True Detective series 3 episode 2 review

True Detective series 3 episode 2

Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.

With both HBO and Sky Atlantic deciding to show the next episode of True Detective’s much-anticipated third series immediately after the first, ‘live’ viewers only really had the time it took to make a cup of tea to digest the opening hour before the second of its eight-part run began.

Luckily for us, things picked up right where they left off. Julie Purcell is still missing, but her brother Will has been found. His neck broken and body posed in a horrifically ritualistic way (almost like a Holy Communion?), the hunt is on for a killer we already know we won’t catch for a minimum of another three and a half decades. At least, by the end of this second episode, we know that Julie survives. We close out on the 1980 timeline with a (rather poorly-written) note from – it would seem – her abductor…


We also learn that she’s alive in 1990 after her fingerprints are found at a pharmacy robbery. And we find out that someone is serving time for Will’s murder, albeit someone that probably shouldn’t be. Who do Hays and West pin the killing on ten years previous? Will’s uncle? Or his father, perhaps…?

Speaking of whom, Scoot McNairy (Killing Them Softly, Godless) plays grieving dad Tom Purcell note perfectly here. He’s particularly effective in a scene showing him attempting to return to work in an auto parts factory after Will’s body is found, only to be told to go home as his attendance is ‘distracting’ for his fellow workforce. It’s a heartbreaking moment.

As episode 2 continues to merge (and cleverly even overlap) its three timelines, it shows three different versions of our lead investigator Wayne Hays. 1980 Hays is a somewhat friendly, approachable and hopeful man. His lightsaber impression to cheer up a crying child during a traumatic interview demonstrates this quite nicely. As does the gentle wooing of his eventual-wife and his bonding with fellow ‘nam vet and potential suspect Brett ‘Trash Man’ Woodard. There is a darkness there too, though. Hays and his partner Roland West’s willingness to let off a little steam ‘interrogating’ (well, needlessly beating…) a known local child molester with no particular connection to the case more than hints at an ability to break bad when it suits.

A decade on and the toll of the case on Wayne is visible. He’s now married to the schoolteacher Amelia Reardon (Selma’s Carmen Ejogo), with two children of his own. But while he’s more sure of himself – something demonstrated by his bullishness during his deposition – he’s a much more closed book. His disposition is even made more gloomy when he discovers that Julie is still alive ten years on from her disappearance, the revelation just seems to confuse him further.

In 2015 however, Hays is all but lost. Widowed and suffering from worsening dementia, he is a haunted man, heartbroken by Amelia’s death and wrecked by his inability to solve the Purcell case. We find out that something happened with him and his daughter to drive her away. We also find out that he never read all of his wife’s hit book about the case, which can only lead us to think that he’s wracked by a form of shame at not solving the thing. Or something worse.

With the frequent time skips and Ali playing all three versions of himself, the make-up here needs to be perfect. Thankfully, it is. Because of the top-notch prosthetics, Ali manages to look 35, 45 and 70 entirely convincingly. Hearty hand claps to the make-up department.

The constant cutting from one timeline to another means we can never quite relax and we’re constantly aware how futile the investigation is (given that it’s clear from the start that the crime isn’t solved – at least in the first two timelines, anyway). The cumulative effect of that is pretty unsettling and, well, more than a little depressing. Hays is consumed by a case he may never solve.

Or will he…? We end the episode with Hays as an old man, out walking in his dressing gown, in a confused state. He looks up and, with no memory of how he got there, he’s walked to Shoepick Street. The very street that the Purcell kids disappeared from 35 years previously. But why? Could there be life in the old dog yet?

The first two instalments of True Detective series 3 were directed by one of the very best directors out there working today, Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room, Hold the Dark). He was signed up to oversee the entire series, but apparently fell out with the show’s creator Nic Pizzolatto, walking off set after wrapping up the second episode. Here’s hoping that the next six parts manage to keep up the quality shown so far… Only the bar has been set pretty high already.

What did you make of True Detective series 3 episode 2? Let us know in the comments below…

Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.

Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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1 Comment

  1. Rummy says

    Excellent. Great cast. I like the guy from Killing Them Softly. And Ali has grown on me tremendously. Loved the descriptive exchange about prison life. Brave dialogue. Personally I feel no shame in finding that hilarious.
    Why the creator have to fuck with the director,I don’t know,but I’m hooked. Episode 3 will be interesting to see if the direction is noticeaby different in style. Peadophile rings and dementia. Heavy brave subject matter. I do know that im never gonna develop my writing skills on a fucking mobile phone. Send me a laptop and ill sketch out series4.
    Took long enough for S3. Guess that was written on a cell phone ! 8/