HOLLYWOOD—When the HBO series “True Detective” first premiered in 2014 starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey it was must-see TV. I mean it was the cooler room talk that everyone wanted to be enamored with. However, the second season was forgettable; I don’t even recall who starred in it and what the plot of it was. So HBO is giving the series another go for its third season, this time with Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali in the driver seat, alongside other notable names including Stephen Dorf and Carmen Ejogo.
The premise of the third season involves Detectives Wayne Hays (Ali) and Roland West (Dorf) who are investing a crime involving two missing children. This seemed to be similar narrative thread used in previous seasons, more notable in the recent HBO series “Sharp Objects.” The episode, ‘The Great War and Modern Memory,’ opened in a similar manner with Hays recalling the disappearance of two children, William and Julie Purcell. The audience was given a glimpse of the Ozarks; a region that appears run-down, grimy and at times almost desolate.
Cue the panic in town as people start to wonder about the whereabouts of a brother and sister, just as Hays and West talked BS to one another. There are continuity jumps in the narrative which goes from the past to the present and while somewhat difficult to follow in the beginning, as the episode moved along the pacing started to click more. Mamie Gummer is a standout, as Lucy Purcell, the mother of the two missing kids; she is frantic, full of rage, a bit of a wild card with a past riddle with secrets. Interesting development in the story was the revelation that William was reading dirty magazines (or at least the audience was made to think so). And we have to talk about that small peep hole in the closet. Now, I see where the show is headed. Looks like Lucy’s brother, may have been peeping on Julie. It wasn’t until nearly 40 minutes into the episode, that the audience first meets Amelia Reardon (Ejogo), who happened to be Will’s English teacher, she plays a crucial role in providing the first Intel on helping to decipher on a suspect and motive in the case.
The series does a well job at establishing a series of potential red herrings responsible for the kid’s disappearance. We have the mysterious trash man, the neighbor waving on the porch, not to mention Freddy Hays (Rhys Wakefield). We don’t really know if any of these players had a role in the children’s disappearance, but the show definitely hints at the possibility that anyone could be culpable.
Ali delivers a performance that is stoic, slightly haunting and composed. Ejogo brings a softness to the series, while Dorf’s rough and tumble character shows some of the most fractured characters can have some of the softest shells. What is the semblance of that appears to be a doll in all white, but the face composed of straw? It has some relevance’ the audience just has no clue as to its importance right this moment? But wait, that doll of sorts, seems to be clues; actual bread crumbs that led Detective Hays to the actual body of Will Purcell, who is found in a praying position. Very odd, but I’m certain that is a major clue to where this mystery is headed.
The biggest twist was the final moments of the episode, where DNA revealed that Julie Purcell might be alive! However, the question we all want to know is what happened to her and where has she been all this time? Wait, it’s not over yet, because season three consisted of a two-hour premiere. The second episode, ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ delivered more information to help the viewer attempt to piece the puzzle together. Hays and West go through the conundrum of interrogating potential suspects in Will’s death. I know the finger is pointed directly at Lucy’s brother Dan as a major red herring, and I have to say something about that guy is off and he’s hiding a secret or two.
Well, the juicy details just keeps on coming with the revelation that Julie may not even be Tom’s daughter. The finger was pointed once again at Tom being possibly culpable in his daughter’s disappearance, and it seems feasible, but it seems too obvious. I will admit the second episode was far more interesting than the first episode. We saw more friction emerge between Wayne and Roland, Amelia and Wayne’s attraction grew, just as it was apparent that someone ‘targeted’ Will and Julie by giving her a gift on Halloween. That same doll/toy that Wayne found near Will’s body. Detectives arrested a potential suspect in the case, but once again, its way too easy if you ask me. Wayne asked the questions, while Roland portrayed the enforcer.
I feel the series is playing with three times zones: the past, the preset and the right now, and it is indeed throwing me off somewhat. The audience learns that Julie’s abductor is playing games with the authorities by sending a letter to Julie’s parent’s letting them know that she is alive. Wayne and Amelia got married and had children, but there is something off about their marriage, something that makes the viewer wonder just what transpired between Wayne and Amelia that haunts him at such an old age. Not to mention I sense Amelia knows details about the case that ultimately end their marriage, not to mention that Wayne has a bit of a problem with controlling his drinking.
Season three of “True Detective” are hitting all the right notes of giving subtle hints of the mystery and giving the audience the opportunity to try to piece things together and figure it all out before its revealed. Great actors, strong narrative and a fun mystery I’m in. “True Detective” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.