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True Detective season 3 episode 4 ‘The Hour and the Day’ watchthrough

Clues, suspects and an HBO version of Bible study

True Detective season 3’s fourth episode, “The Hour and the Day,” is downright biblical. As we do every week in our watchthrough, we’ll look for clues in every scene and then assemble our knowledge and examine the themes — including some of the most damning (circumstantial) evidence against our (least) favorite suspect to date.

Wayne and Roland at church, 1980

Wayne and Roland go to St. Michael’s Church of the Ozarks to visit the Purcell’s pastor. He’s also the person who took the First Communion photograph of Will. He says he didn’t see much of the Purcell parents — though when he did, it was usually Tom. Again, we’re left with the impression that Lucy Purcell was aloof mother at best. (And let’s be honest: maybe something much worse.)

The priest remembers Julie being excited about seeing an aunt. Thing is, Julie doesn’t have an aunt. The man of the cloth also identifies the strange corn husk dolls.

“That’s a chaff doll,” he says. “Patty Faber makes them for our fall fair, first week in October. She’s a good, dear woman, I can tell you.”

The first week in October, friends and neighbors, is about a month before Will and Julie disappeared.

HBO via Polygon

We learn that Wayne is Catholic. He even used to be an altar boy. But he hasn’t been to mass lately.

One other detail worth nothing about the Purcell children: According to the priest, they looked out for each other.

They leave. Back in the car, Roland, a Baptist, says he doesn’t like the priest, in the most Roland way possible.

“Man signs up to go without fucking for life, either he doesn’t know himself for a liar or he’s some tight, limited edition psych, you know? I mean, everybody’s fucking something.”


Roland ignores this and focuses on something more useful. He thinks that Will died trying to protect Julie. Roland speculates that this “new aunt” (or whoever the kids played with in the woods) never wanted the boy. Wayne thinks “it was all about the girl.”

Wayne says he had a good friend in Vietnam who was in the war. He’s dead now. Foreshadowing for our newly revealed Baptist friend?

Roland, Wayne, and Patty Faber, 1980

Patty, a white-haired old woman, is pretty sure that the corn husk dolls are hers. Last time she saw them was when she sold them at the St. Michael’s fair in October.

One man bought 10 off of her. She doesn’t know who, exactly.

“Negro man, like yourself,” she says to Wayne. “Oh, he had a dead eye, you know? Filmy like cataracts.”

True Detective season 3 Patty Faber
Patty Faber
HBO via Polygon

Remember the farmer from the previous episode? The farmer said he’d seen the kids a couple times. He also saw a nice brown car, with a black man and a white woman — not the same day as he saw the kids, but still.

Patty also thinks the man with the strange eye said he had nieces and nephews.

She doesn’t know where the man lives, but she assumes “over with the rest of them in Davis Junction.” Awkward.

Amelia and Wayne, 1990

Wayne tells his wife, Amelia, that he’s now a special investigator. He’s smiling. She’s not. The Purcell case got her a book deal. The Purcell case ruined his career.

When she was making progress in the Purcell case over at the Sallisaw PD, he was upset. Now he’s happy about maybe making some progress on the Purcell case, and she’s acting annoyed like he did last episode. She’s got a point here. She’d like an apology.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t express better how inadequate and useless I’ve been made to feel,” he says, and we’ve got a window into what’s been bothering him.

“Yeah,” she says, “made to feel. You’re this person things just happen to. Your job, your marriage, your family, your feelings. Everything just happens to you. You’re this grown man with no agency of his own. Fate just keeps throwing him curveballs. How awful for you, these trials and vicissitudes. Look it up.”

(We looked it up. We’ll talk about that in our themes and evidence section below.)

The encounter escalates into a full-blown, four-alarm argument. Wayne knocks her for being a writer. She strikes back at him for having no motivation.

The argument moves past the kids, up the stairs, and into the bedroom. “Stop talking shit about me,” he says. She won’t. He threatens to cry. He likens being in a relationship with her to being in the military, and she’s his commanding officer.

She commands him. They make the sweatiest, angriest sex. The kids downstairs smile.

