True Detective is an HBO series now in its third season.
7 out of 10 stars. Like most people I enjoyed season 1 with Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaghey. I wasn’t crazy about season 2 at all. Season 3 is more like season 1 with two detectives and three timelines. So far it’s intriguing although the pace is much slower than season 1.
TIMELINE 1 – November 1980
One week after Halloween in November of 1980, 12 year old Will Purcell and his 10 year old sister Julie disappear after riding their bike into a park in Two Fingers, Arkansas. They were seen by the Trash Man, a Vietnam War veteran who collects trash, and three drug-dealing teenagers in a purple Volkswagen Bug. These are the key suspects. Will told his father they were going over to their friend Ronnie’s but Ronnie says they never told him they were coming and they certainly never showed up. Ronnnie’s testimony is credible. So is the Trash Man’s. The teenagers story isn’t credible at all and they are shown playing with Will’s bike. Detective Wayne Hays and his partner Roland are put on the case. Wayne used to be a tracker in the Vietnam War. He finds Will’s body in a matter of hours, left in a cave in the park. He was hit over the head and his neck was broken. Then he was displayed in the cave, laid on his back with his hands folded in prayer. Two straw dolls (like corn husk dolls) are outside the cave. Julie’s body isn’t found.
TIMELINE 2, 1990, ten years later
Wayne is brought into the District Attorney’s Office and questioned about the Purcell case. He answers their questions in exchange for being told why they’re asking. It seems whoever they convicted of the Purcell kidnapping and murder is innocent. They don’t tell you who was convicted. Why? Because Julie Purcell’s fingerprints were found in an Oklahoma drugstore after a robbery. She’s alive.
TIMELINE 3, 2015
Wayne is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. His memory is quickly fading and he wants to memorialize what he knows about the Purcell case. His adult son arranges for a film director to videotape his testimony. He goes over the Purcell case (just what we know so far) and talks a great deal about his wife Amelia. She was Will’s school teacher and wrote a book about the Purcell case which became a non-fiction classic.
If you recall from Season 1 there was a large pedophile ring of prominent men killing women and children in Louisiana during the 80s and 90s. Rumors have said that eventually this season will tie in with season 1. (See our review of season 1.)
The spoilers below are only for the actual case. No one in my family cared for the side stories of the two main characters. Roland is nice in his way, but Wayne is filled with hate and cruel to his wife. Not even Alzheimer’s could redeem his character.
- One week after Halloween, on November 7, 1980 in Two Fingers, Arkansas two children disappear. They were last seen riding their bikes into the park. They are 12 year old Will Purcell and his 10 year old sister Julie.
- Suspects are the Trash Man, a Vietnam War veteran who rides a go cart and collects trash that he sells for a living and a group of three teenage boys in a purple VW bug known for drug dealing at the park in the area called Devil’s Den. The Trash Man’s name is Woodard and he’s Native American. His wife and kids left him when he couldn’t cope with memories from the war. The boys are led by Freddy Burns, a known bully, and he was seen playing with Will’s bike that night.
- When Will and Julie don’t return home at 5:30 their father Tom calls the police. Wayne Hays and Roland West are assigned to the case. Wayne was a LRRP in the Vietnam War (long range reconnaissance) but he has a huge chip on his shoulder about being black and is prone to rages. Roland is a slow and steady detective who is both intelligent and patient. The promos and “inside the show” moments for this film make it sound like Wayne is brilliant. He’s not. (I love the actor, but hate the character.) Roland, on the other hand, is barely mentioned in the promos or “inside the show” moments but he has some of the best lines of the show.
- In less than 24 hours Wayne finds Will’s body in a cave in the park, dead. He’s been posed lying on his back with his hands folded in prayer and his eyes closed. Several straw dolls are found nearby. The coroner reports that Will suffered a blow to the head and his neck was broken, but there are no signs of rape or sodomy.
- Julie’s body is never found.
