Category Archives: True Detective

Christopher Eccleston joins season 4 of True Detective

Beloved British actor Christopher Eccleston has signed up for the fourth series of True Detective.

The critically-acclaimed HBO show is coming back for a fourth run, subtitled Night Country and starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis.

It’s set in Ennis, Alaska, where six men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish without a trace. To solve the case, Detectives Liz Danvers (Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Reis) will have to confront the darkness they carry in themselves, and dig into the haunted truths that lie buried under the eternal ice.

Eccleston will portray Ted Corsaro, the regional Chief of Police and a political animal with a long history tying him to Liz Danvers (Foster).

Also joining the cast is Fiona Shaw, who plays Rose Aguineau, a survivalist with a past full of secrets.


True Detective season 4: Star announced and plot details revealed

True Detective series four has announced its star and revealed plot details.

Subtitled Night Country, it welcomes Oscar-winner Jodie Foster in her first adult TV role. She will play Detective Liz Danvers.

Deadline describes the plot thusly: “The series is centred around Detectives Liz Danvers and Evangeline Navarro who are looking to solve the case of six men that operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanishing without a trace, when the long winter night falls in Ennis, Alaska.

“The pair will have to confront the darkness they carry in themselves and dig into the haunted truths that lie buried under the eternal ice.”

It’s the first series of the celebrated True Detective since 2019.


True Detective season 4 ‘in the works’ at HBO

One of the landmark crime series of the last decade or so, True Detective has been a huge global hit since its debut in 2014.

Now we’re hearing that a fourth series is in the works at home US broadcaster, HBO, and without its original creator and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto.

The Hollywood Reporter says that HBO has “recruited Issa Lopez (Tigers Are Not Afraid, Secondary Effects) to pen a script for a new cycle that has been dubbed True Detective: Night Country. Additionally, Barry Jenkins is attached to exec produce the anthology.”

No more news is yet available.

The series has, over three series, attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest names. In series one, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey starred, with Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams appearing in series two. Then, in series three, Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff took centre stage.


REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E8/8)


How many crime dramas can boast a two-time Oscar winner as their lead actor? It was probably an accidental convergence of schedules that saw True Detective air throughout the same period as awards season, but it can’t have harmed this season’s chances having somebody so high profile as Mahershala Ali in the driving seat. A safe pair of hands, as it were, to guide a show seen as rudderless back to its former glories.

But that return to form comes with its own set of expectations. Perhaps it was too much to ask that the show could deliver one final twist in its telling, something reflected in reports of how showrunner Nic Pizzolatto had fought the network on this final episode’s running time until the very last minute. In the end though, after all the theories, the debates, the connections and misdirection, we didn’t get something spectacular like that first season’s explosive denouement. Instead, we got an ending much more in keeping with the pace and posture of this third outing, and in that balance of events it was not lacking in itself either.


One of the main elements to the series has been time is a cycle. The love affair between Amelia and Hays feels like it’s on a loop in any era, as the dynamic between them shifts its shape and their power structures fluctuate. They argue about her first book. They argue about his job. They argue about her manipulation of him. In one moment Hays can’t stand to look at her, in another he proposes marriage. It goes on and on, and into the next decade and beyond – a mutual toxicity born out of something like desire.


Back to the business in hand though – just what went down with Edward Hoyt? This was probably the biggest failure of the show, in building up a character to this level then introduce him at the last breath. Michael Rooker is a formidable presence in any show, but it felt like his talents were wasted here. Either way, a foreboding trip deep into the forest sees Hays and the food magnate cautiously dance around Harris James’s disappearance before exploding into accusations and threats. Hoyt seems like a broken man, haunted by his own demons. He isn’t aware of what happened to Julie Purcell and Hays can’t press him too far with a murder fresh in his own hands. His complicity in that crime is what Hoyt drives home as leverage to keep him quiet, and it’s enough to persuade the recalcitrant detective to reconsider his priorities.

Repeating 1980, the case is closed without any real resolution and Hays is demoted once again after refusing to denounce Amelia for tipping off a journalist about inconsistencies in the investigation. Despite promising her a full account of the truth earlier that day, Hoyt’s threats mean he won’t share his secrets in a bid to protect his wife. Amelia wants to make up her own mind however. Hays feels their marriage is forever tied up in the Purcell case, and can’t be continued without harming them both. They mutually agree to separate and tend to their own ambitions – but it seems like Hays is really giving Amelia the option to live a better life without hauling his baggage.


As we’ve progressed throughout this season the timelines involved have felt increasingly blurred and in this final episode it feels like these separate realities converged into one focal point. They mystery of what happened to Julie Purcell develops as most viewers would have expected by now, and the fact that the concept of justice wasn’t really delivered is a brave decision. Instead, all the people caught up in the aftermath of this case suffered their own forms of punishment – with the only option being to try and extract themselves from it before the damage became too definitive.

Hays and West speak to James’s widow about the one-eyed man. She says a man fitting that description visited her in the weeks after Harris went missing, and asked her if James ever found Julie. With nobody now residing at the Hoyt estate, the pair break in to explore the basement area. Despite a foreboding exterior shot of the dilapidated house as they arrive, the sense of dread in entering this house is missing. They venture through dimly lit corridors to find the “pink room” where Julie was kept and her father met his fate at the hands of Harris James. Now faded with dust and decay, the room still contains a child’s drawing that covers one wall – featuring characters depicted as Princess Mary, Sir Junius and Queen Isabel.