Amelia and Wayne lie on the bed. She gets contrite, apologizing for making him think that she looks down on him. He says he didn’t mean it, either. (I’ll bet they both half meant it, like Wayne half-meant his apology to Roland toward the end of the previous episode at the VFW.)

They hold hands and stare at the ceiling, an uneasy peace settling in.

Wayne and Roland, Davis Junction, 1980

The partners arrive in the black part of town, thanks to Patty Faber’s speculation. They drive past a sign outside of a church that quotes Matthew 25:13:

For you do not know the day nor the hour

That’s about your death (and mine, too). It’s also the title of the episode. (We’ve got lots more in out themes and evidence section below.)

Roland thinks they might start at the liquor store. Wayne, probably half serious (because isn’t everybody at this point?), accuses him of being racist. They flip for it, leaving it to fate, which Wayne doesn’t believe is on his side. They arrive at the liquor store.

The man behind the counter clearly doesn’t want to talk, but Wayne makes a pretty good pitch. Having the police owe you a favor could come in pretty handy one day.

Reluctantly, the man talks: Sam Whitehead is a customer with a dead eye. He lives on a trailer park off of Central Avenue.

They arrive under infinite suspicion at Sam Whitehead’s trailer. He’d rather they talk outside.

He goes to First Presbyterian, not St. Michael’s. When Roland asks if he ever bought straw dolls at the St. Michael’s fair, Sam denies it.

“What the hell is this?” he asks. “What y’all trying to do to me?”

True Detective season 3 Sam Whitehead
Sam Whitehead
HBO via Polygon

The neighbors start to walk closer. Wayne explains. Sam says if it was in the paper, it was about white children.

“Come over here!” Sam yells to his neighbors. “Come watch these nefarious men, what they’s trying to do to me!”

He tries to make Wayne feel bad for being a black cop. Wayne plays it off and tries to start over. It doesn’t work.

Shockingly, Roland’s not playing it subtly. And Sam amplifies. “Y’all hear that? Peckerwood looking to shoot somebody!” he yells to the assembled crowd. Wayne persists, asking him where he was on the night of Oct. 7, when the Purcell kids disappeared. He tells Wayne that he was at home. He tells the crowd something a bit different.

“They tryin’ to fix me up! Them white children on the news!”

Someone throws a clump of dirt at Roland, who pulls his gun. The three of them disappear inside of Sam’s trailer so fast it’d make the roadrunner proud.

“Stir up enough of this shit, somebody gonna get hurt,” Roland says to Sam as he leads him inside the trailer. “And brother, it ain’t going to be us.”

Sam’s defensive, but evasive. He says he works for a living — two jobs when he can get them — not that anybody asked. He hauls freight for the railroad, and he traps (presumably animals). Then he asks if they’re getting ready to shoot him. It’s almost as if he doesn’t trust cops.

He says that most of the people outside could verify that he was him on Oct. 7. And also he’s not the only dude with one eye around.

“Farm work,” Sam says. “Killing line at the chicken plant.”

Presumably he’s talking about how he lost his eye. And if you remembered that the chicken plant is Hoyt Foods where Will and Julie’s mom, Lucy, used to work, go to the head of the class.

We hear the sound of glass breaking. Wayne and Roland use Sam as a shield of sorts to get through the crowd outside.

We find out what that glass sound was: Roland’s windshield.

Back in the car, Roland wants Wayne to agree that the crowd overreacted, but Roland’s interested in something else.

“Would you’ve done it?” Wayne asks. “Would you have shot one of them?”

“If it thought it was between him and me,” Roland says. “And no, I could give a fuck what color he was.”

“Sure about that?”

“Fact these were black folks probably gave me more pause. Mob of white people surrounds me, smashes up my ride, be a lot less hesitation what I’d do.”

They decided to say that “anonymous vandals” messed up the car.

And this is how things that happen don’t wind up in official reports. You know, like that visit to the farmer.

Wayne and Henry at the police station, 2015

Turns out that Wayne’s son Henry is a cop in the present-ish timeline. And Henry is worried that his dad just showed up at the station. Wayne’s being accommodating, though. He even offers to walk around with a note if Henry thinks that’s best.

