In the ‘True Detective’ season finale recap, the Purcell case is finally solved as Wayne Hays puts to rest an investigation that haunted him for more than 30 years…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There are going to be a whole lot of people upset about the end of ‘True Detective’ season 3 but hopefully upon a second viewing of the entire series, the story will truly come into focus.
All season long anybody watching this series has been obsessed with solving the Purcell murder-kidnapping case and it made sense. That was the entire premise behind ‘True Detective’ season 3 and the driving force behind virtually every character encountered on the series.
In the end, there was no mass conspiracy — no child abduction ring, no cult made up of a cabal of rich men killing kids for kicks, and no connection whatsoever to ‘True Detective’ season one no matter how much we wanted to will it into existence.
Now that alone will ultimately piss off a lot of people who invested eight plus hours watching the show this season but allow me to explain how this series wrapped up from a different point of view before getting to the recap.
‘True Detective’ season 3 was really about three major things — the fractured and then repaired love affair between Wayne and Amelia, the obsessions with conspiracy theories in the United States and finally how Wayne was as alone in his mind in 2015 as he was when he was at war in Vietnam more than 40 years earlier.
If you’re looking for a connection to ‘True Detective’ season one, perhaps time really is a flat circle because Wayne was alone in that jungle in Vietnam and years later he came back around to where he was now alone in his own head, trapped by a disease that continued to ravage his mind.
The real ‘point’ of the story that I found was the unreal obsession we all have with conspiracy theories. There’s a reason why my recaps topped out at over 3,000 words with each episode — because a large part of it was theorizing about the investigation and the outcome of the case.
On one hand, the recap from the sixth and seventh episode of ‘True Detective’ season 3 did ultimately predict how the case would end — so a slight pat on the back for that — but really it plays back to the reality show host who was interviewing Wayne Hays all season long.
Elisa Montgomery from ‘True Criminal’ was more or less floating all sorts of wild theories about the Purcell case and then attaching them to her own beliefs about child abduction rings and cults who kill kids much like the case that surrounding the first season of the show. In fact, Elias’s investigation felt stronger than what the cops had done in both 1980 and 1990 and all of us seemed convinced there was more than meets the eye with the conclusion of this case.
As it turns out, there was a lot more going on but not exactly in the ways that all the conspiracy theories pointed towards and that seems to be what creator Nic Pizzolatto was going for in this finale. He was out to prove that all of us let our minds wander into those dark crevasses where we want to believe there’s a boogie monster hiding under our beds just waiting to get us instead of just focusing on the facts in front of us.
The case in ‘True Detective’ season 3 wandered so far away from the real culprits that the cops involved in two separate decades never exactly saw what was staring them right in the face the entire time. In the end, however, there was closure of some sort and at least a happy ending for Julie Purcell.
With that said, let’s recap the ‘True Detective’ season 3 finale titled ‘Now Am Found’…
The few scenes left to unpack from 1980 really had nothing to do with the investigation but rather a deep dive into the earliest machinations in the relationship between Wayne and Amelia.
The frank conversation from last week’s episode where an angry and upset Wayne told Amelia that he would reveal everything involving the inadequacies surrounding the Purcell investigation so she could write about it in the newspaper came back to haunt him in the season finale.
The article painted the Arkansas State Police as buffoons more than happy to convict a dead man of crimes rather than continue an investigation that may have led them elsewhere. There were so many inconsistencies with the case that were never explored because the district attorney was happy pinning the crime on Bret Woodard after he flipped out and killed several cops and several townspeople.
In the aftermath of that article running in the local newspaper, Wayne’s superiors demand he print a story of his own contradicting Amelia’s claims. Thanks to Roland vouching for him, the higher ups are willing to give him another shot if he’s willing to throw his girlfriend under the bus.
Wayne refuses and ends up taking the job working at the public information desk, which was the only other offer he received when this ultimatum. He does it because Wayne refuses to make Amelia look bad to save his own ass.
Wayne packs his desk and walks out while Roland tries to convince him otherwise. Wayne promises despite them no longer being partners that they will still remain friends. Obviously, we know when they reconnect in 1990 that friendship never flourished.
As for Wayne and Amelia, he lashes out at her after he gets busted down to desk duty and pretends that it’s all her fault. He accuses her of working him for case details and that’s really why this relationship came together.
Amelia actually implores him to toss her under the bus for the sake of saving his job but he refuses, breaks up with her and tells her to leave.
