The act of confession is a cinematic trope as old as they come. Whether it be to a priest, to a friend or confession in a legal sense, there’s something quite powerful about a person relieving themselves of their emotional burdens to another person, often making for very powerful moments on camera. What happens to a character (or person) when they never make the confessions they need to? Nobody expected Wayne to spill his guts to the priest (a highly suspicious character worth noting) but Wayne obviously has been carrying around secrets for a majority of his life. Secrets that haunt him in his final years, with his worsening mental state making matters worse. What would Lucy Purcell’s life have been like had she finished the confession she started in her kitchen to Amelia, a complete stranger to her? Possibly legal consequences, yes, but would the guilt have been so strong that she still OD’d and died eight years later? We’ll never know the answer to that question with Lucy but with Wayne, there’s still time for his secrets to see the light of day and unload some of the emotional baggage he’s been carrying for years. Tom Purcell made his confessions to Roland in the car and judging by how things look ten years later, seems to be OK, unless he didn’t share a full confession. Does Tom still have secrets left to tell?
The fourth episode of True Detective‘s third season was the strongest showing to date and that’s saying a lot. We’re still very much in a place of more questions than answers but that’s to be expected and honestly, is half the fun. There were a lot of themes in full force this week: confession, racial tension in the deep south, relationships and power dynamics within them and the show’s continued look at life after Vietnam for the returning soldiers. While True Detective isn’t making any stances on the war, this season has very much been a look at the difficulty these soldiers had coming home from such a traumatic experience and looking at how they tried to cope with re-entering the world.
Wayne and Amelia’s relationship was again a focal point this week, with scenes set in both 1980 and 1990 adding to their intrigue. In ‘80, in a dinner scene, Amelia admitted to not always having it together but anytime Wayne asked her a question about her, her parents or her past, she carefully avoided it, capitalizing on Wayne’s obvious attraction to her to redirect the conversation back to him. In 1990, Wayne came home after being made a detective again by Roland. His excitement couldn’t have been more obvious but Amelia was ambivalent. She claimed she was returning his reaction from her own detective work from the previous episode. Their argument escalated quickly, with Amelia belittling Wayne and Wayne reverting to anger and then, submission. Amelia, not wanting to enter the heavy dialogue that was bound to happen, slept with Wayne instead.
The internet has been highly suspicious of Amelia, her mysterious background and her habit of visiting other towns under different names. This week, I began to develop my own theory on her. Could Amelia’s unwillingness to discuss her family or her past be a sign that she is a victim of some type of abuse herself, something she’s been running from? Could her interest in the Purcell case be a way of taking the power back herself, wanting to help Julie the way nobody helped her? Her attraction to Wayne could also be seen the same way—she feels safe with him, despite his own emotional problems because she sees the way he wants to protect, again as nobody did for her. If this were to be true, it could also explain why Wayne couldn’t read her book. He didn’t want to hear of his wife’s pain. It was something he couldn’t protect her from.
The relationship between Wayne and Roland also developed further this week. Everything in 1980 served to establish a friendship between the two but in 1990, in Roland’s new office, we got to see firsthand how one partner went down a road of success, whereas the other nearly lost his career. While we still don’t know what happened to cause this, it is clear that Wayne either took the heat or was the one that made the mistake himself.
Brett Woodard, after being warned last week by an angry mob of hillbillies, was dead set on revenge. As I predicted last week, the green bag he grabbed after being beaten up was full of guns and his plan to get the men to chase him back to his house, where he was waiting with not only guns but also a trip wire, worked. The cliffhanger of this week’s episode was Hays and West pulling up to the house right as the trip wire was about to be set off by one of the hillbillies. Theory: Woodard has to have a greater narrative importance besides just being a commentary on post-Vietnam life for soldiers. If Hays is going to witness first hand the destruction the trip wire is about to cause, could this incident be the catalyst for Hays to have a PTSD episode? This episode could result in Hays making a mistake in the Purcell case, setting off the chain of events we see all the way to present day? A mistake that leads to the wrong person going to jail for the murder/kidnapping of the Purcell children and everything after? My guts says yes. The first domino has fallen.
