HBO’s True Detective
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Hour and the Day”
Directed by Nic Pizzolatto
Written by David Milch & Pizzolatto
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Big Never” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “If You Have Ghosts” – click here
In 1980, Detectives Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and Roland West (Stephen Dorff) went to visit a local Catholic church. On the wall hung the many students who took their First Communion in “prayerful repose.” Specifically it’s Will Purcell’s photo they were interested in. He’s got his eyes closed along with the prayer hands. The detectives questioned the priest, who took those photographs, and they showed him evidence found at the scene to see if he knew anything. They walked away with little. They did hear about the chaff dolls, made by a local lady named Patty. She last sold them the October prior when a man bought ten. He was a “negro man” with a “dead eye.” More casual racism came up as Patty equated black with ugly. To us white people it may seem very casual, but those casual moments add up to a lifetime of pain for a person of colour.
Skip ahead to 1990. Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) accused Wayne of playing the role of a man with “no agency,” unable to get past old tragedy. The couple were trying to hang onto to those threads of love left clinging between them. Neither were truly capable of talking without antagonising one another, or, y’know, fucking each other.
“Everybody’s fucking something”
In ’80, Roland and Wayne went looking for the dead-eyed dude. At a liquor store they got a tip about the guy living in a trailer park, so they head over to find a man named Sam Whitehead. They chatted about the dolls, though soon the community was lurking, wondering if the cops were trying to stitch somebody up for a crime. The “racial complexities” got thick, making everything much more difficult. Shit became tense when someone threw something and Roland pulled his gun, forcing the detectives inside to question Sam. Wayne pressed him about Devil’s Den. But Sam didn’t know a thing. In the aftermath, the partners were a little more divided. Although Roland isn’t a racist, he’s not a helpful ally, either. He overcompensates in weird ways instead of merely compensating properly in others.
In 2015, Wayne’s visiting his son Henry (Ray Fisher), who’s a detective at the local precinct. He wants his boy to look up details on the old case. He’s putting memories of the case back together, in turn helping him put his general memory back together, much as it’s possible. He’s also trying to get back into contact with Roland. “I need his memory,” dad tells his son.
Perfect image in ’90 to see a picture of Roland on the wall shaking hands with Bill Clinton. Bill was seen, by many, as a friend to the black community when he has a wildly sketchy history with policies that adversely affected POC.
Back in ’80, Dts. West and Hays kept an eye on the Catholic church for their “one–eyed brother.” The priest got lots of people to volunteer their fingerprints. This was also when Wayne and Amelia began their relationship. She already started bridging his professional life with the personal, bringing up Will, but he tried to push the conversation elsewhere. Until he caved and talked about it anyway. Perhaps part of Wayne’s regrets later in life are that he needed Amelia’s help trying to figure out the case and, due to that, it changed their relationship irreparably.
We see how Roland was already picking up the broken pieces of Tom Purcell’s (Scoot McNairy) life in ’80s, when he got called to a bar where the grieving dad had the shit kicked out of him. It’s again curious to see Dt. Best casually disregard Tom calling his partner the n-word. Not as if he has to kick the shit out of the man again. He could, at the very least, have admonished him for saying it— he only focused on how good a detective Wayne was, not his humanity. Tom feels terrible for saying it, yet Roland continually excuses him. Says a lot how someone reacts to racism when they’re by themselves with a friend, and here we get glimpses of Roland’s true face.
In 2015, Wayne goes to see Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon). His mind’s still sharp in some ways. He wants to know what Elisa might’ve uncovered in her own investigative work. He’s curious why they’ve gotten interested so many years later. She shows him info about Lucy’s (Mamie Gummer) cousin, Dan O’Brien (Michael Graziadei), turning up dead after going missing for a period of time.
Back in ’80, Wayne and Roland suddenly got a lead on the bike they recovered near the crime scene, bringing them back to Freddy Burns (Rhys Wakefield). Elsewhere we watch Amelia comfort Lucy, trying to explain she doesn’t need to feel guilty. The mother blamed herself: “I have done such a terrible thing.” General guilt? Or, something worse, more specific? Things fast got shitty when Lucy believed the school teacher was only there to work info out of her, driving Amelia out of the house calling her an awful racist name.
“There’s some pieces missing— I need ’em.”
In ’90, Wayne and Roland were going over the footage of Julie at the robbery. Wayne remembers this in 2015, trying to piece everything into a coherent puzzle but struggling to grasp the pieces. He hears whispers, feeling the presence of those men he killed in Vietnam lurking right behind him. Then he notices a car across the street possibly keeping an eye on the house. Is it real?
Back to ’80. Roland and Wayne hauled Freddy in for interrogation along with the other young men. They found his prints on the bike. He’d taken it to bully nerdy Will, which sent the kid running into the woods. Freddy kept denying any involvement in the boy’s murder, breaking down into tears. Across town, Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) talked innocently with a couple kids on the road. He was spied by one of the men who’d beat him previously. Not long afterwards several trucks of white men chased him. Brett ran back home. There, he got out an arsenal he was hoarding, setting up traps around the house and preparing assault rifles.
Just as the episode ends, Wayne and Roland arrived at the house, only to find one of the men kicking the door open, where a claymore awaits.
What a fucking episode! Milch and Pizzolatto together is a dream for Father Gore. Can’t wait to see what happens after this in the 1980 timeline.
“If You Have Ghosts” comes next.