By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – February 17, 2019)
TRUE DETECTIVE: SEASON 3, EPISODE 7: THE FINAL COUNTRY
It’s like 1980 isn’t it? A sudden act of violence, a dead man, and the case is closed. – Elisa
Pro tip for aspiring detectives involved in sprawling, seedy murder cases that need to be solved: Don’t murder the guy with the information you need before he gives you the information you need. If the handcuffs stay on, we might already know what happened to Will and Julie Purcell, if not Tom, Dan, and everybody else. Instead, we have a season finale next week that has most of its tricks left in the bag…
…because Harris James is in the proverbial body bag known as an unmarked grave in the middle of nowhere.
Within seconds of the open of the episode, Tom Purcell was dead in what was assuredly a staged suicide, courtesy of Harris James after discovering him in the pink room last week. I hope we get a flashback sequence next week that will show us the events between that cliffhanger and Tom’s death. In a show that relies on time jumps, it would make sense that we’ll get that, but sometimes Nic Pizzolatto chooses NOT to make sense out of principle.
Last week I talked about how the conclusion to the season would likely be tough to watch due to the subject matter, and what we got this week was Elisa taking us town the pathway of a possible pedophile ring that might have involved Lucy Purcell or another member of the family somehow bartering the children into the hands of the scum of the earth. Also, that might not be the case, but the overall concept is probably going to play a major role. Harris James was creepy weeks ago, and just because he’s now been killed, doesn’t mean he wasn’t creepy.
Is the interracial couple we’ve heard mentioned a few times that popped up in the photo of the two ghosts from Lucy’s best friend instrumental in what’s happening? Is it Watts under the costume? What if it’s Amelia? And who is the other ghost in that case? This episode did a great job of making it seem like it was tying a lot of things together while doing almost none of it…at least until the end, when we heard Michael Rooker’s voice on that telephone call.
Edward Hoyt has emerged and Wayne has climbed into a car with him. But, let’s not forget one factor here. This is still 1990 when that happens. 25 years later, the case still isn’t solved, unless Wayne Hays found out something he couldn’t then use due to blackmail, and now doesn’t remember enough of it to even know how restrained he was. Right now, Nic Pizzolatto is illustrating a reality where Hoyt knows Hays and West shot and killed Harris James after torturing him to get information.
How he knows that or how much he knows…I have no idea.
I keep wondering myself, okay, where’s the finale twist coming from, or is it possible it’s not going to have one. Elisa turning out to be Julie still seems far-fetched, but maybe less so as she told Hays how disappointed she was that he didn’t have the “missing piece” after always being skeptical and unaccepting of the investigations, which first fingered Brett Woodard and then moved to Tom Purcell, BOTH posthumously. That said, she’s not as bright as we thought if she assumed someone struggling with Alzheimers is going to have that kind of memory.
One minor reveal from the story this week was that Amelia’s planned sequel to her bestselling book on the Purcell crimes never happened. She wrote other things, but didn’t end up doing the follow-up. Incidentally, her character is similar to real-life author Mara Leveritt, also an Arkansas true-crime writer. I own one of her books as a matter of fact, Devil’s Knot, arguably the most definitive singular resource on the West Memphis Three case prior to the Alford plea.
Amelia and her book were always supposed to be iterative and intentionally so of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which became even more clear as she brought that topic up to her husband in 1980. At that time, he was fully behind the idea of her writing, which surprised her, but more surprised us, because all we’ve really seen to this point is an ornery Wayne Hays in 1990 that hates the existence of that book and a 2015 Wayne Hays who recognizes how good it actually was now that he’s reading it.
We knew Hays and Roland West had done something nefarious, most likely killing someone, because why else would West have been so worried about Hays speaking to Elisa and deeming it “dangerous?” That day changed their lives forever. Though the why of the friendship hasn’t ever been fully explained, Roland cared for Tom Purcell, and Hays used that information to manipulate West into getting involved and going “hard” after Harris James at the infamous torture barn.