In one of the final scenes of the episode, Amelia tracks down Wayne to the local bar where he’s drowning his sorrows. She tells him that no man would ever speak to her the way he did, which is how she knows he was doing it specifically to push her away.
The emotional turmoil eventually ends with Wayne admitting his love for Amelia and saying that he wants to marry her. The two leave with smiles on their faces as they put the Purcell case behind them and start their lives together.
Last week’s penultimate episode ended with an ominous car ride as Wayne Hays climbed into the backseat of an awaiting sedan that belonged to Edward Hoyt, the magnate behind the Hoyt Foods empire and the supposed mastermind behind the entire Purcell mystery.
As it turns out, Edward Hoyt really didn’t know that much, although he definitely had a hand in the crime.
What transpires between Hoyt and Wayne is a back and forth conversation with each of them lobbying accusations but ultimately admitting to nothing. Hoyt reveals that Harris James had a beeper on him with GPS tracking, which allowed his company to know that he had been killed and likely buried somewhere in the woods by the two cops the security cameras around the plant captured following him after he left work.
Meanwhile, Wayne accuses Hoyt of being the devious mastermind behind the Purcell case after Will ended up dead, Julie was kidnapped and both Lucy and Tom Purcell were apparently murdered. Despite his assumptions, it seems Edward Hoyt was sad, shell of a man who watched his whole entire family disintegrate in front of his very eyes despite his best efforts to keep them together.
After that meeting, Wayne sits down with Amelia one more time except he doesn’t tell her everything as he originally promised. Instead, Wayne tells her that there are some secrets better left untold.
The two of them engage in a rather telling conversation about the nature of their relationship and how so much of it was predicated on the Purcell case that brought them together in 1980 and then started to tear them apart 10 years later.
Wayne suggests that perhaps they bury this case once and for all and just start over so they can live together as husband and wife in real happiness. Wayne says he will quit being a cop and asks that Amelia stops working on her planned sequel book to the original true crime non-fiction novel she wrote about the Purcell case.
Instead, Amelia can work on the books she really wants to write and he’ll do something else because she told him during this same conversation that he was capable of doing anything.
They both agree and when we see them a few years later, Amelia is teaching at a local college while Wayne has become the head of security there. When he goes to her classroom one day, they greet each other with a smile, which shows that these two were really in love with each other and it wasn’t all based around an unsolved murder investigation.
As for Roland, his life starts to fall apart after Tom Purcell is convicted posthumously of killing his own son and orchestrating his daughter’s kidnapping.
He goes to a local bar and picks a fight with a bunch of bikers and after thoroughly getting his ass kicked, he sits outside nursing a bottle eof Jack Daniels as the weight of the case comes crashing down on him.
That’s when a stray dog finds him and offers the sad sack some comfort and it seems Roland’s love of canines starts right then and there. When we find him 25 years later, Roland has a huge bunch of dogs because at his lowest moment, he found out they are truly man’s best friend.
Once again the bulk of the story takes place in 2015 as Wayne and Roland finally unravel the last pieces of the Purcell case.
The first stop is a visit to Harris James’ widow, who is now working at a nursing home. They ask about his work with the Hoyt family and ask if anybody came around asking about her husband following his ‘disappearance’. She reveals that a black man with one eye and a scar on his face paid her a visit that made her uncomfortable because she was still grieving for her husband who was seemingly never coming home again.
She remembers his name was Junius but that’s all she could remember because his visit was quite upsetting to her back in 1990.
That first name combined with the information that Elisa Montgomery gave to Wayne about the same black man named ‘Watts’ gives them a lead to find out his true identity.
While waiting a trace on the name along with information about the car that was sitting outside Wayne’s house to come back, the two partners decide to pay a visit to the Hoyt family compound.
It seems the Hoyt family fell into disrepairs sometime after 1990.
Edward died and the entire estate was just left in a trust, which meant nobody was occupying the house where they family previously lived. Wayne and Roland take that as an invitation to do a little investigating after that housekeeper told them about a part of the house where the staff was no longer allowed to go after 1980 with the exception of Hoyt’s daughter Isabel and the man named ‘Mr. June’.
The former cops go inside the house, down to the basement and into that secret room that Tom Purcell discovered in 1990 that cost him his life.