Wayne’s holding a folder. He says he’s been writing about the Purcell case, which we know is true because we saw him doing just that last episode (right before the haunting). Wayne says that writing is good for him. “My head, I mean.”

“I tell myself the story, I tell the case in steps, and I’m remembering. Remembering my life.”

For a man with memory problems, this must feel wonderful.

He hands Henry a piece of paper and asks him to look up some of the details that he can’t remember “just a few names and people I’d like to see where they ended up and never got around to getting everything from.

True Detective season 3 Wayne and Henry at the police station True Detective season 3

“And Roland. What I really need is for you to find Roland.”

“Roland? Jesus, dad, come on.”

“I need his memory, son. I’m being straight with you, man to man, knowing I had a place here as you do. This right now is my way of staying alive.”

He doesn’t even know if he’s alive.

Henry nods softly in agreement. He’ll help. But he won’t make this a habit.

Wayne gives him a “yes, sir” (echoing the military, echoing the last thing that the Purcell children called back to their father) and thanks him.

Wayne asks about Elisa, the woman from the TV show who was interviewing him. Henry said he hasn’t heard anything since last we saw them together, when she began criticizing the investigation.

Henry offers to drive Wayne back home.

Roland and Wayne, Kindt and Blevins, 1990

Attorney General Kindt enters the room with an officer accompanying him. Blevins, according to his name tag. Blevins says that the state wants to make clear that they proceeded a decade ago under the assumption that Julie Purcell was dead.

“And whether or not this was the case,” Kindt says, “state and county offices remain convinced of the man’s guilt.”

“The mandate of this unit is to vindicate the original conviction for Will Purcell’s murder,” Blevins says.

“Understood,” Roland says.

True Detective season 3 Kindt and Blevins
The awful Kindt (left) and Blevins (right)
HBO via Polygon

And boy that’s a swift kick in the pants.

Kindt and Blevins act like assholes. They might as well have shit on the floor and made Wayne clean it up. They make no secret of their displeasure with him as part of the investigation.

“I’m committed to fulfilling the mandates just described to us, sir,” Wayne says. He’s playing ball. At least outwardly.

And then Kindt says he can imagine Roland back as an investigator when this concludes. Help me now, in other words, and you’ll be rewarded. You know, kind of like what Wayne told the man behind the liquor store counter earlier.

Kindt and Blevins leave.

“We’re not going to do any of that shit they just said, right?” Wayne asks Roland.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Roland says. But God he looks sad.

Roland and Wayne at Church, 1980

Justice is not ours, the priest says. The cops are there to speak to people after mass. There’s a cute girl in the pew. They’re taking fingerprints. Roland is impressed with the cute girl’s butt.

Wayne thanks the priest for his assistance. The priest can’t think of any black parishioners with cataracts. Wayne says he’s about 90 percent sure that a parishioner took Julie and “hurt” Will. The priest is skeptical. But he’d sure like to hear the detective’s confession. Wayne demurs.

Roland, who is about five feet 10 inches of stacked bullshit, tells the cute girl — Lori — that he thinks faith is super important.

True Detective season 3 Wayne and Lori
This is Lori, and Wayne is hitting on her.
HBO via Polygon

Wayne and Amelia at the Wisteria Kitchen, 1980

It’s the date that Roland asked Amelia on when they were searching the field for Julie. He orders a beer. Her, a mixed drink. Once again, opposites attract.

She says she’s been wondering if Will’s death was an accident. She apologizes for bringing up work. They talk about her time in California.

“Can I tell you a secret?” she asks. “I used to be something of a mess.”

“That might be the least surprising thing I’ve ever heard,” he says.

He admits to his own brand of crazy, though he’s thinking of pretending to be normal so that they can surprise each other with their crazy later on.

Wayne tells Amelia about finding the toys in the woods, the place Will died, where they played.

“It’s almost as if there was an element of affection in it, don’t you think?” Amelia asks.

“People who hurt kids think of themselves as having affection for the children, even up to the fucking-’em-and-murdering-’em part,” Wayne says.

Salad’s here! Awkward!