- Ten years later in 1990, Julie’s fingerprints are found inside of a pharmacy in Oklahoma that was robbed. She was one of the store’s customers. However, it means the person they convicted of Julie’s murder didn’t murder her and the case must be reopened.
- Wayne and Roland question the Trash Man, Woodard, a Native American former Vietnam War veteran with his own wife and kids (who have left him). He knows nothing about Julie or Will except they were riding the opposite direction toward the park.
- They search Will and Julie’s rooms and find a hole in the wall of Will’s room where he was peeping into another bedroom. It’s unclear if that was Julie’s bedroom or his mother’s. They also find several nude magazines under the mattress. Tom doesn’t recognize any of the nude magazines because they’re very old (his are apparently newer). Then they discover that Lucy, the mother’s, cousin Dan O’Brien had stayed in Will’s room when he lived with them weeks before.
- They question Dan O’Brien and he says they were sweet kids but he hardly knew them. He was the one with the magazines, but they don’t ask him about the hole in the wall or who he was peeping on. He stayed with them during the summer so he hadn’t seen them since August.
- Wayne and Roland question the grandparents, Tom’s parents, who tell them how Lucy was always sleeping around, even before she met Tom. In fact, they don’t believe either of the kids was actually Tom’s child. Lucy needed a dad and Tom’s a sweet and gullible guy with a steady job. So she married him and then proceeded to sleep with just about every guy in town. She works at the bar and is never home or around the kids. This information is later corroborated by almost everyone they question.
- Thirty-five years later in 2015, Wayne has Alzheimer’s and his son arranges for him to be videotaped and interviewed by a documentary filmographer who is working on the case of the Purcell children. She tells Wayne that the straw dolls were a known sign of a large pedophile ring operating in the area in the 1980s.
- Wayne questions Will’s English teacher Amelia and begins dating her. She sees the three teenager suspects fighting on the playground. Freddy Burns is trying to keep them quiet about something. Wayne gives her a picture of the straw dolls and she shows it to a friend of Julie’s. He tells them that when they went trick or treating on Halloween, Julie got one of those dolls at a house they went to. But since the kids split up and then met up again later, he doesn’t know which house. He makes a map for them of which houses they trick or treated at.
- Wayne and Roland are told about a pedophile who’s been out of prison for two years. His name is Ted LaGrange and he’s been asking around town for very young prostitutes. When they question him, he has an alibi, but they beat him up and violate his parole.
- The prosecuting attorney goes public with the trick or treating doll information, their only real clue, which makes both Wayne and Roland furious.
- Immediately after the announcement about the doll Julie received trick or treating, the Purcells get a note on their door saying that Julie is safe and to stop looking.
- In 1990 Amelia and Wayne stake out the Walgreen’s pharmacy in Oklahoma where Julie’s prints were found.
- Back in 1980 Wayne and Roland question Ronnie Boyle about being Will’s best friend. For weeks, Will and Julie have been telling their dad that Ronnie is Will’s best friend and that they’re playing at his house three to four times a week. This was never true. Ronnie goes straight home after school and plays with his new puppy. His dad is home afternoons so he corroborates that they were never close friends.
- Hoyt Chickens offers a reward for any info that leads cops to the Purcell kids. When Wayne and Roland question them they claim it’s because Lucy Purcell used to work there. (This immediately made me suspicious of the Hoyt family, or someone near the Hoyt family, being Julie’s actual father and kidnapping her. Rich families don’t just give money away to people like Lucy or Tom.)
- A woman calls the tip line and claims Julie is being held captive on a snake farm. (Revival meetings in tents with snakes were being held in Louisiana about this time which was revealed in Season 1.)
- Wayne and Roland look again through the kids things and find evidence that they’ve been secretly going to the park and meeting someone there, someone who was an adult. This adult left little pieces of paper for them as part of a game. There are also drawings of the park and two adults.
