By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – January 22, 2019)
TRUE DETECTIVE: SEASON 3, EPISODE 3: THE BIG NEVER
It was just a case when I caught it. I didn’t know it’d be my last. – Wayne Hays
First off, apologies for the timing of this piece, as I was out of town all weekend and did not have the time to put it together, despite HBO providing the next several episodes in advance. What that means for you is the next few weeks, possibly the rest of the season, you’ll have these articles just as the credits roll. I appreciate the network continuing to be good to me, and by proxy to those of you I’m blessed enough to have in this audience.
What Nic Pizzolatto proved, at least for the time being, with this week’s installment of True Detective is that we should give him the rest of this season and forgive him for its predecessor. It’s without doubt Season 2 was a misstep, although there are some that liked it, and I’m happy for those that did, because never do I want someone to be in lockstep with a negative opinion of mine, because it means TWO people’s time was wasted.
I’m not going to gush over Mahershala Ali’s performance every week, so just assume it’s the case even when I don’t say it. He’s tremendous, basically all the time, in everything he does, and this version of the anthology series benefits to an unthinkable degree with his inclusion in the proceedings. Stephen Dorff is awfully impressive right now as well, and the chemistry between the two leads works in a different way from McConaughey and Harrelson in that there’s really not a rift, only a cultural divide between two people that do respect each other.
Let’s just stop right here and talk about the Albert Einstein quote Amelia uses in the 2015 vision sequence, because I researched it and tried to find something palatable for us here. I may have failed. This is based on four dimensional physics and extrapolations from the theory of relativity and many other concepts, but I’m going to do my best to boil it down and pull something useful for our purposes going forward.
Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Okay, so what Einstein is referring to here is what’s known as the “block universe” theory of spacetime. This quote comes after the death of a colleague and good friend, and was written in a letter to the departed’s family. Generally, the block universe posits a four-dimensional view of time, where it’s impossible to determine the difference between past and future, and where “actual” depends upon a number of other factors. One simple explanation I found reads that it’s impossible to know where the past ends and the future begins, because there’s no definitive point of delineation.
The ideas go further into the difference in time depending on where one is, using the traveling through space example, where someone is barreling through the cosmos in a rocket, but back on earth, years are passing by at far different intervals. It gets complicated, but the quote itself is often used to provide comfort in times of bereavement after death. Time is not somewhere we can visit or something we can touch. We can’t go to the past and we can’t travel to the future. It’s not linear or anything that we can pinpoint. It simply exists, with rules that aren’t explainable.
Wayne Hays is fixated on the past, never able to shake the Purcell case, and in the process of obsessing over it, he curses at his daughter in a discount store, he explodes verbally on the woman he loves, and he slowly begins to lose portions of his sanity. The latter may have been out of his control, but there’s a sense that the stress and the unanswered questions just broke this man, who when we meet him in 1980, seems to be every bit the detective we’d all hope to meet in our hour of need.
In 2015, Wayne’s doctor all but tells him he has Alzheimer’s, perhaps not dementia, but there are signs of both, and often they complement one another in the most unfortunate of ways. Reliving the Purcell case for the television interview is taxing him, bringing up all the old questions, and not necessarily helping him. Amelia, in the vision, asked a few questions that should have left your eyes wide and your mind reeling. As she says, “And at the end of all things, are you awakening to what you withheld? Did you confuse reacting with feeling? You’re worried what they’ll find. What you left in the woods. Finish it,” we’re supposed to move to what Hays is hiding from US, that we’ve yet to see.
However, the crucial line that stands out is, “Oh sweetheart, did you think you could just go on and never once have to look back?” He starts saying to himself he doesn’t deserve this, but as time exists, she tells him he’s right, but it’s still happening, and he can’t control it. His life has been turned upside down, permanently, due to the Purcell case that rocked the community, but also scrambled this man’s brain. From a tracker to someone who doesn’t trust a single moment, a single spark in his own mind, he’s shattered. That, of course, is what True Detective is all about. What is the toll these events take on those tasked with solving heinous crimes with twists and turns?
Now to Roland West, who in 1990 has been promoted to Lieutenant and who, we find out, has a friend in Tom Purcell. Ten years prior, Tom was likely a lead suspect, even though it never felt like he wasn’t being truthful, despite the disputed comments about how close his children were to neighbor Ronnie. He loses it when he tries to go back to work and is sent home, but ten years later, he’s more clean cut, he’s far deeper in his faith, even asking Roland to pray with him. He’s also been sober for five years. And, his wife died in Las Vegas, probably from an overdose. Pizzolatto’s decision to give us the hint that Tom has survived such a traumatic scenario is intriguing, but welcomed, because it takes him off our list…or does it?