Inside, Wayne and Roland find the pink room that Julie Purcell had described to her runaway friends before she was found alive in 1990. They also found a giant mural on the back wall of a pink castle, another reference to what Julie had said to her runaway friends.
Beside the castle was another drawing of three people — ‘Princess Mary’, Ser June and Queen Isabel. Right away, Wayne realizes that this was the place where Julie had been kept after she went missing and it appears she was raised in some sort of captive home alongside a surrogate mother and a caretaker named Mr. June.
After that revelation, Roland gets a call that finally reveals the identity of that mysterious black man with one eye and a scar on his face that had been haunting them for years.
His name is Junius Watts and he was a former employee of Hoyt Foods.
After arriving at his place, Junius believes the cops are there to kill him or arrest him — it turns out he was the person sitting outside of Wayne Hays’ house for the past few weeks but his motives weren’t exactly nefarious.
Junius sits down with Wayne and Roland to tell them the tragic tale about the Hoyt family and their attempt to raise Julie as one of their own.
Junius first went to work for the Hoyts while employed on their chicken line at the main planet, which is where he lost his eye and got the scar on his face. After that accident, Junius went to work directly for Mr. Hoyt while maintaining all of the affairs for his household.
According to ‘Mr. June’, the Hoyt family was a happy bunch until tragedy struck at them repeatedly. Edward Hoyt lost his wife and then his daughter Isabel was hit with the awful news that her husband and daughter had been killed in a terrible car accident.
Isabel sunk into a deep depression after losing her daughter Mary so Junius was left as her caretaker. She escaped him one night and got into her own car crash, which Harris James covered up for the family and that helped set him up as a confidant as well.
Then in 1979 at a company picnic, Isabel spots a little girl playing outside that looks just like her daughter Mary — it’s Julie Purcell.
Isabel runs down to meet her and suddenly joy washes away all the depression she had been feeling. Mr. June intervenes and eventually asks Lucy Purcell if Isabel could meet and play with her daughter occasionally.
Lucy agrees under two conditions — Will has to come along with them and she has to get paid. Mr. June agrees and Isabel is able to develop a relationship with Julie.
In fact, Mr. June and Isabel would meet with Julie and Will in a secret field out in the middle of nowhere and the four of them would just have a fun afternoon together. That explains the black man and white woman that some neighbors spotted in the neighborhood, not to mention the farmer who spotted them playing in the fields near his house.
After some time passed, Lucy was offered money to allow Isabel to adopt Julie as her own daughter and give her a better life than the one she had growing up in the Purcell house. Lucy agreed but then before the adoption could take place, an awful tragedy left one of the Purcell children dead.
It seems Isabel stopped taking her medication so her mind was wandering and when Will Purcell tried to take his sister away from her, she pushed him and he fell backwards into a rock that bashed him in the head and killed him.
Mr. June was forced to tell Will’s sister that he was just resting but he wouldn’t be able to come with them to the new home where she would live. They carried him into that cave and Julie was the one who put his hands into that prayer position before leaving.
Junius, Isabel and Julie then returned to the Hoyt compound.
For the next few years, Isabel raised Julie as her own child, except she always called her Mary as referenced to the daughter she lost years earlier. That explains why Julie took on the name Mary after she escaped.
According to Mr. June, Julie never complained about her life and she was as happy as could be until one day he discovered that Isabel had been dosing her since the time she first came to live with them. Isabel had been feeding lithium to Julie and that explained why she was so docile and never really questioned what happened to her real parents much less what happened to her brother.
Years later when Julie grew up, she finally started asking about her brother and her foggy memories. Isabel was getting sicker and sicker and more importantly, Julie wanted to escape and the only person who could help her was Mr. June.
He agreed to help her so he unlocked the door to her small apartment and gave her a map where she could meet him so he could assist her escaping this forced captivity. So when Isabel was taking a bath one night, Julie escaped the compound and fled out onto her own. She never met up with Mr. June and he had been looking for her ever since in an attempt to help her.
Isabel finally committed suicide after she couldn’t handle the pain any longer.
As for Mr. June, he continued to hunt for Julie until he finally found her in 1997. He had been passing her photo around and found a local runaway that recognized her. That led him to a convent where Julie had worked — the same convent where Amelia Hays had visited in 1990 when she was looking for the missing girl as well.
It seems Julie arrived there and told them her name was ‘Mary July’. She needed help from the disaccociation disorder that was clouding her mind. The nuns helped her recover and then Julie stayed on as a staff member for a few years until it was discovered that she had contracted HIV while living on the streets.