- Wayne goes back to the park near the cave and looks around. He finds several die in the woods near the cave plus a bag filled with toys. Even further is a rock with blood on it, probably from the head wound to Will. The trail from this area leads directly to a nearby farm house.
- Wayne and Roland question the farmer. He saw a white woman and a black man with a cloudy eye pull up and park near the park in a brown sedan, a very nice brown sedan.
Episode 4 (the best of the season so far)
- They question the Reverend at Will and Julie’s church (St. Michael’s church) and see a photo of Will’s first communion in which he is positioned exactly as he was positioned in the cave. So one of the parishioners saw that photo. The Reverend is creepy and he took the photo. The Reverend tells them that Julie was excited about seeing an aunt. (She had no aunts.) He also recognizes the straw dolls which are called chaff dolls. They are made by one of his parishioners, Patty Faber. She makes them every fall for the October fair.
- They question Patty Faber who says a Negro man bought 10 dolls from her last October, right before Halloween. He had a dead eye.
- They drive over to Davis Junction, which is a small town where most of the black people in town live. There are only three stores in town. One of them is a liquor store. They go there and ask about any black man with a cloudy eye. The owner immediately mentions Sam Whitehead who lives in the trailer park.
- They drive over to the trailer park to question Sam Whitehead. Sam immediately starts yelling and telling his neighbors he’s about to be arrested and pinned with a murder he didn’t commit. He tells them he knows nothing about that church or the kids, but he’s way too sensitive and he incites his neighbors to trashing their cop car.
- Wayne and Roland return to the church and ask the Reverend about the black man with the cloudy eye. The Reverend doesn’t know of any such man.
- Tom Purcell gets drunk and goes to the bar where Lucy works to beat up the owner who is sleeping with Lucy. Instead the bouncers beat him up pretty badly and the owner calls Roland to come and pick him up.
- In 1990, they discover that Lucy died of an overdose in Las Vegas in 1988. So now they’re looking for her cousin Dan who was last seen in Las Vegas in 1987.
- In 2015, the documentary filmographer tells Wayne that everyone associated with the case is either dead or missing. She also tells him they found Dan O’Brien’s body in a drained quarry in southern Missouri.
- In 1980, they match fingerprints to Will’s broken bike to Freddy Burns, the driver of the purple VW bug.
- Amelia takes Will and Julie’s school desk stuff to their mother Lucy. They talk and Lucy tells Amelia that she always hated Will and Julie and she preferred to “whore around”. When Amelia first arrives and knocks on the door, Lucy is arguing with someone on the phone and it almost sounds like she’s trying to get Julie back and is angry because they killed Will. The words are vague but the impression is there. Lucy sort of confesses to Amelia that she may have had something to do with what happened to her children, but when Amelia tells her she can talk to Wayne, Lucy starts yelling racial slurs at Amelia and runs her out of the house showing that she can be violent.
- Woodard, the Trash Man, has already been warned by the town’s white men to stay away from the kids in town as now he is a suspect in the Purcell kids disappearance and Will’s murder. But he approaches two young girls in town and asks to recycle their cans. He’s seen by their father who rallies the local hillbillies together to chase him down.
- In 1990 Wayne and Roland look at the drug store video footage to try to find Julie. Eventually, after hours of viewing, Wayne spots her. Now they know what she looks like as an adult.
- In 2015, Wayne sees a dark gray sedan parked outside his home and thinks he’s being followed.
- In 1980, Wayne and Roland interview Freddy Burns and tell him his fingerprints are on Will’s destroyed bike. He tells them that Will approached them saying he was looking for Julie. Freddie knocked him off his bike and took the bike. He was drunk and high on drugs.
- The hillbilly lynching squad chases Woodard home where he has booby trapped the door to explode. He gets out his arsenal of weapons and prepares to fight.
- In 1990 they put out an APB on Julie Purcell with the image from the pharmacy video.