True Detective season 3 Wayne and Amelia at the Wisteria Kitchen HBO via Polygon

She asks about his family. Mom was a housewife from the country. He worked in the fields until he with was eight. He’s got no information about his father.

He asks about her family. She deflects. They flirt. It’s cute. He apologizes for prying. She notices he apologizes a lot. She asks when he last had a girlfriend. He says he doesn’t remember, but it’s been a long time.

He dates, but his relationships don’t last long. Not that he plans it that way. Or at least that’s what he tells her. Remember back in the first episode (in the junkyard with Roland) he said he didn’t want to get married because he didn’t want to subject someone to himself.

“I have a mental handicap,” he says. “The other stuff don’t work for me without this.”

In other words, he doesn’t want sex without a relationship. And and that brings us back to the first episode again, when Roland suggests they go chase some tail and Wayne demurs.

He cuts his food, embarrassed. I like Wayne Hayes, you guys.

She reaches out for his hand. They trace fingers.

Roland and Tom Purcell, 1980

Roland walks into a bar, pauses, looks around, and then walks into the back. All the way into the back. There are four men there. One is Tom Purcell, the father of Will and Julie. He’s got a bloody nose. And a mustache. So we’re back in 1980.

A man explains: Tom went wild. Made accusations. Swung at someone. They found Roland’s card on Tom, so they called him.

“Doing my Bozo the Clown act, since everybody thinks I’m so fucking funny,” Tom says. “She was fucking him, you know. Her boss. Shit, you’re a detective. YOu probably figured that out already.”

The man who spoke earlier said they didn’t call his wife Lucy because she’s got enough problems right now.

Roland helps Tom up and out of the bar.

True Detective season 3 Roland and Tom Purcell HBO via Polygon

In Roland’s car, Tom uses the n-word to describe Wayne, which is gross in about a thousand ways. Roland defends Wayne. Tom apologizes for using the n-word.

“Your pal wanted to kick my ass, he’d have the right,” Tom says.

“You’ve gotten your ask kicked enough for now,” Wayne says.

Tom says he can’t go back to the house. It reminds him too much of the kids.

“I just want to die all the time,” he says.

Roland offers him a choice: a jail cell or a couch. Tom is crying now, he feels to bad for using the n-word. He begs Roland not to tell Wayne. And Roland plays it cool.

Tom falls asleep on Roland couch.

Both of these guys might be jerks here and there, but they’re not necessarily bad people.

Roland, Wayne and the cops, 1990

Roland is giving orders. Two cops are to go over every statement from 1980 looking for current addresses for any residents they spoke to in 1980.

We learn that Wayne works in Public Information, which may mean that he’s been something like a liaison between the police and the media (at least if this job description also from Arkansas is any indication).

Wayne says they were pulling on a couple of threads before their investigation collapsed. So they’ve got that and Julie Purcell’s fingerprints from the Walgreens in Oklahoma. Julie at this point is 21. They thought Julie was dead, Roland says. Wayne takes issue with the word “we.”

Roland’s in charge and pointing HBO via Polygon

Roland says what we learned last time: Lucy Purcell (Julie’s mom) died near Las Vegas. What we didn’t know: She overdosed. It was 1998.

Nobody knows where cousin Dan O’Brien is. Hobbs and Segar (whoever they are) are on Dan.

Wayne raises his hand.

“A secondary consideration,” he says. “If words out now this girl’s alive, there’s a real possibility there’s people somewhere that don’t want that to remain the case. Imagine she escaped somewhere, imagine we’re not the only ones looking for her. There’s any chance that’s the case, I think it’s like the last time — we’ve got to figure there’s a ticking clock.”

Roland looks at everyone. “He’s not wrong. May not be right, but he’s not wrong.”

Roland dismisses everyone. He and Wayne are going to Sallisaw.

Wayne and Elisa, 2015

Wayne shows up at Elisa’s hotel room. Looks like she’s been drinking red wine. There are two glasses on her nightstand.

He apologizes if he interrupted something. She says she’s alone. He blames his memory. He’s being kind. He doesn’t believe what he says.