Hays and West’s investigation lead them to a church, an elderly lady, a black community that didn’t take kindly to the police being there and then finally, an interrogation. Starting with the church, there was a vibe there that says we haven’t seen the last of this church yet. The Priest was a highly suspicious character, although there’s no narrative proof to tie him or the church to any solid theories just yet. At the end of this article, I’ll share a far-out theory I have that should only be taken with a grain of salt at this point. The elderly lady was the person who made the dolls and said a black man with a glass eye bought numerous dolls at once. She came across as an unreliable witness however, placing more emphasis on race than any other detail, which led me to believe that Sam, a black man with a glass eye that they interrogated next, was a red herring. The community there gathered around, not trusting the police and the racial tension was high. While this scene could simply serve as an accurate depiction of the times and location, it very well may be foreshadowing why one cop (West) was on the road for success and one cop (Hays) nearly lost his career. If something does go wrong in the Purcell case, whose the one most likely to take the heat in the deep south in 1980? Finally, Hays and West brought in one of the teenagers from the first episode, whose fingerprints were found on Will’s bike. While he could easily be the one to take the fall for the crimes or perhaps even saw more than he let on, this kid is no killer and Hays and West know that.
The mental state of the Purcell parents was again a focal point this week, with Tom getting drunk and trying to fight his wife’s boss, whom he knows she’s sleeping with. West is called and winds up taking Tom to sleep on his couch after Tom confesses that he doesn’t want to live anymore. Lucy, as I mentioned before, begins to confess her feelings and shortcomings to Amelia, who stopped by to drop of some of Will’s belongings. In her quasi-confession, she spoke of not having a relationship with her own mother and how her kids weren’t happy, but deserved to be. While Lucy stopped short of admitting any wrongdoing, this scene does show two things: First, she feels tremendous guilt and also, she wanted her kids to have a better life. More on this later.
In addition to the previously mentioned scenes Wayne had with Amelia at home and Roland in his office, the other big development from the middle time period was Wayne seeing Julie on the security footage at the Walgreens. She was frantic, indicating that she was in trouble. While the jury is still out as to whether she was running from someone trying to find her or running because of something she did, Wayne indicated earlier in the episode that he felt they should proceed as if they had limited time, that her life was likely in danger still. After ten years of living with this case, finally seeing her alive is going to motivate him but to what end? What is Wayne capable of doing in the name of saving Julie Purcell?
Wayne was a man on a mission. We learned that his son, Henry, is also a cop and Wayne gives Henry a list of people he would like some information on. He also asks his son to find Roland for him, as he needs to talk to him. Henry begrudgingly agrees to help and to also drive his father home but Wayne has another visit planned. Wayne goes to see Elisa, the documentary producer in her apartment. Ever the detective, Wayne notices two wine glasses in her room and then gets right to business. (Prediction: Henry is having an affair with Elisa. They’ve had an awkward dynamic during all of the filming prior to this episode and much like Wayne and Amelia’s relationship was rooted in the Purcell case, so is their son’s affair. The groundwork was also laid for this in 1980 when Amelia asked Wayne if he was a “pussyhound” like other cops and in 1990 when she told him she wished he would get a girlfriend like other cops.) In the course of their discussion, Elisa tells Wayne that she does know more than she’s let on and shows him a photo of a skeleton, whom she says is Dan, Lucy Purcell’s cousin that stayed with them back when the kids were there. Wayne does seem somewhat surprised but could it have been more a surprise that she knew about it? Did Wayne already know about Dan’s death or could he have even been responsible for it in an effort to protect Julie back in 1990?
Wayne was once again visited by the ghosts of his past, this time Vietnamese people and then also a white man in a suit. Wayne’s past seems to be acting as clues, almost using his dementia as a way to speak to him and trying to help him solve the case that’s defined his life. What these clues mean still remains to be seen but it’s certainly a creative and interesting storytelling choice.
Far Reaching Theory
I wanted to close this week’s article with a theory that I don’t have much narrative proof for yet but I just can’t shake. Lucy Purcell said she wanted her kids to have more—a better life. The church seems to know a lot about the family, including a mysterious “Aunt” Hays and West know nothing about. Could the church be a trafficking ring of sorts, taking poor children and sending them to families with more money? (Think Hoyt from last week) The evidence points to the Purcell kids having some level of comfort and familiarity with their captor, almost like the kids were becoming acquainted over time with the person or people who would eventually take them. What if this “Aunt” the Priest mentioned was that person and Lucy arranged this with the church, thinking she was giving her kids a better life? Will’s tragic death was because he either tried to defend his sister or he simply wasn’t wanted. His final resting pose with his hands folded, was just like from his communion photo —a photo taken by that same Priest. There’s no hard proof for anything of this but certainly a few coincidences at the very least that could wind up meaning something. One final thing to consider is Tom’s religious turn in 1990 and the brief mention in a previous episode of something happening between Tom and Julie in that same year. Perhaps the show has been building Tom up as the sympathetic one for a forthcoming reveal that Lucy was the red herring and Tom was the one that gave their children up? Perhaps we didn’t hear his full confession after all.
Thanks for checking out this week’s True Detective coverage here on 25YL. We’ll be back next week for Episode 5!