West uses his contacts to locate the man they now know as Junius Watts. He’s not surprised when they visit -“I been waiting on y’all”. It transpires that it was Watts who was the one watching Hays’ house, trying to work up the nerve to tell him the truth. The truth is of course, a tragic tale for all involved. It’s a story about a rich heir called Isabel Hoyt that lost her own husband and daughter in a car accident. Increasingly unstable in the aftermath of that tragedy, she conflated Julie Purcell with her dead child and demanded Watts convince Lucy Purcell to give her access to her daughter. But these fleeting hours spent deep in the woods became unsatisfactory to Isabel, who sinking deeper into her own madness abducts Julie whilst Will tried – and failed – to protect his sister, before falling to his death in the tussle. Isabel has Harris James pay off Lucy to keep quiet about the fate of her children, but in the process this action leaves Tom lost in a miserable state of ignorance for the rest of his short life.

The fact Watts helped enable Julie’s incarceration over the following years is a weight that he bears badly. When he discovers Isabel is drugging Julie to keep her compliant within the depths of the estate, he helps the teen escape to an agreed rendezvous. But Julie never shows – and the rest of the man’s life is spent in a hopeless search for her, as well as his own redemption. In the wake of her disappearance, a distraught Isabel commits suicide. Eventually Watts tracks Julie down to a convent in 1997, where she had been helping the sisters there with supporting the other lost children they care for. But Julie’s intervening years on the streets exercised a heavy toll – she had died of complications from HIV in 1995. The detectives visit her grave and hear tell of her love and support for the institution that saved her.

The pair close down their case – but the lack of closure bothers them both. With their friendship rekindled, West asks if he can stay with Hays. But as always, Amelia is the lodestar in this story. Hays reads a segment from her first book that alludes to Julie’s childhood friend Mike being dismayed at her disappearance, and the detective remembers a conversation with a man bearing the same name at the convent. In a strange coda to the story, Amelia appears in a hallucination to tell Hays the real truth – that Julie was alive and reunited with her childhood sweetheart after a chance encounter. The pair had a child together and now live in peaceful anonymity – with her falsified death the protective barrier to prevent anybody looking for her. Hays seeks her out to conclude his own investigation, but can’t remember why he’s there when he visits her house. It’s a bittersweet ending to the case but the flash of recognition in Hays’s eyes as he departs indicates he’s competent enough to know he should keep her secret.

It’s an interesting close to the show. A murder that never was, an abduction that started as a grief-stricken affection – and the grim flotsam of destroyed lives that one person’s imbalance created in its wake. Anybody expecting a similar action-packed finale to the first season – or some grand conspiracy revealed in the final reel – were instead witness to something far more nuanced, a nod perhaps to the tone and palette of European shows in the same genre that spends more time examining the detail of their characters lives. In the end, this was more about the human minutiae that surrounds a crime than the crime itself.

Did it all work though? Well, if we took this season on its own terms – then yes, it did. But the shadow of that initial run still looms over everything this series aspires to be, to the detriment of the narrative. Time will tell if it can break free of these restrictions in future iterations.

Andy D







REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E7/8)


Think back to a time without the internet and you could watch television with its surprises intact. That’s become less and less of an option these days unless you care to live under a rock; a standard tactic of any studio’s marketing department to regularly spoil their own storylines in the hope of a few clicks. So let’s give credit where it’s due to True Detective show-runner Nic Pizzolatto in his attempts to hide the arrival of this season’s big bad by removing the respective actor’s name from various cast listings until the very last moment of broadcast this week, when news filtered through that the inimitable Michael Rooker would be the man in question to bring the dread-filled figure of Edward Hoyt to life.

That the heavy presence of Hoyt has shrouded the entire season without him ever being present is a commendable sleight of hand, but it’s a trick that has increasingly painted the narrative into a corner as we reach the endgame with him only just beginning to emerge in reality – we know all roads, therefore, must lead to the Hoyt estate and it’s Pink Palace, but just what are the mechanics of this grim conspiracy that has taken so many lives in a bid to keep it’s secret?


There were only two notable scenes in the original timeline this episode, although a lot of future conversations focused on this period in other eras. West meets up with Tom in the aftermath of the Woodard massacre, as he prepares to leave town. The detective is adamant Tom should stay – but with his children dead and an estranged wife already out of state, the distraught father needs to flee as well to try and locate meaning in the aftermath of so much misery – a mission we know in hindsight will fail to see him find happiness.

Elsewhere, Hays and Amelia discuss her writing with the embryonic development of her novel confined to a scratched out notebook. Ironically the inception of the book is derived from Hays’ positivity about her pursuing it (a surprise to both her and the viewers alike no doubt), imploring her to find the truth now the case is officially closed – something which he will later regret.


Hays and West are called to the scene of a crime, only to find the dead body of Tom Purcell laid out in what looks like an apparent suicide. Just like the original case it’s enough evidence to impress the world’s worst Attorney General Kindt into shutting the investigation down, who overturns the Woodard conviction in lieu of charging Tom posthumously with the murder of his own children. West is understandably more broken up about Tom’s death than Hays, who is determined to continue the case regardless of this recent development – spurred on by Amelia having told him about her encounter with the one-eyed man.

Amelia continues to conduct her own investigation, returning to see Lucy’s best friend and question her about the one-eyed man. She can’t recall any such person, but the mention of the time around Halloween spurs her memory to show Amelia a photo developed after the Purcell children disappeared, that shows two people dressed up as ghosts looking on as Julie and Will pose in the foreground – people whom Amelia presumes are the couple that were never cleared in the original case. Later, she checks in at Lucy’s former place of employment, the owner of which advises her that he saw Dan O’Brien talking to somebody fitting the description of a one-eyed man back in 1980.