He wants to know what her researchers figured out. He admits that whatever happened in 1990 is “more haunting than anything.” (And I’m highly suspicious of the attorney general here.)

True Detective season 3 Elisa HBO via Polygon

He says he’ll talk, but he wants to know what she knows. He wants to find the pieces that are missing from his life, just like he told his son.

She pulls out a file. Inside is a picture of a skeleton, partially buried in the dirt.

“Drained quarry in southern Missouri,” she says. “Dental records from prison identify the remains as Dan O’Brien. Lucy’s cousin who went missing in ‘90 after resurfacing.”

She’s got more, but she won’t say what. Only that whatever she has doesn’t implicate Wayne.

He gets up to leave and says that it’s to their benefit that she not mention this meeting if she talks to Henry.

She asks if he’s sure he’s not investigating again. He plays old and forgetful. He’s full of it.

Wayne and Roland in the police station, 1980

We see shots of the cork board on which they pinned evidence and questions previous episodes. Questions like Secret friend? Home? Notes in room. One-eyed BM (black man). New aunt? Peephole? Evidence like the scrap paper notes that Wayne found in Julie’s room.

Roland says that they’re putting out an APB on a person of interest. It encapsulates pretty much everything we know — the way Will was posed, the church, the dolls. Again, like he did before when he wanted to start from scratch, Wayne thinks that there’s something they’re just not seeing (you know, almost like they’re blind in one eye, zing!)

One of the men — from state, I believe, introduced in an earlier episode — says that they still don’t have a match for the prints on Will’s bike. They mention fingerprinting the congregation. He mentions comparing against students.

True Detective season 3 Evidence HBO via Polygon

For the first time, we see the envelope in which the “do not worry” note was mailed. They matched the cutout letters to magazine letters, but that hasn’t been helpful.

Roland mentions the unknown fingerprints from the toys they found in the woods.

Wayne mentions workplace injuries. Any black man who lost an eye in the last 40 years here or in the surrounding counties. The man from state says that’s kind of thin.

The other man says that the prosecutor is going on Donahue.

Roland and Wayne watch Kindt on Donahue. He’s on a media tour for becoming attorney general, Wayne thinks.

The men walk back into the room. They got a fingerprint hit on the bike, Bowen says. Freddie Burns. The teenager — the “Black Sunday teenager,” presumably misremembering his Black Sabbath T-shirt. He was definitely screwing around on a bike in the first episode.

Amelia and the Purcells, 1980

Amelia knocks on the front door of the Purcell house. We can hear Lucy argue inside. But Tom’s not there. She’s on the phone, the subtitles tell us something interesting.

“Don’t call,” Lucy says. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to, motherfucker? Huh? Hello? Hello?”

Lucy answers the door with a hearty “What do you want?”

Amelia is dropping off the kids’ things from school. Pretty sure Lucy is day drinking. Amelia says if she needs anything, she should reach out.

“Can I tell you something, Amelia?”

“Of course.”

“I’ve got the soul of a whore.”

True Detective season 3 Lucy Purcell HBO via Polygon

“A lot of times, we do things to hurt ourselves because we think we deserve to be hurt. Whatever you think you did or didn’t do, you don’t deserve to suffer. You don’t need to be punished. And those children wouldn’t want you doing that to yourself.”

“I never knew my momma. All I hoped, when I knew enough to hope, was that those kids might have a better of it than I did. But even then I couldn’t make that easy on them. This wasn’t a very happy home. Children should laugh.”

That’s what the note says. That’s exactly what the note says.

“Right? There wasn’t a lot of laughter around here.”

“Every parent wants to do more. But people make mistakes.”

“Not like this. Not like I did.”

“What do you mean?”

“I ran around on Tom. I always run around. And sometimes in this house, I know that I have the soul of a whore, sometimes I couldn’t breathe in this house. And I didn’t even argue with that part of me. Well, what kind of woman hates the only things that every shown her love? I got a .38 revolver in my purse. It’s just that last bit of courage. Where does that courage come from?”

“I’ve never really thought of that as courage, Mrs. Purcell.”

(You know who else has a revolver? Wayne. Old Wayne has a revolver. Hmmmmm.)

