In a slightly slower paced episode than the one before, it becomes clear that Nik Pizzolatto is hinting at a much bigger story than just the case of the Purcell children. In each timeline we see the mental state of Wayne slipping away as he becomes more and more fragile, haunted by his past and plagued by the mysteries of the case ahead. Following an explosive episode last week, we turn a corner and this week the focus is on specific character storylines and answering some very important questions, leading us to the final scene with our jaws slamming into the floor.
What have we learned about the case?
We know from the 2015 timeline, that the case is still unsolved, that every lead followed in the 90’s timeline doesn’t actually go anywhere and up until this episode, we only know as much as Wayne and Roland do. Following the phone call from Julie in the previous episode, the spotlight is very much on Tom Purcell as she alludes that he is not her real father and she wants him to stay away from her. This leads Tom to turn back to the bottle after being held in a cell overnight. Meanwhile, in a plea for people to come forward who recognize the CCTV image of Julie Purcell, we learn from two people that Julie mentioned a pink room or pink palace whenever she talked about her childhood. Wayne and Roland close in on Lucy Purcell’s cousin, Dan O’Brien, who as we know is dead by the 2015 timeline. Dan clearly knows a lot more about what happened to Lucy than he is letting on, and asks for money from the detectives in return for information. Tom, who is now very much off the wagon, confronts Dan in a motel room it is suggested that Lucy received a large sum of money from the Hoyt family, the chicken factory owners where Lucy worked. This leads a drunk and dismayed Tom to the Hoyt family house where he breaks in, and through a thick, vault-like door he finds the Pink Room Julie talked about. While it is unlikely that he is actually looking at Julie in those final moments there is something in front of him, possibly a painting, that resembles his long lost daughter.
Who is Officer Harris James?
Harris James discovered Will Purcell’s backpack at the Woodard house following the explosions and shootout. It was this that lead to a posthumous conviction of the trash man who died at the hands of Wayne during the stand-off. An easy conviction and an easy way to close a case, point the finger at a dead man who can’t defend himself. In the 90’s timeline, Wayne believes that the backpack was planted because it shows no signs of being affected by an explosion which leads him to question Harris James who is now working as the head of security at Hoyt farms. In a previous episode, during an interview for the documentary in the 2015 timeline, we learn that there was information given to a cop that Wayne and Roland knew nothing about. That there was someone asking neighbors of the Purcell’s that were not officially documented. Was this person asking questions about Harris James and is he part of a much bigger conspiracy covering up for the Hoyt family?
Why give away so much?
So if we join the dots we could assume that Lucy Purcell sold her daughter Julie to the Hoyt family and ran away to Las Vegas with the money. That Julie Purcell was kept a prisoner in a pink bedroom and that she possibly escaped when she was in her early teens. Lucy confided in Dan about this venture but didn’t tell Tom because he would obviously try to intervene and it doesn’t look like theirs was a particularly happy marriage anyway, especially as we learn that Tom was most likely a closeted homosexual. This is a lot to give away with two episodes left and feels like a penultimate episode reveal so it begs the question that there are still some big rocks yet to be unturned in regards to the case. For example, what was Lucy Purcell running away from? Was Lucy Purcell murdered like Dan believes she was? Also, the circumstance in which Dan O’Brien’s body was found suggests that he was perhaps also murdered. What happened to Tom and more importantly, what happened to Will? The idea that this is a much bigger conspiracy seems to become more and more apparent as the number of potential fatalities suggests a large cover-up.
The ongoing conflict of Amelia and Wayne
The relationship of Amelia and Wayne takes another turn this week as the chasm-like cracks in their relationship ruin a pleasant meal with Roland and his partner. It feels very much like Amelia Vs. Wayne at times as both have very different motives with regards to the case, but they are both completely obsessed by it. In the 80’s timeline, the first time that Amelia and Wayne have sex is following the shoot out at the Woodard house. Wayne’s mental state at this point is complete skewed as his partner lies in hospital with a limb-threatening gunshot wound to his leg and he himself has also just fired his gun for the first time on the job and killed a man. With the blood of another man still on his shirt, he and Amelia have sex for the first time. Their entire relationship is the Purcell case, they met when Wayne was investigating it, their relationship developed as she joined him on his searches, conversation on their first date was entirely related to the case and now the first time they are intimate is following the death of the man who would be convicted of the crimes. In fact, there is very little time on screen where Amelia and Wayne are discussing anything but the case. This toxicity, that the foundations of their entire relationship are built on tragedy, causes nothing but problems for them the longer they are together. Amelia finds fame and fortune after writing her book on the case and Wayne becomes deeply obsessed with finding out the truth about these children. The fact that in the 2015 timeline, he is still looking for answers shows how much this has plagued him for the majority of his life. At a public reading of her book, Amelia is confronted by a black man with a dead-eye who accuses her of profiting from others misfortune. This man is not the same man who Roland and Wayne accosted in a previous episode but is actually called Junius. Well, apparently he is called Junius, but the name itself alludes that it is, in fact, a pseudonym. Is he possibly an employee of the Hoyt farms and connected to the crime? Is he the man who bought all the straw dolls? Most likely, yes but what is the relevance of this now?
Can we trust Wayne?
I think the short answer is actually, no. We cannot trust Wayne. He is an unreliable narrator and we can barely rely on anything he says in the 2015 timeline. Now that Roland is helping him out, he can at least corroborate parts of his story but the fact remains that his memory is completely compromised. He says he doesn’t remember certain things but how much can we trust that he doesn’t know more? As sweet an old man as he is in the 2015 timeline, the 90’s timeline Wayne is a very unsettling character. He is a man of two sides. On the one side, we have a father, husband and loyal public servant. A detective trying to get to the truth. A father is fearful for his children and a husband devoted to his wife. But on the other side, we have a man ridden by obsession. He is obsessed by the case so much so that he is willing to jeopardize everything for it. His behavior towards suspects is horribly threatening as we see for ourselves when interrogating Tom and again during a conversation with Freddy Burns who seems to still be shaken by the way Wayne spoke to him in the 80’s interrogation. His attitude towards women and sex feels unhealthy and the two times we have seen Amelia and Wayne have sex it is fueled by lust and fear rather than love and passion. There are parts of Wayne that make me uncomfortable and unsettled and it will be interesting to see if the gap between the 90’s timeline and the 2015 timeline is going to be filled.
Despite giving us the biggest reveal of the story so far, this episode dragged. Every season of True Detective has these episodes where there is far less action and a lot more dialogue. Most conversations plateau at the same pitch and often fail to maintain my attention for very long, especially as sometimes this monotone delivery makes the Southern drawl difficult to decipher for a non-native. With only two episodes left and a lot of questions still unanswered I can only assume the biggest twist and turns are just around the corner.
Take a look at the preview for episode seven, “The Final Country” below!
As an HBO Watch writer since 2013, I have covered a wide variety of shows from Eastbound and Down to Game of Thrones. I am also a huge Stanley Kubrick enthusiast having written my undergraduate thesis on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Outside of the world of film and TV I am an avid baker and teach 16-18 year olds how to use cameras.