HBO’s True Detective
Season 3, Episode 6: “Hunters in the Dark”
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Written by Niz Pizzolatto & Graham Gordy
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “If You Have Ghosts” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Final Country” – click here
In 1980, Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and Amelia Reardon (Carme Ejogo) had just hooked up for the first time. She was concerned about him while the situation at Woodard’s house was erupting. She asked about his past in the Vietnam War. He tried not to dwell on things, yet acknowledged “it‘s never behind you.” This is quite true, given what we see in Wayne’s current 2015 timeline. He can’t escape the memories, even if he claimed not to spend much time worrying about what he remembered.
Jump ahead to ’90. Detective Hays and Lieutenant Roland West (Stephen Dorff) were listening to the tape of Julie after Tom’s (Scoot McNairy) press conference. The other police believed the detectives needed to go back and concentrate on the dad. Neither Roland nor Wayne felt this was the right direction but had little choice in the matter. Tom wasn’t happy to have more suspicion thrown at him, particularly when he thought he had a good relationship with Lt. West. Wayne mentioned the hole in the closet, alluding to Tom spying on his daughter. Roland didn’t cut him any slack, either. This only sent Tom into a tailspin of anger. Again, the other cops wanted to pin this on him, as well as Woodard, like they were partners.
In 2015, Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon) is pushing, too. There are enough suggestions to make the audience feel as if the cops did something nasty. Well, we’ll get to that eventually. Part of this season’s great writing is how things unfold at a slow, steady pace while remaining so compelling. Watching Wayne’s memory collapse and return at once is a stunning, if not tragic story.
“Everybody’s got weaknesses”
In ’90, Wayne and Roland were digging, whereas Amelia was getting ready for more literary work on the case. There’s an excellent dichotomy between the husband and wife that speaks to how true crime is treated in media. Hays and Best were combing through Tom’s past. They find out there were rumours of him visiting a “queer club” that got him ostracised by the rest of the insecure dudes at work. They also went for a look through the grieving father’s house, turning up plenty of Alcoholics Anonymous literature, bills, and a curious religious pamphlet about behavioural therapy to cure homosexuality. Best doesn’t think any of this means Tom is a killer. Wayne wants to make sure they find out ALL the truth, worried these secrets could mean there are other secrets— dark ones.
Father Gore’s theory: Roland and Tom had a sexual moment together at some point. Could be wildly off base, but there’s more to their relationship. Best appears keen not to investigate anything about Tom and the “queer underground” scene.
Back in ’80, Hays was confronted with evidence of the shirt and backpack at Woodard’s place. He knew immediately something wasn’t right. The police department wanted to be done with the case because they were made to look stupid in the papers. Not unlike the West Memphis Three case that’s influenced Season 3, effectively a result of power wanting to maintain an illusion of power.
During the renewed investigation, Hays and Best went to see one of the cops, Harris James, who recognised the backpack. He worked at the Hoyt Foods factory they’d visited during the original investigation. They ask if Harris saw Tom at the scene, and he claims the father was watching nearby. The man makes a casual statement about Wayne’s “good body” before they leave, after a bad cops-and-doughnuts joke.
In 2015, Elisa explains Harris disappeared when the investigation started up again in ’90. She’s convinced someone did something bad to him. She’s curious why there are so many dead people surrounding the case. We further discover Henry (Ray Fisher) is having an affair with Elisa. This concerns his father for many reasons: “Did I teach you to withhold?” A quietly devastating moment between father and son, as Wayne sees more of what his life’s choices have brought upon his son.
Amelia spent the year of 1990 looking into Julie Purcell. She found her way to a Catholic shelter where she spoke to a young lady who’d known Julie. Julie was calling herself “Mary Julie” or “Mary July” and got mixed up with dudes who pimped girls out. Mary said she was “a queen in a pink castle.” This girl knew bad things happen to girls in that area and nobody cared. So while part of Amelia’s book might be tricky morality for some, in many ways authors who tackle cold cases are voices for the unheard.
At a diner, Wayne and Roland met with Dan O’Brien (Michael Graziadei), before he would later go missing. He wanted money for his help. This pissed Dt. Hays off. But Dan got talking about his and Lucy’s (Mamie Gummer) shitty family history. He was sure Lucy was killed and someone made it look like an OD. Maybe he wasn’t just high as fuck. Maybe he knew things. He was also paranoid, believing other people were looking for Julie. Criminals? Or, other police? Highly likely someone didn’t want her found.
Things were tense between Best and Hays, with the former accusing the latter of not wanting to “go home” and using the case as a crutch. Wayne was concerned about the truth, even if part of it was an attempt to buy back a piece of his soul. At a motel that night, Tom tracked down O’Brien and the two of them got into an altercation. Dan made a stupid gloryhole joke before Tom confronted him with a gun. Things got physical and Dan started spewing about Lucy getting paid off by somebody.
“Oh, I speak crazy— I’m fucking fluent.”
Wayne returned to the Purcell place in ’90. He saw the closet’s peephole again, then got an idea— it was never a peephole, it was a hole through which the kids passed notes, like those found back in the day.
In 2015, Wayne and Roland talk about James disappearing, though Best isn’t quite sure there’s much two old farts can do after all this time. He takes a look around while Wayne is in the bathroom, finding a copy of Amelia’s book annotated on every last page. When Wayne returns it’s like he hasn’t seen Roland in over 20 years again. He asks his old buddy to look for a car across the street— Best sees nothing. Was it always a hallucination? Or, could somebody actually be watching the house?
In ’90, Amelia was reading from her novel in a bookstore as she began to work on new writing about the latest information in the case. She was interrupted when the man with the dead eye, Sam Whitehead, returned from out of the past. He shamed her for collecting a pay cheque off the pain and misery of others.
Tom was busy sneaking into a large estate, despite the gate and security cameras. He got into the mansion, where he found a big, steel door going deeper inside. And down the hall he found a PINK ROOM (!!!), like it’s decorated for a child. Tom sees something (or someone?), speaking his daughter’s name as Harris lurks behind him.
So fucking creepy. The mysteries are unravelling. The credits roll while we hear what sound like the distorted screams of Tom. Uh oh.
WOW. This episode was heavy, and keeps bringing amazingly twisted True Detective-style mystery that Father Gore adores. Only a couple episodes left.
“The Final Country” is next.