Dan’s whereabouts are an issue for everybody this episode, with Hays and West investigating his room at the motel after his car is found abandoned in the outside lot. Lucy’s cousin is long gone though, along with the crucial evidence he had on Julie’s abductor. Undeterred, Hays pours through old phone records from Lucy’s stay in Nevada during 1988, cheekily using West’s identification to request flight records into the state around the same time. One phone number called eight times into her hotel room the day before Lucy overdosed. That number traces back directly to the Ozark Foundation, specifically the personal line of one Harris James. The requested flight records reveal him entering Nevada the day before Lucy died. Hays delivers the news to West, who doesn’t initially seem convinced it will lead anywhere by bringing it into their superiors, but the memory of Tom’s demise fresh in his mind provokes both detectives into plotting something reckless.

Later that evening, Hays and West tail Harris James from work with the objective of confronting him to force a full confession. A fumbled fake police stop enables them to kidnap him, driving their charge to the barn they used to roust suspects back in 1980. James isn’t too fussed about the Purcells (“Y’all can’t give a shit about that trash”), but the brutal beatdown West administers definitely gets his attention. Hays relents to James’ whimpers to take his cuffs off, but the former officer tries to escape by desperately charging at Hays, forcing West to respond with deadly force.

I doubt many viewers had too much sympathy to see the untimely demise of James, but he went to his grave without detailing his collusion with Hoyt – and effectively killing the case as a result. The ensuing fallout and hasty burial of the security chief is a total mess – and the last straw for West, who rages against Hays for forcing him into the situation. The incident sows the seeds of two separations – with both West and later Amelia (after witnessing her husband burning his clothes like er, regular people do at night) realizing Hays only really cares about his own twisted sense of justice and precipitating them to cut their ties with him as a result.

If Hays is the unstoppable force of this story, then he finally meets his immovable object in the dying minutes of the episode. Edward Hoyt (still unseen but unmistakably deploying the gravel-flecked tones of Michael Rooker) calls Hays at home to discuss the whereabouts of Harris James – peppering the conversation with some mild threats against his family, all delivered with a side of Southern charm. Hays promises Amelia he will tell her everything soon, before reluctantly boarding Hoyt’s limousine to parts unknown. Undoubtedly their meeting will lead to some form of Faustian bargain, but at what cost to Hays’ soul?


Elisa goes on the offensive this episode as Hays grows more reluctant to humour her theories. She asks Hays if Tom’s suicide was staged by Harris James, saying each time “a sudden act of violence, a dead man – and the case is closed”. She explains her belief that the case is part of a larger conspiracy, intimating that one of the Purcells sold their children to somebody, with Dan acting as a broker. Elisa mentions the one-eyed man was called Watts, who acted as a “procurer” of children for rich people – although how she knows this isn’t clear. She directly references the case from Season One as an example of how high-ranking officials hide crimes like this. Expecting him to corroborate this thesis he instead refuses, saying he is incapable due to his encroaching dementia – “I’m tired of walking through this graveyard” he replies with finality.

The crux of the case is delivered in a segment where we gain some incendiary new information. Hays and West meet with Hoyt’s former housemaid, who details the family’s woes. Hoyt had a daughter called Isabel, who became a recluse after her husband and young daughter were killed in a car accident during 1977. As Isabel retreated from the public eye, she would only reside in the basement area of the Hoyt estate – a place where all staff were forbidden to frequent, except one – a one-eyed black man called Mr June. The maid left Hoyt’s employment when staff became even more restricted in where they could go in the house during 1981 – directly after Julie Purcell went missing. Hays and West later on discover Harris James was on Highway Patrol in 1977 – in the same area as the fatal accident of Isabel’s family.

West intimates this was the catalyst for James’ relationship with Hoyt, but the question remains how involved the business magnate was in the death of his own daughter’s loved ones – or even the larger conspiracy that followed this. However, the remainder of this rather eye-opening chunk of exposition connects a few dots that have until now remained slightly out of view. With Hoyt firmly dead in this timeline it isn’t too far of a stretch to assume Isabel and Julie are inextricably linked and committed to ensuring their conspiracy of child abduction continues to be hidden – but with the case effectively terminated alongside Harris James in 1990, what does Hays assume will bring a sense of closure to the story? And is anybody getting out of this alive?

Andy D







REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E6/8)


This sixth episode of True Detective is titled Hunters In The Dark and that’s largely how it feels as we enter this final third of the season – as viewers, we still have a lot to learn. The myriad strands of the case are slowly coalescing but we are no wiser to the fate of Julie Purcell as the mystery around her disappearance continues to unfold and deepen further. This season might have primarily been focused on the efforts of Hays and West as the detective duo unpick the minutiae of this grim conspiracy, but there are other hunters in this pack – the amateur sleuth Amelia, the dirt digger Elisa, the vigilante Tom – as well as those shadowy figures stalking the case from the periphery, known but unknown and imbuing the narrative with a sickly sense of impending dread.


The case is all but concluded on this timeline. Hays is determined to explore the evidence further after the fateful aftermath of the Woodard massacre, but Kindt is adamant they have their man – and they will convict him in absentia for the murders of the Purcell children, with the police assuming Brent burnt Julie’s body in his porch-side oil drum. Hays is presented with the evidence of Will’s backpack and Julie’s shorts as a concrete indictment against the man, but these items raise more questions than answers for the detective – he’s sure there is more to this case.

Undeterred, Kindt hosts a press conference to advise that the case is closed – with both Lucy and Tom leaving separately during proceedings after the latter attempts a lacklustre reconciliation through a tentative handclasp. Amelia follows Lucy to the car park to deter a reporter from intruding on her grief, but she isn’t in a forgiving mood with the teacher and drives off into the night – the last time we see her alive in this timeline.


