TV Review: ‘True Detective’ Season 3 Episode 4: ‘The Hour and the Day’


***WARNING!!! SPOILERS BELOW!!!***

 

Season Plot: Set in three different time periods (1980, 1990, and 2015), the third season of True Detective follows Arkansas state police detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and his obsession with the disappearance of two children.

Episode Plot:

1980: Wayne and Roland follow-up a lead at Will’s church which leads them to a man with one eye. Amelia and Wayne grow closer as Tom begins to self-destruct. Brett Woodward prepares for a standoff at his home.

1990: Tensions mount at home between Wayne and Amelia as the Purcell case is reopened. The brass expect the situation to be handled a certain way but Roland and Wayne have other plans.

2015: Wayne continues to use the Purcell case to jog his memory while following up some past threads and asks Henry for assistance. Wayne approaches the head of the “True Criminal” shows to see if she will divulge any new information. Hays grows more paranoid as his past continues to haunt him.

 

Review:  We’ve reached the midway point of season three of True Detective and the intrigue continues to grow. And therein lies the problem with this season: a lot of intrigue but little payoff. While Ali chews scenery and his chemistry with Carmen Ejogo is white-hot, specifically in a scene that goes from fighting to lovemaking, we’ve yet to see why the couple went from budding and heartfelt romance in 1980 to soured marriage in 1990. The dinner scene between Ali’s Wayne and Ejogo’s Amelia goes on for far to long although the flirtatious scene is written beautifully. If anything all the actors involved in this season do a great job of elevating material that isn’t always up to par.

Again the 1980 section seems to be where the meat of the material is for this third season. Roland and Wayne are led from Will’s reticent priest to Patty Faber who sold her “chaff dolls” to a black man with one discolored eye. Things get heated when both Roland and Wayne venture into a predominantly black part of town to seek out this individual. These scenes are rife with tension as things almost come to blows between local neighbors and the duo, who are seen as nothing more than police officers shaking down a black man. It’s rife with racial tension and the aftermath discussion between Roland and Wayne is phenomenal.

Even better however is Wayne and Roland’s inquiry of local teenager Freddy Burns, whose prints are identified on Will’s bike. There’s no “good cop bad cop” routine here as Ali sports a winning smile while causally telling Freddy about how he’s going to be raped in prison and get the death penalty. Freddy, not surprisingly breaks down, but it’s pretty clear, even to Wayne, that Freddy isn’t their guy.

Meanwhile in the 1990 storyline, we begin to see that Wayne is frustrated in his marriage. I believe he sees his wife’s rising star as a slight to his manhood. Wayne has lost purpose in his life, something that the reemergence of the Purcell case has given him again. It’s interesting how Amelia tells Wayne that he possesses no agency, that things are always “happening to him.” This I believe cuts close to the bone as I’m beginning to feel that Wayne hasn’t possessed a sense of identity since before his stint in the Vietnam War. What’s frustrating is that we have no inkling as to why Amelia and Wayne’s marriage has hit the rocks. There’s obviously more to it than just the Purcell case.

It’s also clear that Wayne and Roland are about to go rogue. The attorney general has made it clear that the ONLY purpose in reopening the case is to prove that the original conclusions were the right ones and that the correct man (whoever that is) is in prison. Yet when Wayne says, “We really aren’t going to do all that bullshit are we?” Roland replies that he “hadn’t planned on it.”  Additionally, we get a little more bread crumbs here as Hays remarks that they were following up leads in 1980 when everything got pulled out from under them. Whatever the result was, it clearly didn’t satisfy Wayne or Roland and somehow it curtailed Wayne’s career. Yet AGAIN however, we still don’t know exactly how that happened or why. I’d like to think that the show producers are cribbing this information because it’s vital to the plot, but as each week passes with more intrigue and less information, I’m starting to wonder. At some point you have to show the steak and not just hear the sizzle.

I hate to say this but the 2015 scenes are starting to become a bit tiresome. A memory freak out by Wayne is becoming standard. Henry seems dismissive of his Dad even though he agrees to track down Roland and some other leads. Wayne’s daughter has yet to make an appearance. And seventy year old Wayne is becoming increasingly paranoid. It’s clear now that Roland and Wayne did SOMETHING in 1980 that they want to keep hidden, but it’s not clear what. It could be that they killed Lucy Purcell’s cousin, the one that stayed with the family for six months. At the very least it’s strongly hinted at when the head of True Criminal shows evidence to Wayne that the cousin was killed and his body dumped in a quarry in Missouri. However, this could also be another red herring. And where’s the real guy with the bad eye? Where’s the brown Sedan? And if this case was always about Julie (as I suspect) then why? And where has she been this whole time? Hell even though Wayne finds her on the Walgreen’s surveillance tape, there’s no real reason to suspect he’s going to be able to find her. So many questions. So few answers.

I will say this though: episode four ended on one Hell of a high note. When Brett Woodward is seen talking to kids again after being warned, the men that attacked him before come out in full force. Brett goes full commando, setting up his house with guns and Claymores. It’s almost as if he was itching for a fight…maybe even has a death wish. The conclusion of the episode was a great cut to black as one of the men knocks down Brett’s door and trips the Claymore just as Wayne and Roland arrive.

Overall the third season of True Detective entertains as much as it frustrates. The primaries involved are delivering top-notch performances. However, at least for this viewer, some answers need to start coming sooner rather than later.

 

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