Things are never simple on True Detective. That’s a good thing, generally, because the show would be pretty boring if they were. “Hey boss, we found a body in the woods. What should w-… hey look, there’s the murderer holding the murder weapon. Welp, case closed.” Going too far the other way can be trouble too, though. There’s always a conspiracy and there’s always crooked higher-ups and the case always slowly reveals itself to be more than it appeared. It’s a tricky balance. If you do it well, you get a wild ride with twists and turns and exciting reveals based on small clues dropped episodes earlier. If you do it poorly, you get a mortally wounded Vince Vaughn staggering through the desert while hallucinating mean teens from his youth. Not a lot of room in the middle, either.
This is the point we’re at with season three of the show. The reveals are revealing themselves and the simple answers are getting brushed aside. The murder of Will Purcell and the disappearance of Julie Purcell go, it appears, up to or near the top of society. This is the hard part. After this week, there are two episodes left to answer a lot of questions and those answers will determine if this was all a worthwhile experiment or not. I’m optimistic, but I’m an optimist. Fingers crossed.
Let’s dig into this week’s episode. It’s all getting very SVU out here. Part of me hopes Ice-T shows up to assist.
1980 — Another slow-ish week for the 1980 timeline. The biggest thing we saw was the shady district attorney — soon to be the shady attorney general — forcing the case against Woodard onto Hays and then the public in that press conference. What we still need to know is whether he was doing it to end the chaos around the case and get his name out there as the man who “solved” it or if he was trying to cover-up something bigger. Either way, he’s transparent and sleazy and we do not like him.
1990 — Second week in a row we’ve focused mainly on this timeline. Entirely too much happened to blurb in a short paragraph but between the pink room, the weasel Harris James, and the reveal of the angry man with the bad eye and the scar, it’s safe to say this remains the most interesting timeline on the show. At least two people, Cousin Dan and Harris James, will end up going missing. West and Hays will have a falling out. A bunch of dominoes still have to fall here. We’ll get into it in a bit.
2015 — Wayne stopped the interview when the director — who has been sleeping with his son, which is probably not the most journalistically responsible course of action — started pushing about Cousin Dan and Harris James, one of whom was found dead in a quarry and the other of whom has not been seen since 1990. Wayne and Roland are still doing a lot of worried glancing and referencing “that thing we done” whenever this comes up. Something is going on here. I’m not exactly melting any brains when I say that. I just want to know what.
The pink room — We’ve heard some references to a pink room and a castle and, at least in the early going, it seemed to be a metaphor. Something Julie said that meant something else, possibly a thing a strung-out teen runaway tells other strung-out teen runways to pass the time. Well, uh, nope. There really is a pink room, in a mansion/castle, hidden away down a creepy hallway behind the kind of door you see on a bank vault, which was left open so a drunken Tom could stumble into it and get cornered by Harris James. This raises a number of questions, including but not limited to:
- Is this Harris’s house or does it belong to his boss, Mr. Hoyt The Chicken Man?
- How did Julie end up in that room?
- Was it related to Lucy coming into money and disappearing to Nevada?
- If you had a creepy room in your house and detectives had just been sniffing around your place of business with pointed questions about an investigation you appear to be a justified person of interest in, would you just leave the vault door wide open for any drunken man with a gun to wander into?
The peephole — Turns out the peephole was actually a notehole for the children to pass messages through. This changes the whole meaning of the notes, too. If it was a Will telling Julie he’d keep her safe, then it’s not a potential abuser using protection as manipulation, it’s a brother trying to protect his sister. And that leads to questions about if Will got killed while trying to save Julie from whatever led her to that pink room. I don’t know enough to speculate much more than that but I do know that it’s all somehow both more and less disquieting.
Harris James / Mr. Hoyt —, What do know about Harris James so far? Well, he “found the backpack” in the Woodard house after the shootout and shortly after landed a lucrative job in corporate security with Hoyt. He was very happy to throw Tom under the bus and imply Tom could have planted it. He either lives in or secures — the latter, probably — a large house that contains a pink room in a dungeon, which matches up with things Julie had said in the years since. At some point in the 1990 investigation, he goes missing and is never heard from again.
So. Do we follow this to the implied conclusions? Do we say something like “Julie was either given or sold to Mr. Hoyt and Harris helped him cover it up and then was rewarded with a high-paying job that involved protecting these kinds of secrets”? And from there, do we say “Wayne and Roland found out somehow — possibly from Tom — and were the reason he disappeared”? It’s not an illogical stretch. There are still plenty of other unanswered questions — How did Hoyt get Julie? What happened to Will? — but it feels like we’re zeroing in on the truth here.
Tom — The only thing that makes Tom look guilty is the call from Julie but Tom has not been behaving like a guilty man. He’s breaking down during interviews and beating confessions out of shady former relatives and leaping fences on a mission for the truth. We also learned that he’s struggling with his sexuality and apparently has been for quite some time. I don’t know how this all ends for him. Probably not great. Even if he makes it out of that pink room (I knew Harris was coming and I still yelped at the cliffhanger), dude still has about five other demons chasing him.
Lucy — Is it too dark to suggest that Lucy was the reason Hoyt ended up with Julie? I don’t want to think that. I hope there’s a less upsetting answer to all of this. There’s also the question of whether she was murdered, too. It’s not ideal any way you slice this.
The guy with the scar — Heyyyy, there you are, buddy, yelling at Amelia during her book reading in 1990. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this yet. We know he’s probably the one who bought this dolls in bulk from Patty the Casual Racist. We know he’s probably the one people were referencing in regards to the fancy sedan that was hanging around at the time of the disappearance. We don’t know what he’s been up to in the decade between then and 1990 and we don’t know why exactly he was so heated at Amelia about it all. Either way, it was awful nice of Amelia to mutter “dolls” under her breath after he left so I could piece all of this together.
Cousin Dan — Cousin Dan is not really a suspect in the murder and disappearance of Lucy’s kids. I think that much is clear. But it’s also clear that he knows things and those things led Tom to the pink room. God, what an unbelievable scumbag. You can tell he’s a piece of trash by his beard and hair and general shifty demeanor, but if there was any doubt at all as he shoved breakfast into his face, the fact that he asked for $7000 for his information settled it. Seven thousand dollars. What a low and incredibly specific and perfectly scumbag-y number to ask for in exchange for decade-old information about your murdered nephew and missing niece. I’m glad Tom kicked him in the nuts.
The shady DA/AG — Again, the question here is whether he’s just nakedly ambitious and looking for shortcuts to put tough cases to bed or irredeemably corrupt and trying to cover-up a horrifying ring of child abductions in exchange for political gain. Neither is great. But we should have always known he was up to no good because he’s played by Brett Cullen and Brett Cullen is one of our nation’s greatest “shady authority figure” actors working today. It’s like when you see Ray Wise and you’re like “oh snap, that character is evil!” Dead giveaway.
Holy crap, did you see my guy Scoot’s forehead veins come flying out in this scene, in the moments right after Hays and West started pressing Tom about Julie’s call from the truck stop. My word. I was afraid he was going to have a stroke. What do you think his blood pressure was in this scene, 200/130? It was incredible. His forehead looks like a topographical map of a mountain range with a valley in the middle. Imagine being able to do that on demand.
MECHANIC: That’ll be $2300 including parts and labor.
ME: [gets so angry my veins come bursting out through my forehead like they are trying to escape]
MECHANIC: … uh, but for you we can do it for $1700.