In the most active timeline this week, the recording of Julie denouncing Tom means he has instantly become their top suspect. Hays and West are rousted by Kindt for not having investigated Tom’s original alibi properly and pushes the pair to interrogate him robustly. West is quietly furious with Tom for betraying his faith in him as a good person, but Hays turns the heat up further by questioning Purcell’s paternity around Julie. “Some question that she was yours?” he raises, but Tom is outraged – “That child is mine!” he screams before collapsing into hysterical screaming.

Kindt is hungry for an immediate indictment, but West presses for caution – arguing that they have no evidence against him. The only real information they uncover in their ensuing investigation is that Tom was going off the rails long before his children went missing – his burgeoning alcoholism perhaps related to his shame of being secretly homosexual, something which is inferred in his work colleagues having spotted him hanging out at a gay bar back in 1980 and a “conversion therapy” leaflet in his trailer in the current day. Hays puts forward a loose theory that Tom might have been caught cruising by his kids in the woods and killed them to keep his secret, subsequently planting the evidence at Woodard’s house – but West bats it away as implausible, perhaps consumed by his own guilt at not really knowing Tom as well as he thought.

The duo then turns their attention on Harris James, who was the officer that reported Will’s backpack being found at the scene. It’s revealed that James left the force in 1981, the year after the Purcell case – to take a well-paid job as Chief Security Officer at none other than Hoyt Foods. Such a heavyweight coincidence has Hays and West dig into his employer’s requirements for the role – it’s a big pay-cheque to be guarding a chicken recipe, Hays argues. James drops them his contract’s statement around this which is ominously open to a deadly interpretation, before throwing in a misplaced compliment about Hays’s body, which definitely lingers in the air after as being strangely formulated.

The plot thickens considerably this episode when Dan O’Brien resurfaces, looking exponentially rougher than when we last saw him in 1980, and demanding $7000 to give Hays and West information about Julie Purcell. Despite the detectives’ strong arm tactics, O’Brien is clearly more scared of whoever else is out there with involvement in the case, saying they are the kind of “people who don’t renegotiate”. He infers ‘they’ are responsible for Lucy’s death, who it is revealed grew up with Dan as a child when her mother died prematurely. West tells him it will take a few days to put together the cash, but Dan is adamant Julie doesn’t have that long –  “those motherfuckers have a head start on y’all” he predicts, ominously.

Meanwhile, Amelia is on her own investigate path, having told Hays her publisher is keen for a sequel to her original book, wanting it based around the new investigation. She tracks down a friend of Julie’s at a local convent that helps street kids, who tells her the girl used many names but mainly Mary July, “as in summertime”. Increasingly, the inference around the month in her name seems to indicate something bigger – perhaps a way of cataloguing the girls stolen by our anonymous villain? Julie’s friend alludes to the same place as the vagrant in the last episode, except this time Julie referred to herself as a “queen in the Pink Castle” – a recurring theme with deeply portentous implications.

Amelia pulls double duty this week on coaxing out important clues. Hays often accuses his wife throughout the show – and by extension, the viewer – of being a voyeur in the misery of others. The girl at the convent implores her to instead “write about what happens out here, what happens to girls”, and there is a sense her chosen career path isn’t a popular one. At a local bookstore reading, she is confronted by a black man with a dead-eye who aggressively accuses her of “makin’ your money and milkin’ their pain” before storming out – but Amelia is already making connections about his distinctive appearance to a long forgotten clue, trailing off with the word “Dolls….”. Is the writer about to put herself in more danger than she can handle?

Tom develops his own brand of investigation in this episode too, after being released on bail and over-hearing detectives talk incredulously about the reappearance of Dan O’Brien and his demands. Knowing him better than the law does, he tracks down the junkie to his old scoring patch at a run-down local motel. Bracing Dan at gunpoint and beating him into submission, he tells Tom that Lucy was paid off by somebody for what happened back in 1980, and the name of that person was what he was selling to the cops.

We aren’t privy to the name in that bruising encounter, but it’s no surprise when we see Tom drive past Hoyt’s estate before breaking into his gargantuan home. In a cleverly edited sequence filmed largely through CCTV imagery, we see Tom guided into the bowels of Hoyt’s mansion by unseen people watching him on monitors. A series of thick steel doors have been left open for him, teasing the distraught man further into the complex before happening on a room – a pink room – that looks like a child’s play space. He looks off at something beyond our eye-line and stutters “Julie…?” as Harris James looms into view behind him.


There’s scant activity in the most current timeline this week. Elisa presses Hays on the veracity of the original indictment, and again reiterates how unusually high the body count is in this case. The documentary maker pushes this further, inferring Harris James’s disappearance back in 1990 was not a coincidence – “I wonder if one day they’ll drag a quarry and find him?” she pontificates, causing Hays to nervously wrap up the interview.

Henry remonstrates with Elisa, and afterwards Hays broaches the affair his son is clearly having with her. Henry has no intention of leaving his wife, but says things have changed between them. “Nothing stays like it used to be” Hays offers, before venturing further in a telling statement, “Before I knew you I wasn’t a fearful man. I’ve been terrified since the day you was born. You can’t hold back anything – you can’t be stingy with the people you love”. It’s a moving elegy more to Amelia than it is marital advice to his son, but it makes you wonder what secret sacrifice Hays has made in the past to elicit such a response.

It’s this idea of suppressed memory that is stuck in the throat of the story, informing our relationship as a viewer with Hays, whose narrative is becoming increasingly hard to gauge as we progress. With the story rapidly running out of road as episodes fly by, it feels like the case will be concluded in a very final – and fatal – way back in 1990 and we as an audience will be exposed to the logistics of that through the shattered memory of Hays in the present day, with West as his guide. Armed with a gun and a smattering of key addresses – Hoyt’s house, Harris James’s widow, a former domestic help – it feels like these distant echoes from the past are building up to a deadly cacophony in the present.