Julie ended up dying of the disease in 1995 and the convent buried her in the graveyard nearby under the name ‘Mary July’. Mr. June found out about this when he finally tracked her down in 1997 and discovered he was too late to save her.
Mr. June came to Wayne’s house because he desperately wanted to confess but he just couldn’t do it. When the former detectives showed up, he thought it was finally time for him to be punished and he wanted it.
Unfortunately for him, Wayne and Roland don’t actually have any authority to arrest him and they don’t to kill him. Instead, he’s going to have to live the rest of his days knowing what he did or he can choose to take his own life. They aren’t going to do it for him.
Wayne and Roland end up taking a drive to that convent where they see Julie’s gravestone and see a few photos of her after she grew up. It seems the case is closed after finding that Julie had died 20 years earlier.
Before leaving, Wayne and Roland run into a little girl named Lucy and her father Mike, who is a local groundskeeper who helps cut the grass and maintain the lawn at the convent for free as part of his business. It seems Mike worked with his father, who did the same thing when he owned the business and he’s continued to carry out the same charity.
Wayne and Roland head back to his house to put the Purcell case to bed once and for all. They pack up all the case files and then Roland asks about coming to stay with him a few nights every week. Wayne agrees with a smile on his face after living there all by himself ever since Amelia passed away. Roland had remarked to Wayne’s son Henry a couple episdoes back that his father needed somebody living there with him to keep an eye on him. It seems Wayne’s former partner really was a friend all along and Roland would be by his side from here on out.
Later that night as Wayne is putting away the final pieces of the investigation, he drops a copy of Amelia’s book and he opens it to a particular passage. There he reads about a little boy named Mike Ardoin, who had been struck particularly hard about Julie’s disappearance. He was the little boy back in 1980 who admitted to having a crush on Julie and going trick or treating with the Purcell kids on the night where he believes she had received that straw doll from somebody.
That’s when Wayne is struck with a vision of his wife helping him put the pieces together.
What if the nuns helped Julie finally disappear from her old life by faking her death? What if a groundskeeper named Mike Ardoin happened to be cutting the grass at that convent when he was finally reunited with the girl he loved as a kid? What if Mike had formed a relationship with Julie and the two of them started a family together?
What if that little girl who bumped into Wayne and Roland was actually Julie’s daughter?
Those questions all convince Wayne to track down the Ardoin family to discover if Julie Purcell is actually alive and well.
Wayne leaves the next morning with a map and an address to the house. When he arrives, Wayne’s mind is fluttering and suddenly he can’t remember why he is there. In a panic, Wayne calls his son Henry for help to come get him because he’s lost and doesn’t know how he ended up there.
Wayne gets out of the car and approaches the house nearby to ask for help. That’s when he comes face to face with Julie Purcell and her daughter, yet he has no idea that’s who he’s meeting. She helps him with an address so his son can come find him and Julie’s daughter even gets him a glass of water.
They wait with him until Henry arrives along with his sister Becca so they can pick up Wayne and bring him back home. Wayne has no memory of why he went to that house or the clues that led him there but without knowing it, Julie gave him closure because she helped him find his way home again.
Wayne rides back with his daughter Becca as the two of them reconcile — we never learn what actually caused that relationship to deteriorate but we know that they are reconnecting as father and daughter.
At home, Wayne plays with his grandchildren when Roland arrives with his stuff to move into the house with his old partner. Henry finds the address that his father had written down and rather than throw it away, he puts it into his pocket. Perhaps Henry Hays will solve the crime his father couldn’t remember?
In the end, Wayne shares a cold glass of iced tea with his family and his friend Roland as they watch a brother and sister rolling down the street together on their bikes. In one final flash, Wayne goes back to the night he reconciled with his future wife in 1980, which was really the start of their relationship and the family they built together for decades to come.
The last scene flashes all the way back to Wayne’s days in Vietnam. He’s all alone in the jungle with no one around when he peers back yet again — perhaps this is the moment when Wayne’s mind truly started playing tricks on him. Then again, this might just be a somewhat sad conclusion to the story as Wayne was alone in Vietnam the same way he’s alone in his own head now that his memory is fading.
In the end, we know that Julie Purcell had a happy life, the case was closed and Wayne was able to reconnect with his daughter and best friend in his last years on Earth.