“I have done such terrible things. Oh, good God. Oh, God. God, forgive me. Forgive.”

Amelia tries to convince Lucy to talk to Wayne. Shockingly, Lucy explodes and kicks Amelia out of her house.

Trash Man, 1980

Trash Man making a mistake HBO via Polygon

Trash Man approaches two children drinking soda and asks them to leave their cans for him. The dude with the beard and the American flag hat sees this, mutters “motherfucker” and dials the phone.

Roland and Wayne at Sallisaw PD, 1990

A detective tells them they’ve got surveillance at the Walgreens going back seven days before the robbery. They haven’t been able to go through it all. He admits that lawyers subpoenaed the footage, “but we’re not in any hurry to help them out.” Nice.

We learn that Julie’s fingerprints were on aisles five and seven.

Wayne at home, 2015

Wayne is talking to himself in his home office about finding video footage back in 1990. They learned about Julie Purcell and “that group of street kids,” whatever that means. He remembers losing his kids at Walmart. He’s never forgiven himself for losing track of Becca, his daughter. (Of course, he’s lost track of her presently.) He still feels guilty for yelling and making the kids cry.

Wayne’s haunted by the people he fought against and alongside in Vietnam. Except for two people, who do not appear to be soldiers. (More on them in themes and evidence.)

He doesn’t know if he and Roland ever found the brown car. Or whose it was.

He thought maybe he made his kids sick, like he poisoned them. He still doesn’t know if he did.

We see that revolver again.

True Detective season 3 Wayne gun
Never forget the gun.
HBO via Polygon

Wayne makes the ghosts go away again.

He wants to tell Roland about what happened to cousin Dan O’Brien. He doesn’t know where Roland is. Or when they last spoke.

The ghosts are back. He apologizes to a man in a suit. He’s always apologizing.

He looks out his window. There’s a car parked out there. New. Nice. The thinks is a late-model Lincoln or Mercury. Or Chevy. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know if they make Mercuries anymore. (They don’t.) Sedan. Dark color. Deep gray under the moon. He says this into his recorder.

“Seem him again, may mean somebody’s watching,” he says, warning his future self.

Roland and Wayne with Freddie Burns in the police station, 1990

They’re interviewing the kid whose fingerprints turned up on the bike. Freddie Burns, who just turned 18. They’re giving him the full court press.

He admits that he stole Will’s bike. Wayne is really, really hard on him. He wants to scare him. He also seems to want to hurt him.

True Detective season 3 Freddie Burns HBO via Polygon

Freddie says that Will was bugging them and looking for his sister. Freddie had been drinking. He chased Will off and stole his bike. Will ran into the woods.

Freddie’s friends said he disappeared for 30 minutes. Freddie said he was drunk and got lost. He explodes in sobs and spit.

Roland and Wayne in the Sallisaw PD, 1990

Wayne continues to look at security camera footage.

True Detective season 3 Julie security camera footage
Julie Purcell?
HBO via Polygon

“God damn,” he says as he pauses the tape and looks at a young woman.

Trash Man on the street, 1980

Trash Man walks down the middle of the street with a walking stick as three pickup trucks barrel toward him. He tosses his trash, kicks off his shoes, and runs off the street and back home.

They follow.

He sets up a tripwire. Goes inside. Grabs the sack of weapons he got out in the previous episode.

They park outside.

He puts the guns round his house. Sets more topsides. And mines.

Roland and Wayne with Freddie Burns in the police station, 1990

Freddie Burns continues to sob. They let him cry it out.

They’re not buying it.

A call comes in about Trash Man.

Trash Man, the mob, and the cops at home, 1980

True Detective season 3 HBO via Polygon

Roland and Wayne pull up. The guy with the beard kicks down the door. The Claymore mine goes off.

Smash cut to black.

Themes and evidence

This episode is packed. We’ve got a lot of Bible to talk about. We’ve uncovered some subtle, meaningful clues. And we’ve got some research for you.

Biblical references

The episode begins with a voiceover:

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Here it is in context, courtesy of The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The next lines are from different parts of The Bible. Well, sort of. “I will never leave the gathered regiment no flee from any battle” doesn’t seem to be part of any translation.