Andy D





REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E5/8)


The expectation with any anthology series is the stories contained within it are suitably different, but at the same time, familiar. The vagaries of success can sometimes inform the course of the format’s narrative, however. This is where the lines cross in this third season of True Detective – with enough mileage behind it now to live or die on its own merits – but the shadow of that debut run looms larger than ever, increasingly feeling like lightning in a bottle. It’s hard to repeat something as mercurial as an overnight hit though, and the traces of that struggle run throughout this season.

This is evidenced in a telling scene which if you blinked, you’d have missed it – and most of us did. It was reported earlier this week that a glimpse of documentary maker Elisa’s laptop screen in episode two showed a newspaper article about Cohle and Hart, as well as her making mention of the Crooked Spiral from that season – a love letter reference to diehard fans that not only confirms this series connects together within a shared universe, but also that show-runner Nic Pizzolatto is playing the long game in establishing the connective tissue that binds his storytelling. But from another angle, it also shows a quiet desperation to call back to the former glories of the show in a bid to shore up its existing shortcomings in standing on its own strengths.


The explosive ending to the previous episode is quickly picked up with a deadly shoot-out at Vietnam veteran Brent Woodard’s house, which he hot-wired with mortars in anticipation of the lynch mob closing in on him. The plan works, killing off most of his pursuers whilst he picks off the arriving Federal agents with his sniper rifle as well as clipping West in the leg for good measure.

It’s down to Hays as the man with most common cause as a fellow survivor of that terrible war to try and talk him down, but Brent (played superbly by Michael Greyeyes) has other ideas. Threatening to gun Hays down unless he executes him, the detective is forced to make the fatal choice. In comparison to other season’s midway big blowouts (the single take of Cohle’s crack-house run or the gigantic gunfight in the fourth episode of Season Two), it all felt curiously truncated – with multiple locals dead or maimed we didn’t really feel much resonance from the scene’s impact.

In fact, we didn’t spend a great deal of time in the era this episode beyond that scene. The real culmination of the incident is felt days later in the wreckage of the house however, when Will’s backpack is found in a crawl space and Julie’s torn and bloodied shorts in the burning remains of Brent’s smoker. It’s enough evidence for the police to posthumously charge Brent with the abduction and murder of the Purcell children, effectively bringing a close to the original case – a decision that will have significant ramifications throughout the remaining timelines.


As the narrative shifts gears away from the original case, we get more action in the era of the reopened case this week. With an APB out on Julie Purcell across the multiple counties, Hays worries her original captors may also be still looking for her. In his desperation to rectify his own shortcomings in the original case, he shows Tom Purcell the CCTV image of her as an adult. This reckless action forces West’s hand to go public with the information, and at a press conference, Tom makes an appeal for Julie to come forward. The conference also sees Brent Woodard’s children appear, represented by a lawyer with aspirations to replace the Attorney General with himself – using the failures in the original case as leverage.

The public appeal yields two interesting strands. A street kid comes forward saying he used to hang around with a gang of vagrant children that included Julie – except she was going by another name at the time, Mary July. He also says she was a little crazy, talking about herself as a “princess from the pink rooms” – a throwaway statement to him but a chilling indication to the viewer of where she had been held previously, and the fact she wasn’t the only one there.

The other big step forward is from Julie herself, who calls into the tip hotline to denounce Tom, referring to him as “that man on TV acting like my father” and states her captor “took me and I’m never coming back”, which lends itself to an air of benevolence afforded to her kidnappers. Is this a terrifying form of Stockholm Syndrome or something infinitely more twisted? Either way, her words have a devastating impact on Tom and has the effect of chilling West’s kindness to him after he misinterprets Julie’s words to assume her father was responsible in some way for her abduction.

Elsewhere, there are growing signs the case is still being misdirected by an unseen hand. Hays goes back to the start of the case and attempts to locate the unknown fingerprints on Will’s toys, but they are missing from the evidence locker. Likewise, his review of the evidence from Brent’s house reveals a startling omission from the original case – the discovery of Will’s backpack at the time was uncontested, but with hindsight the item has no damage at all – despite being found directly underneath the area of the first mortar explosion, indicating that it was planted after the fact.


In the present day Elisa interviews Hays again, this time revealing that one of the detectives who processed the Woodard scene went missing during the second investigation in 1990 – Harris James, seen in flashback as handling Will’s bag. Could he be the inside source that was obfuscating Hays attempts to review the original evidence back then? Elisa says the people surrounding the case have a habit of dying or going missing, and she’s not wrong – it’s a deadly curse for anyone involved. With her previous revelation that Dan O’Brien’s remains were recently found and the fact that he went missing during 1987 in the same location as Lucy Purcell overdosed the following year, the focus shifts to her culpability.

This is reinforced when Hays finally begins to read Amelia’s book about the case, in which Lucy is quoted as saying “Children should laugh” – the exact same phrase used in the kidnapper’s note. Hays can’t believe he’s been so blind to this all these years. Could Lucy be responsible? It certainly seemed she had significant guilt to express when she talked to Amelia in the previous episode, and combined with Julie’s denouncement of Tom not being her father it doesn’t take too much of a mental leap to presume the origins of both the Purcell children might bear closer scrutiny, potentially with a certain local food magnate.

The spectre of Hoyt looms large throughout the show. We are yet to meet him in person, and traditionally a third act appearance normally doesn’t bode well for a character’s innocence. There is an explicit reference this episode though, when Hays finally meets up with the present day West – who is curiously about as off the grid as you can get, and slowly drinking himself to death. Hays mentions in passing he met with Hoyt in the past, but never told West. It’s clear in each other’s body language that Hoyt was the largest missing piece in their puzzle, but as Hays tells it the man didn’t seem to know much – and either way is now deceased. But as we see again in the Sedan that stalks Hays at home this episode, maybe his legacy isn’t entirely dead and buried.

