HBO’s True Detective
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Final Country”
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hunters in the Dark” – click here
* For a recap & review of Season 3 finale, “Now Am Found” – click here
We see Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) bringing his daughter Becca (Deborah Ayorinde) to college, worrying about say goodbye to her. This seems likely to be around the late ’90s or early 2000s. We skip back a little ways to 1990 when Dt. Hays was out in the woods inspecting a tower where he and Lt. Roland West (Stephen Dorff) found Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) dead. There was an apparent suicide note left with the body. But could Hoyt (Michael Rooker) and Harris James be the real reason? After Tom found that pink room, surely something happened. Wayne rushed home to Amelia (Carmen Ejogo), checking on her and the kids. She was busy talking about the man with the dead eye who showed up and interrupted her reading. He felt guilty, believing Tom killed himself for how they “went at him.”
In 2015, Wayne gets potential new information from Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gadon) suggesting Purcell didn’t kill himself, that a “sudden act of violence” was in fact staged. Things might look different to old man Hays these days.
Back in ’90, West felt the guilt for what happened to Tom, though Wayne was reluctant to take the blame, wanting to keep working on the case. This further drove “Purple” and his partner apart. Their friendship was starting to crumble fast. West started to make things pretty personal. Hays only wanted to crack the case.
“This is our job. It ain’t here to make you right, and it’s not the place you work out your shit.”
After things were pinned on Woodard in 1980, Tom was busy spiralling into darkness. He wanted to be alone, essentially, and to just waste away. He rejected the help Dt. West was trying to give him. Roland gave Tom his personal number in case anything bad happened. At home, Wayne was encouraging Amelia to write about the case because the news media weren’t doing anything to help. He was one of the reasons why she pursued things further with the book in the first place.
Jump ahead to ’90 again. Amelia met a woman who was best friends with Lucy (Mamie Gummer). She asked about the “black man with one eye.” The lady didn’t know anybody of that description. She does remember something when Amelia mentions Halloween of 1980. She breaks out a picture from that night, of the Purcell kids. In the background are two taller people in sheets dressed as ghosts. Meanwhile, West and Hays were looking for Dan O’Brien only to find him gone, nowhere to be found at the motel.
In 2015, Wayne and Elisa watch footage from ’90 in which Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) announced that Tom’s suicide note indicates guilt. They were going to pin the whole case on Tom rather than Woodard, who was also already dead. It was like playing roulette with dead people, finding a new person to blame whenever and wherever the narrative fit best. Elisa shows Wayne stuff online about dolls used “as signifiers” in the underground referring to paedophiles. We get a GREAT CALLBACK to Season 1 showing a picture of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) in an article about them taking on a paedophilia ring. Elisa believes it’s possible the Purcell family sold Julie. Wayne isn’t so sure, having learned to “live with ambiguity.” His mind and memories are fragmented.
“Somebody’s got to stay. Somebody’s got to remember.”
In ’90, Wayne got a look at phone records from ’88. He searched through a pile of papers while forgetting he was supposed to look after the kids that night. Amelia had to go out and meet someone at a bar, digging for info about Lucy. The guy remembered seeing Dan talk to a black guy with one eye. Meanwhile, Wayne found things in the records. A couple days before Lucy was found dead there were calls to the house traced back to Harris James’s personal line from the Hoyt factory. More than that, James flew to Vegas the day before Lucy died and returned the day after. Wayne wanted to press James about what he was doing in Vegas. He hoped that he and Roland could, in some form, avenge Tom so these crimes weren’t pinned on him forever.
In 2015, Wayne and Roland get looking into the Hoyt family. They chat with Regina, who tells them about the daughter, Isabel, whom she helped raise. Isabel “was troubled” and never left their big estate. She crashed a car one night and after that a man named Mr. June watched Isabel, drove her places, and so on. Turns out Mr. June – not his real name – had a dead eye. Other than that, things are getting tougher for Wayne, slipping between past and present. In some ways it helps him reconcile things with Roland, as he apologises for pushing too hard 25 years ago. Nevertheless, it’s devastating to see his mind shatter to pieces gradually.
In ’90, the partners were watching the Hoyt factory for when Harris would leave, then they tailed him. They pulled him over on the road after a while. He knew something wasn’t quite normal immediately. Things started to get violent fairly fast as West was putting Harris in the car. (ISN’T THE SCORE HERE TERRIFYING?) They took him to that barn out in the woods, asking questions about Vegas and accusing him of giving Lucy a “hot shot” to kill her and make it appear as an OD. They beat him badly. Maybe too badly because he was having trouble breathing. Wayne took the handcuffs off and Harris attacked, which ended with Harris getting shot to death. That left the friends to dig a hole together. West nearly said the n-word, admitting he wanted to, and it all but broke him and Hays apart entirely. WOW. JUST, WOW. A brutal, powerful moment.
In 2015, Wayne and Roland both see the car outside across the road. Wayne goes out with a baseball bat, knocking off part of a taillight as the vehicle speeds off. Roland gets an Arkansas plate number from the back. These two old dudes have a few tricks up their sleeve, even if they’re getting slower. The worst is Wayne, whose mind gets worse with each day. Simultaneously, he has clues locked inside that damaged mind.
In ’90, Wayne was burning his clothes in the yard when Amelia found him. He refused to tell her. She could obviously sense something bad. In the morning, she wanted to confront things and he was pushing it off. Then he got a call from Mr. Hoyt wanting to discuss Harris, seeming to know about “the events of last night.” There were cars outside. (Is the car in 2015 someone in relation to Hoyt, too?) Wayne sensed danger surrounding his family at all angles, so he went outside to talk to the man himself. He got into one of the cars, then they were gone, leaving Amelia terrified for her husband.
Such mysterious stuff swirling everywhere. Now we know Wayne and Roland have got literal blood on their hands. Always more interesting in anything noir-ish when the anti-heroes are quite anti just as much as hero. There’s one final episode. “Now Am Found” is next time. What will it bring? What will be fully revealed to us?