The pieces are starting to fall into place for True Detective Season 3 with the penultimate episode, "The Final Country," though the season finale next week will undoubtedly throw in a twist or two. But for now, we've got a semi-clear picture of what happened to Julie Purcell (Lena McCarthy) — and it is not pretty, though it might not be quite as dark as viewers were expecting.
So here’s what went down in the three different eras.
Not much happens in 1980 because we've kind of exhausted this storyline, but there are two brief scenes we need to talk about.
First, Tom (Scoot McNairy) is leaves town for awhile. The despondent, broken man who doesn't know what to do with himself now that his kids are gone. West gives Tom his home phone number just in case and Tom must have called it at some point since we know that West helped Tom turn his life around.
Secondly, after their night together, Hays finds out Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) is thinking about writing about the case. He encourages her to do it because he thinks someone ought to point out how quickly local law enforcement wanted to close the case by pinning it on the deceased Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes). Obviously, she took his advice.
Following up on last week's cliffhanger where Harris James (Scott Shepherd) attacks Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) inside the Hoyt mansion, Hays and West are called to Tom's "suicide" scene. It's staged to look like he shot himself in the head at Devil's Den, leaving behind a typed note reading, "I am sorry. Please forgive me. I'm going to see my wife and son."
Hays almost immediately smells a rat, but it takes West a little while to get on the same page because he's so blinded by guilt for going after Tom after all these years. He thinks their actions drove Tom to die, and he feels so bad about it that he can't see the forest for the trees. But Hays points out Tom would have never typed a suicide note. West cautions him to just let it go or he'll never get his career back on track, but Hays can't.
Instead of letting he go, he decides to pursue the lead about the one-eyed black man that Amelia tipped him off about. But West isn't convinced.
Luckily, Hays and Amelia are more than happy to keep pursuing the investigation until West comes around. Amelia goes to see Lucy Purcell's (Mamie Gummer) friend, Margaret (Emily Nelson), to ask her about the one-eyed man and finds out that Margaret actually has a photo of the Purcell kids on Halloween that shows the two sheet-wearing adults lurking in the background. Amelia also discovers that the manager at Lucy's bar had seen the one-eyed black man before — talking to Cousin Dan (Michael Graziadei).
There are two things that finally get West on board with Hays' hunch that the case is far from closed. First, that Cousin Dan has apparently gone missing and second, that Lucy called Harris James a bunch of times the day before she died. The final piece of evidence is records of James taking a three-day trip to Las Vegas arriving the day before Lucy’s alleged overdose, and leaving the day after. Shady.
Hays insists they go rough up James to try to get some answers out of him and West reluctantly goes along with it after Hays plays the "Tom" card — they have to get justice for Tom. But their "interrogation" goes horribly awry and West is forced to shoot James to keep him from escaping and/or killing Hays. So now they have a dead body on their hands and West is rightly furious about all of it.
They bury James in the woods and West is fuming This is the moment where the Hays-West relationship broke.
Also of note — while he was being questioned, James insisted he would "never hurt a child" and it feels like he was telling the truth, which lends some weight to a theory I'm going to float here in a minute.
The next day, two black cars pull up outside Hays' house and old man Hoyt calls him, telling him to come outside while vaguely threatening his family. Hoyt knows what happened to Harris, and he wants to talk to Hays about it. Now. Hays gets in one of his blacked out chauffeured cars as Amelia watches him drive off.
During the TV interview, Elisa (Sarah Gadon) asks Hays if he ever considered that Tom didn't commit suicide. Hays begs off, noting the medical examiner ruled it a suicide, but he's hiding his true feelings again. He knew it wasn't a suicide then, and he still doesn't think it was. But he keeps quiet about it.
What does pique his interest is that Elisa suggests there was a larger conspiracy at play: a cover-up. And you know that has crossed Hays' mind many times over the years — and it definitely feels like Attorney General Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) had to have been involved. Hays is also interested in Elisa's information about the one-eyed black man, who one witness identified as "Watts." The TV investigators think he was a "procurer" of kids and Elisa shows Hays an article about Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), saying she thinks Hays' case might be part of a bigger network of pedophiles, one that involves high-level politicians and businessmen. Men with money commit crimes often mean they are easily covered up.
Hays still won't show all his cards to Elisa, though, and she's disappointed he can't provide some answers for her. He refuses to give her anything, though, preferring to keep investigating in secret with West.
Together, they do get a lead in their investigation. The reunited detectives locate a former Hoyt kitchen maid/housekeeper and she reveals that Hoyt's daughter, Isabelle, lost her husband and daughter in a car crash in 1977. Isabelle never recovered, and became a recluse. Then one night she took her car out and caused a huge accident; after that, a black man named "Mr. June" became the sole provider of Isabelle. He was the only one permitted into her area of the mansion (might this area contain a pink room). And — you guessed it — he had one white eye.
Theory time: The whole thing with Julie wasn't about pedophilia at all. She was kidnapped by Mr. June and the unknown white woman accomplice (who is probably Isabelle) to come live at the Hoyt mansion and take the place of Isabelle's dead daughter. Julie eventually escaped, but she had mental issues from all those years of isolation and captivity. That's why she didn't go back to her father and that’s why she nicknamed herself "Mary July" (there's that June-July connection).
The last little bit of intrigue in the present-day timeline is a mysterious sedan that is still parked outside of Hays' house. West sees it too, proving that it's not a figment of Hays' delusions. They manage to get a license plate before it speeds away — do you think it might be Isabelle?
Odds & Ends
We finally meet Hays' daughter Becca (Deborah Ayorinde) in a brief scene when he drops her off at college sometime around 2003 or so. The scene doesn’t reveal much, but hopefully it indicates that we will find out why the two are estranged in the finale. Maybe they'll even reconcile.
In a brief 2015 scene, Hays finally remembers that he really pushed West to go after Harris James and he's sorry for how that all went down. West forgives him and they move on.