Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
TV viewers have never been louder. With social media and internet forums alight with viewpoints and opinions both before and after all major shows are broadcast, producers hardly need to organise focus groups anymore. The television-watching masses make their opinions very audible. And sometimes, it seems, the programme-makers listen to us.
Few people had too many positive things about the last series of True Detective. While it had a (mostly) brilliant cast, plenty of atmosphere and a few memorable set pieces, on the whole – it was messy. For this third run, fans of the show wanted a return to the ways of the maiden season. Perhaps without quite as much of the extended monologues full of overly-stylised Nietzschean psychobabble.
And that’s exactly what we’ve got here. So far? So good. This third series of True Detective is near-perfect TV crime drama.
To quickly recap the major plot points we need to check in across three timeframes: 1980 (when the crime is committed), 1990 (when the case is reopened) and 2015 (old man Hays and the documentary crew):
1980: Struggling with leads, Hays and West search the Purcell home again, discovering that the kids used to meet a mysterious friend who drove a brown sedan in the woods to play a dice-based Dungeons & Dragons-style game. While at the house they also discover some photos of Will from his First Communion showing him positioned exactly as he was when Hays found him dead in the nook. In another scene, obvious red herring suspect (and potential fall guy) Brett Woodard, of ‘trash go-kart’ fame, is beaten and threatened by a stereotypical mob of angry local rubes. He immediately moves something in the shape of a child’s body from a lock-up that will inevitably turn out to merely be similarly shaped.
1990: The pressure is showing on Hays. He knows the man they put away for the crime is innocent and that, ultimately, he bungled the case. His own investigations, conducted with his wife, merely lead to an argument with her and he’s shown to be more than a little paranoid when briefly losing his kids in the supermarket. There is a light moment however when Roland (now a God-fearing lieutenant) recruits his former partner to his new task force, put together to reexamine the case.
2015: The documentary maker continues to grill Wayne, insinuating that the entire case was mishandled and that key witnesses were ignored. The story appears to be that the brown sedan was linked to a child abuse ring and that somehow either incompetence or cover-up obscured the fact. Amelia returns to Wayne during ‘an episode’ of some kind and hints further at his guilt or mistakes in the case. What had he ‘left in the woods’, exactly…?
A quick word (it won’t be the last throughout this series) on lead actor Mahershala Ali… How good is he, eh? Well, we’ll tell you – he’s very good. It’s hardly a revelation, given the 44-year-old picked up a Best Actor Oscar three years ago, but still.
Stephen Dorff also stands out as Hays’ one-time partner Roland West, especially here in this third instalment where he’s given much more to do. With his swagger, chunky Masonic ring and an enviable collection of slightly weird coats, the Blade and Backbeat star is seemingly back from the acting wilderness.
While we’re putting our hands together for the cast, let’s give Carmen Ejogo a round of applause too. Already she’s made Amelia feel real. Multifaceted yet believable, there’s a dark side to Wayne’s eventual wife. In the 1980 timeline, she has a burning ambition to be a writer – something she goes on to achieve, much to her husband’s distaste given he’s the primary character in her book. This week’s scene where she dresses up (‘bookish yet sexy’) to flirt with and manipulate a dumb Oklahoma cop into spilling beans about the now 20-year-old Julie’s prints in the Walgreens, was a stand-out moment.
As for us working out who the killer is… Well, it’s no easy feat. As ‘Purple Hays’ demonstrates. The two previous series of True Detective have gone the way of so many whodunits and revealed the murderer to be someone glimpsed early on in the series. Will series creator Nic Pizzolatto stick to that winning formula? Or will he mix it up here? Our money is on the latter. As Hays mumbles to Roland here in episode 3, “it’s like a thing that’s staring right at us.”
Now, as much as a person can’t willingly bring on dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, could it be that, at least in part, Hays’ memory loss is due to him refusing to acknowledge or accept some deep, dark truth about the case? Might the identity of Will Purcell’s killer have been squirrelled away at the back of his failing mind the whole time…? Time, we’re sure, will tell.
Half the fun of True Detective is deciphering the clues and attempting to work out what’s going on and who’s behind it all. But at this relatively earlyish stage, we’re not going to get too wrapped up in doing Hays’ job for him. We’re just going to carry on sitting back and enjoying the ride.
Which means yes, we’re nowhere near working it out yet.
What did you make of True Detective series 3 episode 3? Let us know in the comments below…