In penultimate episode of season, ‘True Detective’ finally gets interesting

A man speaks on the phone and looks out of his window.
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The following contains spoilers about season 3 of “True Detective”

The seventh and penultimate episode of “True Detective” season 3, “The Final Country” has begun the slow spiral into clarity precipitated by the six previous episodes. After seemingly endless beating around the bush in terms of which leads are real and which are false, the conclusion to the Purcell case is finally appearing on the horizon. This season has been filled with persistent dead ends and suspects going nowhere, but it seems that the Hoyt Company is the answer to Wayne Hays’ (Mahershala Ali) lifelong pursuit of the Purcell case.

Appropriate to the sometimes nonsequitur feeling of this season, the episode begins with a character only addressed peripherally so far: Hays and Amelias’ (Carmen Ejogo) daughter, Rebecca. She and Hays became estranged at some point, and the reasons why are still unclear after this brief interlude. Meanwhile, another peripheral character has also come to the fore: Watts, the mysterious one-eyed man who bought the straw dolls found in the woods at the beginning of the case, and who showed up at Amelia’s book reading in last week’s episode, is revealed to play a more significant role than previously thought. The elderly Hays and Roland West (Stephen Dorff) later meet with the Hoyts’ former housekeeper, who explains to the detectives that Watts had lived with the Hoyts and was connected to their daughter, Isabelle.

Amelia continues to explore the case on her own, coming to conclusions independent of Hays and West. In a discussion with one of Lucy Purcell’s close friends, she comes across a photograph with the Purcell children from Halloween — the night they disappeared. In the background of the photo there is a couple covered in ghosty sheets: Ostensibly the unidentified couple that has been alluded to throughout the season as having been present around the time the Purcells disappeared. It also seems that this couple may be Watts and Isabelle, though why they are involved is still unclear.

After the climactic ending of last week’s episode — which saw Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) discovering something significant in the basement of the Hoyt mansion — it’s not surprising that Tom becomes the next in a line of bodies following this case, dead in an apparent suicide. This means that the police department has a new posthumous figure to pin the blame on for the disappearance of the children, exonerating the falsely accused Woodard. This further flames Hays’ suspicions of tampering by higher-ups.

In the most recent timeline, the elderly Hays is still talking to the documentarian, who finally reveals what exactly the motives of her interview are. She suggests that the Purcell case and any potential misconduct in how the case was handled was due to the involvement of a sex trafficking ring. This scene also reveals that this season of the show takes place in the same universe as season 1, and may even be connected to the story of season 1 directly — in discussing the potential that the Purcells could have been pulled into a trafficking ring, she pulls up a grainy newspaper featuring a similar case, with Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) on the cover.

Hays’ biggest discovery of this case, however, comes in the form of a clerical ex machina. He finds that Lucy Purcell made calls to the Hoyt corporation in the day leading up to her presumed overdose in Las Vegas. He also finds that the Hoyt’s security man, Harris James, arrived in Las Vegas the day of her death before immediately returning to Arkansas.

In each of the timelines, the relationship between Hays and West becomes more and more strained, the pressures and inconsistencies of the case weighing on their ability to work together. This isn’t helped by the decision to interrogate James “in the barn,” which ends in West killing James as he tries to escape the shakedown. This seems to be the final nail in the second investigation of the Purcell case, though Hays and West are still united in the most recent timeline, scrambling through lost memories to try and put together the final pieces. Hays’ suspicions about being watched from his house are confirmed, as a darkened van races away from spying on him in the night. This scene then parallels a final big reveal: Hays was contacted by the Hoyt family during the second investigation. The episode ends with him meeting Hoyt in an ominous, window-tinted car to discuss what happened with James and, we can assume, other things surrounding the Purcells.

With this season winding down, the upcoming conclusion seems promising enough to continue the steadily building action of the last few episodes. At this point it seems inevitable that the inner workings of the Hoyt Company will be at the center of the case. Although, given all the other loose ends, who knows what the final reveal will be?

Camryn Bell covers film and television. Contact her at [email protected].