Watts may have been a “procurer” and the person Julie Purcell was running away from, he may also have been known as Mr. June at the Hoyt estate. It’s interesting that we now have a “June” and also a “July” (as in what Julie called herself at the orphanage/children’s home), although it’s yet to be determined if it’s more than a coincidence. Not a coincidence, however, is Harris James flying to Vegas the day before Lucy Purcell overdosed and returning home the day after her death. There’s no question Harris James is (was) a bad guy, but there are still answers out there as to why he did what he did, and more importantly for whom.
Here’s hoping we’re not going to find out about a large-scale pedophile ring, just because I’d rather not see it play out. Life is messy, especially villainy, and True Detective has no issues in being uncomfortable and difficult in its execution and its references. Remember last week, the former roommate of Julie at the home pouring her soul out to Amelia, in effect begging for help as she described “what happens to the kids in here.” That facility was established by the Hoyt family, something we learned several episodes ago. This is going to get really bad.
Elisa made mention that in both the Louisiana and Nebraska group pedophilia cases, those involved had power and were able to make trouble seemingly disappear into thin air. She talks of how they target runaways, kids in orphanages, and outright kidnap them. She points to Hays being held back professionally, potential withholding or tampering of evidence, and the forced conclusions from Kindt relative to both Woodard and Tom Purcell. It’s easy to close a case when the suspect is dead, and it’s all about closing the case, not about solving it.
“I think what happened to the Purcell children was connected to a similar group. I think one or both of their parents sold them off, probably with the cousin’s help. That’s why they’re all gone. Vanished, killed, kept silent.”
In the midst of the 1980 investigation, after presumably planting evidence to point to Woodard and ensure someone else was in the clear, Harris James left the police force. This is one of the more high-profile crimes this department has likely ever seen, and he bounces at the most curious of moments, and then ten years later we see him working for the Hoyt family, who controls a major children’s home and has committed itself, on the surface, to protecting kids…which would sadly be a perfect front for abuse of all kinds. James also refers to Lucy and Dan O’Brien as “trash” not worth worrying about, so Hoyt involvement is all but confirmed in that one brief soliloquy.
Wayne burns his clothes from the night of the James murder, and although Amelia catches him in the act, she trusts him one last time as he exits the house the next morning to step into the black car with Edward Hoyt and associates. Just prior to the fire, purely from an aesthetic standpoint, Daniel Sackheim gives us one of the two or three best visual shots of the season, as Wayne Hays stands in the middle of the street, illuminated by the orange glow of the streetlight. He’s all alone, even though moments before Roland West had been there with him grabbing the license plate number off the car that turned out not to be just a vision.
We’ve got one more episode. Nic Pizzolatto has had my attention all season long, and provided the ending delivers, I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with the time requirement to see this story. Even if it doesn’t, the vast majority of this has been good stuff, featuring some incredible performances from Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff, and some fine secondary performances from Scoot McNairy, Carmen Ejogo, and others as well.
It feels like we sort of know the Hoyt family are behind this, with means we aren’t as clear on. We know Harris James had something to do with it, or at the very least had something to do with Tom Purcell’s murder, because in no way did he shoot himself in the head. That was never the case, even without the evidence that didn’t back up the result of a suicide. Next week’s episode needs to open with Hays and Hoyt’s conversation, then build from there.
All Nic Pizzolatto really should do to land this plane is not try to do too much and not get cute with it. Just lay it out in logical format. What spooked Wayne Hays in 1990 and what repressed or forgotten piece of his memory is going to come back to him in 2015? Or, is something new waiting in the wings to reveal itself to Purple and Role to put this thing to bed once and for all?
A lot of questions. I look forward to some answers in seven days, even if they’re likely to be EXTREMELY dark.
I’m @JMartZone. If you’ll excuse me, I’m tired of walking through the graveyard. The story’s over for me.