But the next line — “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.” — is from John 10:28:

The feast of the Dedication was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter.

And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.

But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.

The priests asks those gathered in the church, “Now, what is this about?” He might as well be asking us.

Old Wayne’s journey is to save his life, at least trying to remember it. And to do so, he must in some sense deny himself — to face what he’s done (and can’t remember). Forfeiting his own life may be the cost of doing the right thing.

Though the priest doesn’t quote all of the lines above directly, reading them in context adds a bit to the theme to which Wayne keeps returning. You know, all of that stuff about how those who hear and believe and the people asking for simple and straightforward proof.

We’ve got Patty Faber’s Bible verse stitched into a frame. It says “… for the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Episode 3’s title comes from the Gospel of Matthew, specifically The Parable of the Ten Virgins. Here it is in context, once again courtesy of The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

Five of them were foolish and five were wise.

The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them,

but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.

The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’

While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.

Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’

But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The idea, in short, is that the wise prepare. In Christianity, that’s about the Day of Judgment. Christ is the bridegroom. Good Christians should prepare for his coming. Do not live, in other words, as if you’ll have time to make things right. Live well so that, when the time comes, you’ll already be prepared.

In True Detective season 3, there seems to be a Day of Judgment coming — assuming that Old Wayne’s (final) act is solving the Purcell case and uncovering what I’m assuming to be terrible things that happened in his past. But there have also been judgments past, presumably the wrongfully convicted Trash Man.

Wayne may be on more than a journey to remember his life. He may be on a journey to make it right.

There’s more: When Wayne and Roland arrive at the church, the priest reads from Malachi saying that “justice is not ours to deliver. Justice is not in our power. It is in His.” Could this be foreshadowing future events in which men choose to deal justice? Speaking of which …

Dan O’Brien

True Detective season 3 Cousin Dan body HBO via Polygon

We last saw Lucy Purcell’s cousin ,who stayed at the house several months before the kids disappeared, in 1980. He was on the Purcell’s front porch talking to Roland and Wayne. Those were probably his Playboys between Will’s mattresses.

There was some suspicion regarding the possible peephole between Will and Julie’s room, though I continue to think that it’s a red herring. Our money is on Will passing reassuring notes to his sister.

Anyway, Dan’s dead. Before that, he went missing.

At some point, someone found his body in a “drained quarry in southern Missouri,” according to Elisa. “Dental records from prison identify the remains as Dan O’Brien. Lucy’s cousin who went missing in ‘90 after resurfacing.”

How did Dan die? We don’t know. Though I imagine that he didn’t slip on a banana peel and fall into a quarry. Seems somewhat suspicious is what I’m saying.

And I’m worried about Roland and Wayne’s involvement.

Trials and vicissitudes

During Wayne and Amelia’s fight, she unloads a bit of literary allusion. (Writers, amirite?)

“Yeah,” she says, “made to feel. You’re this person things just happen to. Your job, your marriage, your family, your feelings. Everything just happens to you. You’re this grown man with no agency of his own. Fate just keeps throwing him curveballs. How awful for you, these trials and vicissitudes. Look it up.”

We looked it up.

It appears to be a reference to Susan Hoply: Or, The Trials and Vicissitudes of a Servant Girl: A Tale of Deep Interest, which has a strange history, bouncing back and forth between a novel (itself a knockoff of a successful series of novels by another author) and a successful stage play.

Let’s take a look at the preface to author Thomas Peckett Prest’s 1842 novel, which sure sounds a lot like the animating forces behind True Detective:

As the reader will observe, there are several distinct plots in the course of the tale, each of them apparently unconnected with the other, yet terminating in one, and this affording various instances in which circumstantial evidence has brought punishment upon the guilty parties.

It has, however, been the aim of the Author to introduce nothing that is improbably; and, numerous as the incidents are, he trusts it will be acknowledged that each and every one of them might have occurred in real life. Some, indeed, founded upon facts, and consequently, though the present word is in the form of fiction, it may be said to contain more truths than most others of similar description.