- In 1980, the racist hillbilly lynching squad finally gets to Woodard’s home. The father of the two girls kicks the door in and it explodes blasting him apart. Woodard then opens fire on the hillbillies and the police who have arrived on the scene. Wayne and Roland arrive and Roland is shot in the leg by one of the hillbillies before three of them trip a booby trap and are injured by explosions. Woodard kills several cops and several hillbillies. Wayne comes in the back door and Woodard is waiting for him. He wants Wayne to kill him and when he turns around with a gun pointed at Wayne, Wayne does.
- In 1990, Tom Purcell does a public announcement on the TV news asking for Julie to please come home.
- In 1980, Woodard is posthumously convicted of Will and Julie’s murders although there is no body for Julie and he is not alive to defend himself. It’s clear the prosecuting attorney is rushing this through to stop any further investigation. It is mentioned later that when Wayne refuses to stop investigating he is fired at the order of the prosecuting attorney. Over the years Roland tries to get him transferred to Roland’s unit and these attempts are blocked by the same prosecuting attorney.
- In 1990, Woodard’s kids are trying to get their father’s conviction overturned.
- In 1990, they question Freddy Burns again. He’s now a mechanic with a wife and three kids. He’s also still a bully. He tells them when Will came to them he was looking for Julie and said he couldn’t find “them” which implies Julie was with someone. Freddy also says it Woodard was riding away from the kids not toward them and they shouldn’t have convicted him.
- In 1980 they ran prints from the toys found in the woods and found no matches. So in 1990 they run them again, hoping someone new in the database will match the prints.
- In 1990, the new reward offered brings in a transient young man who keeps company with a group of street kids. A girl who looked like Julie was with them for awhile. She called herself Mary July and said she was the Princess of Pink Rooms. She also claimed she was looking for her brother who she lost when she was little (Will).
- In 2015, the documentary filmographer tells Wayne that a cop named Harris James went missing in 1990. He was the cop who cleaned up the crime scene at Woodard’s house in 1980.
- After filming, Wayne goes home and reads through his wife’s book on the case. He has never read it before and discovers a section where she talks about her conversation with Lucy Purcell in which she said, “All children should laugh”, the very same words that were on the note left on the Purcells’ door in 1980. Wayne believes Lucy wrote the note to ease Tom’s pain. It’s more likely she wrote it to stop the cops from investigating because she probably sold her kids.
- In 1980, Will’s pristine backpack and burnt shirt are found at Woodard’s house and given to Officer Harris James.
- In 1990, Wayne goes through the evidence and finds Will’s backpack. It was planted. It would’ve been blown up in the explosion where it was supposedly found.
- When the adult Julie sees the video of her dad on TV, she calls the hotline and tells them he is not her dad and that he stole her as a child. Then she asks him what he did with Will because they left him resting. This implicates Julie directly in her brother’s murder and makes it appear she went willingly.
- In 2015, Wayne visits Roland, both old men now. They apparently killed one someone or multiple someones in 1990. Wayne wants to finish investigating the case. Roland is afraid with Wayne’s memory loss he’ll accidentally tell someone about the people they killed. Did they kill Harris James? Dan O’Brien? Wayne also tells Roland that Hoyt came to visit him after they committed this murder and that Hoyt knew they’d killed him.
Already it’s starting to look like Julie was convinced by someone that Tom was not her father. If Julie’s biological father was wealthy, like one of the Hoyts, his parents or other family members could’ve come and taken Julie. Obviously they wouldn’t want Will because he’s not blood. And he’d have to be discarded since they don’t need witnesses. It also seems like Dan and Lucy possibly sold Julie to these people or somehow blackmailed them, ending in their own deaths. As for Julie, psych wards are painted pink hence the name “pink rooms”. She probably has spent significant time in a psych ward.
OR these are all red herrings.
7 out of 10 stars for the season so far. It’s a little slow paced and the drama between Wayne and his wife is really annoying.