Unfortunately, True Detective‘s season 3 finale didn’t feature a Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey cameo, but it did provide what season 1 didn’t: closure. We definitively know what happened to Julie and Will Purcell. The original conclusion with 30 minutes left in the episode rightfully seemed too predictable (and early), making a final twist that Julie did survive and is living happily ever after. It’s too bad that Wayne will never know…or will he?
Let’s start with where last week’s episode ends: Wayne and Hoyt (played by Guardians of the Galaxy star Michael Rooker) head to the woods to play a game of “what do you know.” Hoyt insists he’s “in the f—ing dark” on what happened to Julie, but does pressure Wayne into dropping it because of what he suspects the cops did to Harris. “Do you want to swap confessions?” cracks Wayne. Hoyt then threatens Wayne’s family and leaves him behind to find his own way home. We won’t see Hoyt again, which seems like a waste of Michael Rooker.
In 2015, Wayne and Roland decide to break into the abandoned Hoyt house, eventually making their way down to the pink room. Their time down there goes better than poor Tom’s. They see drawings of “Princess Mary,” “Sir Junius,” and “Queen Isabel.” Roland is pissed that Wayne gave up on the case after talking with Hoyt.
Now let’s hit the original timeline. In 1980, Wayne is in trouble for leaking information to Amelia. Threatened with a demotion to public information, he refuses to burn her. “You hate the public,” argues Roland. When he shows up for the gig, it’s clear that he is going to hate it. With Wayne avoiding her, Amelia goes to see what the deal is. He’s being a real jerk, saying she’s “the asshole” here (nah, it’s you). “It’s good to see how weak you really are,” she fires back before leaving.
Their relationship isn’t doing much better in 1990. After his showdown with Hoyt, Wayne meets with Amelia at a bar. She suspects he’s been cheating, but he assures her, “It’s only ever the case. It’s over now.” Despite just saying earlier that he would tell her everything, he does not. “There’s always been this big secret between us,” he admits. “It’s all tied up in a dead boy and a missing girl.” They agree that a date night won’t fix their problems, but Wayne tells her to go write her next book and they will move on together. “Let’s put this thing down,” says Wayne. “It’s not ours.”
1990 Roland is also at a bar, but his confrontation is physical, not emotional. He picks a fight with a big biker dude, first taking a hard punch before doing some damage to the guy and a few others. Later, drinking alone outside, a stray dog stares right at him, prompting Roland to cry and snuggle with him. Who needs payoff to the documentary and last episode’s Rust Cohle/Marty Hart reference when we can get the “Roland loves dogs” origin story?! (The recap continues on Page 2)
Speaking of payoff, here we go. Roland gets Watts’ address and the partners are ready to finish this once and for all. They sneak up on the old man (who seems not to have aged) and admits to being the person sitting outside of Wayne’s house. They go inside and he lays it all out. A lot of this is stuff that we’ve speculated on, but we now see how it all went down. Isabel Hoyt had spotted Julie, who reminded her of her late daughter Mary, and wanted to spend more time with the young girl. So Watts paid Lucy to let Isabel hang with Julie in the woods, with Will tagging along. The plan was for Isabel to adopt Julie, but she eventually went off her meds and tried to take Julie, and when Will came to his sister’s rescue, Isabel pushed him and he hit his head on a rock. They then laid the boy in the cave where he was found. Everything was good for a few years, with Julie thinking she was Isabel’s daughter, but that was because she had been pumping the girl full of lithium. Once Julie grew up, Watts helped her get away. Unfortunately, Julie never showed at their designated meet-up spot and he’s been looking for her ever since.
“Cyclops motherf—er” (Roland’s nickname for Watts) had a break in 1997 when he went to the convent that we previously saw Amelia visit. Jumping ahead, we follow Roland and Wayne there, only to find out that Julie (going by Mary July) had been HIV-positive and died in 1995. Watts is emotional, talking about being “too late.” He becomes angered when they get up to leave, refusing to kill him or turn him in. “You don’t want to live with it,” says Roland, “f—ing don’t.” At Julie’s grave, Roland and Wayne apologize. “You deserved better than this,” confesses Wayne. “Better than me.” Leaving, they run into a young girl named Julie, who is the daughter of the lawn guy Mike. While they don’t think twice about it, I’m screaming, “Yooooo, her name is Lucy, come on, guys!!”
With the case seemingly closed (to them, at least), the partners pack up Wayne’s home office and decide that Roland will start crashing there a few nights per week. “We’ve got an ending, I guess,” opines Roland. They share a very emotional hug. But later, Wayne picks up Amelia’s book and starts reading about Julie’s classmate Mike, whom we saw Amelia talking to earlier in the season. Mike took her disappearance the hardest, having always thought that he would marry Julie when they grew up. And guess what his dad did? Ran a yard business! And Ghost Amelia is back!! “What if the ending really isn’t the ending at all?” she asks, as we see Mike recognize Julie at the convent. “What if there’s another story?” Oh s—, the nuns protected her and faked her death! Wayne has a flashback to running into little Lucy. “What if it was all one long story that kept going and going until it healed itself?” asks Amelia. “Wouldn’t that be a story worth telling?”
Wayne thinks so, driving out to Mike’s house to see for himself. One problem: his dementia hits him right as he arrives. Confused, he calls Henry to say he’s lost. He goes out and gets some water and an address from the woman who he doesn’t realize is Julie. Henry and Rebecca both come to get their dad. On the way home, Wayne asks his daughter, “Did I lose you?” She assures him that he hasn’t. Back home, Wayne, unsure of why he had the address, gives it to Henry, who initially crumples it up, before eventually looking at it and putting it in his pocket. What will he do with it? Solve the case and take the glory? Give it to his girlfriend Elisa (who just disappeared)? Roland shows up and they all happily watch as Wayne’s grandchildren ride their bikes, a call back to Julie and Will in the premiere.
But then, we focus in on Wayne’s eye as he possibly remembers? That sends us back to 1980. Amelia finds a drunk Wayne and offers him a do-over for their argument. As tears run down his face, he says he wants to marry her, at least he thinks so. She wipes it off. They’re going home so he can think about how he’s going to propose and she can think if she’s going to accept. They walk out together into the light. The season then ends with Wayne in Vietnam, tracking the enemy and disappearing into the jungle.
Who was this season’s Truest Detective? Ghost Amelia. I mean, she’s the one who actually solved this thing.
What did you think? Was this worth the ride? What/who do you want to see in a fourth season?