The Detectives’ reunion is a melancholy affair, with West aggravated at Hays conduct years past for an unspoken slight and an oblivious Hays crippled by dementia, unable to remember or reciprocate. West has drawn a definitive line under the case, refusing the advance of the documentary makers. “I don’t want to as much as dip a toe in that bullshit again” he affirms, and his current living state certainly indicates a person trying their best to remain apart from the world. Hays is adamant that they combine their collective talents again however, and despite West thinking the idea is “some sad, senile shit” the weight of the case compels him to reluctantly agree to help. “Stir some shit up with me!” Hays implores him, and you know they will.

Andy D








One unifying feature in coverage of this third season of True Detective is the collective relief in seeing the show return to former glories (of course, your mileage may vary on the strength of that ill-fated sophomore run). Despite sadly dwindling audience numbers, it reflects well on showrunner Pizzolatto that he cares enough about his creation to make supposed amends in the first place, with a show so connected to his own rise to fame that emerging reports of him battling studio executives regarding the agreed running time of this season’s finale even whilst the show is currently airing aren’t surprising – it’s this level of commitment that elevates the anthology above the common procedurals that mimic its format.

That level of quality is reflected in how comfortable Pizzolatto is in letting these episodes unfold at a leisurely pace, with most of this fourth episode being devoted to the slow burn of detailed character development across languorous duologues with only a smattering of police work in between – and it’s all the better for it, because halfway through this run he has you fully invested in these characters and their issues.


Hays and West head to St Michael’s (“Church of the Ozarks”) to speak to the pastor about the image of Will they found in the Purcell’s family album. His office is packed full of children’s communion photography, but only Will’s shows him with his eyes shut. The Pastor explains to the detectives how Julie was excited about meeting her aunt – except she doesn’t have one. He also knows where the dolls come from – they are ‘chaff’ dolls made by local churchgoer Patty Faber for the town’s harvest fair. One swift interview later and she reveals all of her dolls were bought at the previous fair in October by a black man with a dead eye.

Whilst West surmises the pastor should be considered a suspect, Hays proposes that the case was never about Will – instead, he was killed in the act of defending Julie from some unknown perpetrator. The detectives head to the poorest part of town to navigate local businesses in a bid to uncover who the person that bought the dolls was. One misidentification later and they find themselves knee deep in trouble at a local trailer park as they attempt to interrogate an elderly man called Sam Whitehead about the case, which only results in West getting a plant pot directed at his head and a brick through their car’s windscreen.

The case breaks open when a fingerprint owned by Freddie Burns (“Black Sunday” as one detective quips) turns up on Will’s bike, but his tearful confession only reveals that the child was alone and looking for his sister when he found Freddie, who unhelpfully bullied the boy and stole his bike. However, it does indicate the children were separated prior to their disappearance, but it’s slow progress that isn’t helpful to the Purcells – with a dejected Tom being picked off a bar floor by West and a suicidal Lucy lashing out at Amelia in a drunken stupor.


The spectre of damaged relationships looms over our second time period as well, as Hays is buoyed by his return to the Purcell case – but at the cost of his marriage, which is rapidly disintegrating as Amelia finds greater independence in the research of her book about the original case. Mahershala Ali and Carmen Ejogo are electrifying in these scenes, caught between the shifting frustrations of a fading love affair. “You’re a grown man with no agency of his own” she spits at him, and his definition in authority with no true autonomy leads him to weakly retort “Then give me my orders”. It’s a beautifully played scene that is juxtaposed by a similarly nuanced exchange between the two as the potential lovers spark off each other over dinner in the previous decade, highlighting just how talented these two leads really are.

The case is reopened by West but Attorney General Greg Larson is adamant their mandate is to uphold the original conviction only, regardless of any new evidence that has arisen. This increasingly feels like an intelligent interpretation of the recent fascination in American miscarriages of justice, as reflected in the modern timeline of the show with a documentary maker voraciously searching for legal anomalies in the original case.

Either way, both detectives have other ideas about what this second chance to examine the case will be, immediately travelling to the scene of the robbery where Julie’s prints were found. Hays spends hours reviewing footage before finding frames that show an adult woman stealing groceries – could this be Julie as an adult? Hays’s reaction seems to be sure it’s her. But where has she been all this time?


Hays visits his local police station, where it’s revealed his son Henry is also a cop. He asks him to help locate West so Hays can fill the increasingly large gaps in his memory – “This is my way of staying alive” he pleads with his son. But Hays isn’t just doing this for his declining health – he’s also using his dementia as a shroud to obscure the fact he is re-investigating the case on his own terms, at the hallucinatory behest of his dead wife.

To this end, he tracks down documentary director Elisa at her hotel room to trade information. She tells him that one of the key discoveries from their research is the human remains of Lucy Purcell’s cousin Dan O’Brien being found – who went missing shortly after Lucy’s fatal overdose in Las Vegas eight years after the original case was closed. The significance of finding one of the case’s original suspects is not lost on Hays, who warns Elisa not to advise his son they met.

Throughout the episode, the malevolence of the mysterious couple in the Sedan is always just slightly out of our mental view. As Hays records his thoughts from the day into a dictaphone and is surrounded by terrifying visions of murdered Viet Cong from his military service, he scrambles to the window for air. Through the slats, he sees he is being watched by a dark Sedan… but is he dreaming? The blurring of memory and reality is becoming more prescient with every passing episode.

Andy D




REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E3/8)


As indications of a loss in faith go, it was pretty definitive – the viewing figures both here and Stateside for the opening episodes of True Detective’s third season were way down on those of its sophomore premiere. It would seem the series has a long way to go to shore up the confidence of the viewers that left it behind, which is a shame as this third entry in the anthology is about as well-crafted as a police procedural can be.