That sure sounds like Nic Pizzolatto talking about writing True Detective.

It’s time to talk about race

Race surfaced in the first three episodes, but always tangentially and often out of frustration or anger, like Wayne’s accusation (and later, half-apology) at the WFW. It’s been part of the story, but nothing that offered deep and inexorable insight into the core mystery. Race has never felt like an integral part of True Detective season 3. Until this week.

Before we talk about that, here’s something worth noting: The two lead actors were originally cast as in opposite roles. Stephen Dorff was supposed to be Wayne. Mahershala Ali was supposed to be Roland.

Aside from that casting being, you know, literally wrong, it also gives us some insight into the racial dynamics of the show.

Take Nic Pizzolatto’s Entertainment Weekly interview, for example, where he explained how the switch happened after Ali made his case for playing Wayne.

“[Mahershala Ali] talked to me, and I just listened,” Pizzolatto said. “I think I had felt that maybe, in the modern landscape, that I would need to make race the forefront of the story if I were to [cast Ali as the main character in a show set a Southern town in 1980]. And I asked Mahershala, I said, ‘The story is about time and love and memory. I don’t want to ignore race, but I would hate for those larger themes to be subsumed because we’re suddenly telling a story that’s mostly about race.’ And he said he didn’t want that. He said a lot of the roles that he’s offered — and that a lot of actors of color are offered — are centered around race. What he liked about this was this is a fully formed character who wasn’t defined by that. And I knew I’d be lucky to have an actor of his caliber.”

In this episode, Roland and Wayne travel to Davis Junction. We see what you might describe as casual racism of Patty Faber, the woman who made the dolls — “over with the rest of them in Davis Junction.”

Pizzolatto doesn’t say that race was absent from his original vision, but it’s pretty clear that it isn’t part of the core mystery.

Two of these things are not like the others

True Detective season 3 Wayne dream two men
Who are these guys?
HBO via Polygon

Toward the end of the episode, Wayne has another vision. Most of the people who appear to him are soldiers, friendly and foe. But two of them aren’t. There’s a man with long hair. There’s a man with short hair in a business suit who Wayne touches and apologizes to.

Both have gunshot wounds. Long hair in the head. Suit man in the chest.

Who are they?

Lucy the terrible

I wrote a lot about Lucy Purcell last time, and this episode makes her look even more suspicious.

To recap the circumstantial evidence:

  • Lucy used to work at Hoyt Foods
  • The big boss, Mr. Hoyt, lost a granddaughter
  • In honor of the granddaughter, Hoyt Foods created the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center, which typically helps struggling families
  • There appears to be a portrait of the granddaughter — a young, blonde girl like Julie — on the wall in the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center
  • Mr. Hoyt has been on safari in Africa since mid-October (weeks before the Purcell incident)
  • The Ozark Children’s Outreach Center, after learning that Lucy Purcell used to work there, and with the permission of the district attorney’s office (but not the police), distributes fliers offering a $10,000 reward for information on the Purcell kids
  • The Hoyt Foods/Ozark Children’s Outreach Center board (presumably in Mr. Hoyt’s absence) approved the reward

Add to that the scene between Amelia and Lucy this episode, in which Lucy seems to come within an inch of confessing terrible deeds and during which she directly quotes the (not randsome) note, and Lucy’s not eliciting any sympathy.

Assuming I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat and working with pins and yarn on my crazy wall, the connection goes something like this:

  • The Hoyts know that their former employee Lucy is a sleazeball
  • The Hoyts took Julie to give her a better life or Lucy gave her away

Did the Hoyts spirit Julie away to Africa? Am I besmirching the name of good people? I don’t know. But I’m more than a little suspicious.

Look: Cheating does not make her a murderer. Resenting her husband and children does not make her an accessory to kidnapping, even if quoting the (not randsome) note is weird as hell. Looking suspiciously at the police who are searching her children’s rooms for clues does not implicate her in an evil scheme any more than losing a granddaughter implicates the Hoyt family.

Taken together, though, they do arouse suspicion. On her best day, Lucy Purcell is bad news.

True Detective season 3 Lucy Purcell mother HBO via Polygon

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