Dungeons & Dragons was a major part of the “satanic panic” in the early 1980s, as supposed devil worshippers were doing nefarious things while dealing with necromancers and wyverns outside of snow-capped mountains. Much of the hysteria was ridiculous, but D&D has always connoted some level of supernatural imagination that can feel unapproachable. It’s a perfect game to use this season, because just the mere sight of the shapes of the dice is enough to maybe, just maybe make you feel a little uneasy about things for a second. D&D to Ouija isn’t a huge leap for many of us, even if it should be, and even if neither are in any way harmful, provided they aren’t used improperly.
What is the story behind Hoyt Foods? Is this Pizzolatto throwing us off the main track and getting us thinking of Lucy’s involvement, or at the very least who she might have known that was a scumbag from her days on that assembly line. There are a number of questions popping up that we can write down, but can’t answer as of yet. What’s the deal with the brown sedan? Why were some key witnesses in the community never interviewed? What’s the significance of Hoyt’s lost granddaughter? How much should we take from the toys that Tom and Lucy couldn’t identify? What about the drawings in the bedroom?
Oh, and then there’s that photo in the album, showing Will on the morning of his first communion, hands in a praying gesture that is an exact replica of how he was posed in the cave. We see the blood-covered rocks as well, but still don’t entirely know how Will died, for what purpose, and even though blunt force trauma is the diagnosis, grisly details are still out there for us to learn over the next five weeks.
The biggest question might surround the various one-line sayings on torn scraps of paper.
“I’m always here.”
“I’ll always keep you safe.”
“Have a good night.”
Who wrote these sayings? Was it one of the children? Was it a third party? Was it an imaginary voice in Will or Julie’s head that felt real enough as to be a force? There’s no question these torn pieces are going to play a major role in this case, although focusing too deeply on them right now is folly. We just don’t know enough, and although Woodard appears innocent, that doesn’t stop the locals (who certainly don’t know enough) from beating him simply for existing in their community.
Here, we are seeing that not only is Wayne Hays’ life disrupted, as well as Roland West and the victims, but the panic in an unsolved case of this magnitude is leading to violence and paranoia. And it’s this fact that means something to me. The rush to find a perpetrator isn’t to get justice first. It’s to recover peace and tranquility of mind, because once evil has a name and a face, you can deal with it. Until it does, there’s no sense of security anywhere, and looking over your shoulder becomes an involuntary motion. Because it has no identity, Wayne Hays can’t sleep, he ends up being railroaded out of the field and to menial desk work, and his career trajectory stops.
Though Pizzolatto does let the character use his skin color as a defense, that’s exactly what you’d expect Wayne Hays to go to in 1990 (or earlier) when he was passed over or disregarded. It’s a fair approximation, and before the episode is over, we see Roland West bring him back into the fold and through the course of the hour, repeatedly fight for his former partner. In 1990, West gets Purple Hays back on the case and the episode ends with the two exiting the patriotic bar and heading to work. So, the pair of depositions we’re watching also coincide with these two getting the band back together again and trying to get to the bottom of the Purcell case.
During the search party, Amelia and Wayne discuss the poem from the week before, specifically the line about not saying “his” name, in this instance “his” being a metaphor for time as a person. She suggests the following, which is apropos to Hays’ life in the past, present, and future (sorry to Einstein): “I think it’s because we’re IN time and OF time, but to name, you separate yourself from something when you name it. And I think he means, we can’t be separated from time.”
Because of the Purcell case, time basically stopped for Wayne Hays. Not only has he been unable to separate from it, time has passed as he stood still, as his mind deteriorated, and as the world seemingly lapped him on the race track. Hays responds to his soon-to-be love interest and wife by saying he thought the quote might be about God. “Ah, I thought he meant like it was the name of God. You know, like the Hebrews wasn’t supposed to say God’s name.” Time has owned this man’s life, and he hasn’t been able to escape it. It’s been the dominating force over him, and as we see in a span of 35 years, there’s no way to fight it.
Wayne Hays goes from an infatuation and attraction to a marriage, to a Walgreens parking lot, to a hotel, to a book he loathes and comes to respect, to breaking in half around his wife and children, to losing touch with his daughter as she gets out of Arkansas and moves to Los Angeles, to demotions at work, to depositions and finally a 2015 television interview when he’s incapable of handling all that comes along with it. Through all of it, the one constant for Wayne Hays has been the Purcell case, which might most accurately be the moment the clock broke for good in his subconscious.
What is “The Big Never?” Well, just a thought, perhaps it’s the ending that feels it will never come for Wayne Hays. Maybe it’s the relief that exists in the future…
…a future Einstein says doesn’t actually exist in our space.
I’m @JMartZone. I feel like we should stay on point… I’m making a point, son.