But disappointment requires expectation, and as a result it seems a lot of people are cautiously watching these episodes fearful of when it turns bad – or worse, boring. Judging by the evidence of this third episode, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Instead, we were treated to an hour of beautifully-shot character development as the initial case blossomed and an encroaching feel of mysterious terror gripped the narrative.

For the purposes of keeping things clear, I’ll split up the story as it unfolds across it’s three timelines.


At the tail end of the second episode, a note was received by Will and Julie’s parents, purportedly from the killer. In the wake of that revelation, Hays and West agree they need to re-examine everything from the start in painstaking detail. The key fact of both children arranging to play with their neighbour Ronnie is revealed to be untrue – in fact, Ronnie barely knows them. A secondary search of the children’s room unearths clues previously thought benign – a map into the woods, and a series of little notes hidden in a fantasy gamebook that promise to keep the recipient safe from harm.

These items are found wrapped up in a Hoyt Food bag, a local processing plant that Lucy Purcell worked at a few years back. A wealthy local entrepreneur, Hoyt had developed a charity called the Ozark Outreach Children’s Center in the wake of his own child’s death, with its goal to help poor families in the area. It feels like something significant, but Hoyt was supposedly in Africa on a hunting trip during the time the children went missing. Regardless, Hays asks for their full staff roster to examine for suspects.

A grid search in the state park shown in the map reveals nothing except drawing Hays closer to his future wife Amelia, but upon returning to the cave where Will’s body was found, a set of dice that would be used in the child’s game is discovered. He also uncovers a hiding place where Will’s bag is found full of toys, that his parents later identify as items they never bought. Near to this, blood and hair are identified on a rock – consistent with the injury that killed Will. It’s a big reach to assume this was all missed on the first search, or that Hays is almost supernaturally gifted in his ground reconnaissance to identify clues his colleagues cannot – a leap of faith for viewers that reminded me of some of the more looser plot ends in Season One masked by Cohle’s ethereal intuition. Luckily, both characters have the requisite charm to make it feel like an organic development rather than an erratic script.

The trail leads to a remote house in the woods which didn’t feature in the first search, but does give them a potential witness (and suspect) who saw the children playing on the edge of his property on several occasions – and also identifies a black man and a white woman in an upmarket sedan prowling around the same area at similar times to when he saw the children. It all points to the hand of a hidden perpetrator at work, luring the children into a secret rendezvous, something that might be closer to home than Hays and West first suspected when a photo in the Purcell’s family album shows Will with his hands clasped in prayer at his first communion – just as Hays found him in death.


Now a Lieutenant, West (Dorff) is re-introduced at his own deposition on the case. As with season one’s narrative, his testimony doesn’t always run in parallel with his former partner, but it’s clear whatever happened to Hays at the end of the original investigation is still raw to him – “You all fucked a good detective you know that right?” he tells his interviewers. The series plays at it’s best in this space – revealing information the characters don’t know and affording us the luxury of foresight across certain areas of the case, whilst also carefully retaining other facts that remain intriguingly nebulous.

Whatever happened to Hays in 1980, he has now been demoted and is working as State Police. He discusses with his current wife Amelia the best way about trying to track down Julie, now that he is off the case. She offers to investigate in his place, an action that sows the seeds of their future separation as she finds increasing independence in her role whilst also revealing Hays own insecurities at his personal failures around the case as well as his performance as a father. Amelia’s investigation does yield immediate results however, as she finds out Julie’s fingerprints were only found on the bullet cases discovered at the robbery and not behind the shop counter – indicating she may have been a passive participant in the crime itself.

Elsewhere, West goes to see Tom Purcell, now living in a trailer as a recovering alcoholic who has found God. His wife Lucy has fared less well – she is now dead, something relating to a separate case that West alludes to. Tom is in a state of frustrating duality around the revelation that Julie’s fingerprints – thankful she might be still alive but also emotionally drained with the case being reopened. West has been assigned to lead the new task force and visits a downbeat Hays in a veterans bar to offer him a shot at redemption – a place on the team and a chance to be a detective again.


A visit to the doctor’s reveals Hays dementia is worsening, as evidenced by his fugue state at the end of episode two. The practitioner feels Hays suffered a blackout, but the former detective knows better – he can’t recall the reason he went to the street that night, but he feels in his heart there is an importance there – something related to the case, but he can’t remember why.

Memory is the phantom that looms over his life in this era, with a rapacious TV reporter attempting to fluster him by revealing countless people that were never formally interviewed about the couple in the sedan car – something Hays cannot recall, or refuses to. It’s clear there are obscured truths here, whether Hays wants to admit it to himself or not – something that comes to the surface in a terrifying scene when he hallucinates the presence of his dead wife. Amelia warns portentously that the past, present and future will combine and reveal the secrets he wants to keep hidden. “How much do I have to lose?” Hays pleads. “Everything. You must finish this.” Amelia responds, a precursor to some dark reckoning we will bear witness to.

Andy D


REVIEW: True Detective (S3 E1&2/8)


The phenomenon of True Detective is primarily based around its flawless first season, which was widely regarded as a modern-day classic of crime drama (and we agreed – it was the winner of our Top Crime Dramas of 2014). The inspired casting of its lead actors Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey combined with a labyrinthine narrative that was shot through with gothic sensibilities electrified viewers. Everybody remembers holding their breath for what seemed like an eternity through that six-minute single tracking shot as Cohle escaped the crack house. It was bravura television of the highest calibre. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto was lauded as the second coming and all considerations were that this was the start of something special.

