencing — and that Amelia taunted Wayne about in that vision — probably happens right around here.

2015 — Nice of Wayne to finally read his wife’s book. Also, we met this dog at Roland’s house. I love him and have named him Pancakes.

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The Evidence

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Will’s backpack and Julie’s dress — Well, we know now that these were planted in Woodard’s house at some point between the shootout and their discovery. The question here is who did that. Who had access to the crime scene? And why is Roland being so weird about it? Was he involved in a cover-up and/or protecting his career? And, in that evidence board in the screencap up there, does “Woodard altercation” refer to the shootout? Because that is a reeeaaal stretch of the word “altercation.” There was a landmine involved! That’s at least a “ruckus” or a “donnybrook.” Words matter, people.

The Julie Purcell hotline call — A lot of semi-coded allegations being thrown around here but the gist is that Julie — or “Ms. July,” if you will — very much does not want to be found and we might need to add Tom to our suspects list. Oh, and between this and Lucy’s “soul of a whore” line last week, it’s pretty clear one or both of the kids aren’t Tom’s. So there’s that.

The “children shud laugh” note — Couple things:

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– As some have theorized, this phrase — used in the note and by Lucy in her contentious chat with Amelia, as documented in her book — seems to imply that Lucy wrote the note. Wayne thinks it might have been “to make Tom feel better,” which seems… implausible? The more likely thing, I think, is that Lucy helped Julie run — or took her away — and this runs deeper and closer than people thought at first.

– I find it a little odd that Amelia’s book was a huge hit and yet no one — other cops, obsessive internet-types — put that together in the 25 years between its release and Wayne reading it in 2015.

The Suspects

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Freddy Burns — Freddy didn’t kill anyone but he did drop a “they” when he meant to say “he,” which means Will probably was not alone when he was looking for Julie. Interesting but not necessarily incriminating. So, if he’s not a real suspect, why does he top our list? Simple: Because he grew a mustache between 1980 and 1990 and I wanted to post a screencap of it. Is it a coincidence that he grew one and Tom shaved his off? Almost definitely. But people have come up with crazier theories about this show using less, so I’m posting it.

Lucy and/or Tom — The note implies Lucy was involved somehow, but we don’t know why or how. The hotline call implies Tom was involved somehow, but we also don’t know why or how. Are we willing to jump to something like “Tom drilled the hole in the wall and Lucy was just saving Julie from him?” I… I don’t think so. Tom was so sad when the kids disappeared. And I love Scoot McNairy. I don’t want to believe it.

Wayne and/or Roland — They didn’t kill Will Purcell or help Julie run. They’re not that kind of suspect. But again, Roland was really dodgy about the backpack and he does talk a lot about playing the politics game. Could he have been the evidence planter to put the case to bed? And was his promotion a result of getting the conviction for the district attorney? And what did he and Wayne do, exactly, that they’re so guilty about a quarter century later? Did they kill Cousin Dan because he was involved in all of it? I’m doing a great job of asking questions that I can’t answer. You’re welcome.

Cousin Dan — Don’t trust him. Never have.

Mr. Hoyt The Chicken Man— If one or both of the kids are his (maybe!), I mean, powerful people do bad things to keep their power. Child murder is a lot, though.

The interracial couple with the nice sedan — Nothing about them this week. Or the bearded weirdo who lives in the woods. The latter has never really given us cause to suspect him beyond “but he’s a bearded weirdo who lives in the woods.” That’s enough for me, though. Need answers here, folks.

Loose Ends

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Useful GIF.

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