Then the hotly anticipated second season premiered and the reviews were universally derisive. Partly because of the high bar set by the first season, partly because everybody’s expectations were therefore set equally – and impossibly – high, and partly because people weren’t accustomed to a series that left its characters behind with each season and reacted accordingly when Hart and Cohle didn’t return. Whatever the reason, the intricate slow burn of a story about three cops brought together over one crime was widely panned. The irony is without the shadow of such an exceptional debut over it, that second season would have been considered a great success.

The level of vitriol directed against that sophomore season was so widespread that Pizzolatto claimed he was done with the show – and with mounting offers from Hollywood he wasn’t short of future work. But time has been increasingly kind to both series of the show and as its legacy grew, rumours filtered through that a third season was in the works. Not only that, but the producers had doubled down on their intentions by bagging an Oscar-winning actor in the guise of Mahershala Ali in the lead role. So with the popularity of the first season and the lessons learned from the reception of the second, was this new series to be a remix of both into something familiar or a bold new direction?

The answer is somewhere in the middle. From the visually gorgeous opening credits (since ripped off by a hundred other shows) set to the wonderfully maudlin soundtrack supplied by T Bone Burnett, we’re immediately in familiar territory – you know you’re in for an hour of quality television. Set against a muted tonal palette of deep greys and pale blues, the location for our mystery this time is situated in the heart of the Ozarks with sprawling overhead shots of imposing woodland encroaching on tiny, rusting settlements where the only unifying element is abject poverty.

Like the first season, the mystery is unpicked over a series of time periods and is recounted in retrospect by its lead protagonist – in this case Detective Wayne ‘Purple’ Hays (Ali). In 1980 he is assigned to be the lead detective in a case of missing persons alongside his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff). Hays is a Vietnam veteran – a pathfinder – and somebody who like Cohle before him has a sense of ‘otherness’ about him that distinguishes him from his colleagues. He’s an outsider.

Ten years later, we find Hays at an interview surrounding his deposition. A challenge to the conviction brought from the case’s outcome has been raised by the accused’s family. He’s clearly not happy his former work is being dismantled but it seems both Hays and the detectives questioning him implicitly know that the person in prison was wrongly convicted. They allude to Hays suffering from ‘memory problems’ – something that becomes clearer to us as we jump to 2015 and see him as an older man (Ali in some impressive prosthetics), about to face the cameras for a TV documentary on the case. Hays employs a dictaphone to record his more lucid moments, directing himself when he forgets what he’s doing – a sort of aural version of Memento.

Pizzolatto deploys a subtle palette shift for each period so we don’t feel immediately lost and the narrative is clear and concise, abandoning the glacial momentum of the second season for something implicitly more procedural and direct. The case itself seems simplistic on the surface – two local siblings, Will and Julie Purcell, go missing one cold November afternoon in 1980 and a raft of potential suspects are quickly introduced as we watch them disappear on their autumnal bike ride. The series always excels at adding import to clues that may or may not have an impact on the case – a peephole in a room, a littered Ranger’s station, dusty pornographic magazines – and the lingering attention it pays to these devices is designed to draw you into continually questioning what you are seeing, adding layers of misdirection to the mystery.

Each period comes complete with its own set of traumas, hidden plain in sight. In the second episode, there’s a revealing conversation in 1980 between Hays and a suspect, two men equally broken and bonded by the legacy of Vietnam and the devastation it brought back home to fester in the heartland of America. In 2015 Hays fights another battle with the silent torture of encroaching dementia, beset by the ghosts of a past he can barely remember. It’s this kind of dedication to broadening characterization that Pizzolatto specializes in which enriches the show and elevates it above the standard procedural. Like Season One, the case is really a vessel that holds a larger commentary on the social and political undercurrents that bind America for better or worse.

Ali is a revelation in the role of Hays. He has his work cut out portraying the same character at different emotional points across a 40-year span of time, but executes it impeccably. He’s a man who has clearly seen unspeakable violence at war trying to walk back his emotions in line with a society that isn’t really prepared to support a man of his skin colour in a role of authority. The racial tone is never implicit, just simmering under the surface much like in reality. Equally, Dorff excels as West, his gruff throwback of a partner who represents his window into the white man’s world (“you can say something and they’ll listen to you – I’m not part of your tribe” Hays tells him directly at one point). The pair are more than a match for Rust and Marty, and their dialogue underpins a large majority of the show with crackling dry wit and an imposed sense of brotherhood. It’s a joy to watch.

Pizzolatto also isn’t afraid to revisit the motifs of that debut season for dramatic effect either. The development of the investigation into long-haired malcontent Freddie Burns and his teen friends has more than a smack of the West Memphis Three about it, right down to the awkward interrogation of his friend’s Black Sabbath t-shirt (“what is that, some kind of satanic mass?”) and it’s a pointed reminder to the power of the ‘satanic panic’ era in 80s America as well as a callback to the first season’s exploration of rural paganism. The woven artefacts from that season also make another appearance in the form of straw dolls in this season, cast as markers in the undergrowth leading Hays to discover Will’s body, cold hands clasped in prayer. The spectre of the Bible always looms large in this show, an amoral phantom that speaks as much to the ambivalence of evil as it does good.

The show also knows how to deliver a thrilling cliffhanger and the legacy of the show is packed full of them. The first episode of the new season especially is no different when Hays is told in 1990 – a decade after the original case – that Julie’s prints have surfaced in a burglary not some two months ago. She’s alive. It floors him and also the audience – we are now provided with the foresight he will be on a fruitless search for her back in 1980. It’s the kind of brain-busting chronological twist we’re used to in this show and signifies Pizzolatto is leaving nothing to chance this time round. The lingering question is whether the show can deliver something more than a reductive story wrapped in a clever narrative construct or transcend that trap to provide something as magical as that glorious first season.

Andy D