This is a recap and review of the second episode of the third season of True Detective — Expect spoilers for the episode.
In the second episode of the third season of True Detective — Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye — as the search for Julie continues in 1980, Wayne Hays (played by Mahershala Ali) and Roland West (played by Stephen Dorff) ask around about the corn husk dolls. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye was written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
Brace yourselves, folks, because in this recap and review I will present my own early theory about what’s going on beneath the surface. Sure, this isn’t Westworld, but, like Westworld, True Detective has mystery elements and therefore I, naturally, want to solve the mysteries. So, again, strap in. But first, let us go through the three time periods to recap the events of this episode.
In 1980, while the search for Julie Purcell is still active, the detectives are grasping at straws. Straw dolls, that is — or corn husk dolls, as I call them. These corn husk dolls, we are informed — after Amelia asked around — were handed out during Halloween. The kid who knew of this also tells the partners that there were two noteworthy people dressed up as ghosts in big white sheets that night. Though, as I recall, it is unclear whether or not they were the ones who handed a doll out to Julie.
“You ever been someplace you couldn’t leave, and you couldn’t stay, both at the same time?”
In an intense interrogation scene, we learn that the Vietnam war, as the title of the season premiere suggested, is still echoing through the lives of the men in the show. It isn’t just Hays who is affected. West and Hays were interrogating Brett Woodard — the man who collected garbage — and, boy, did they grill him. I should say that I don’t believe he did it, and it doesn’t seem like Hays did either at that point, but West’s methods are aggressive. To me, Woodard just seems like a veteran who is suffering after the war.
I am much more interested in the Purcell-children’s’ uncle. It is very clear to anyone who has paid attention that West and Hays assume he was the one who drilled the hole in the wall, which we saw in the last episode. The uncle also suggests that Tom was the wrong man for Lucy and that she needed someone ‘stronger,’ whatever that means. At the same gathering, we also find out that Tom’s parents believe that Lucy was unfaithful and that Julie perhaps isn’t Tom’s daughter.
Later, we find out that political campaigning got in the way of West and Hays’ investigation. The information that Hays insisted needed to be on a need-to-know basis is given for all to see on local television, thus, perhaps, warning the killer of what they know. Their hand has been tipped. What does this result in? A kidnapper’s note, which reads: “Do not worry. Julie is in a good place and safe. The children shud [sic] laugh. Do not look. Let go.”
We do not learn much about ‘Hays circa 1990′ in this episode. We find out that he was given additional information about Julie’s fingerprints after the deposition. We see him inform Amelia of the news. But not much else.
In 2015, we see how Hays’ son drives him around West Finger in an attempt to jog his memory. This is also the first time we see Hays ask about his daughter who we have yet to see in this time period. His son and daughter-in-law insist that she is fine but far away, but they are clearly annoyed by his constant questions. Either Hays did something once upon a time, maybe they’re covering something up, or else this is a sign of his son being frustrated with Hays’ memory loss.
Okay, now, let’s get to my theory. So, one of the things that ‘Hays circa 1990’ told us in the first episode was the notion that everyone lies, and, now, in this episode, ‘Amelia circa 1980’ tells her future husband that she has spent times in St. Louis acting like she’s someone else.
This entire bar conversation is very interesting to me for multiple reasons, one of which is that she tells him everything about herself when he says that he considered looking up her past — almost as if she wanted to feed him a lot of information to lead him off her trail. That’s right. I think she has something to do with what happened.
In the bar scene, she seemed nervous, though I suppose that could just be interpreted as her anxiety about flirting with a man she just got to know. But also, she ‘instinctively knew’ Hays was the one who found the boy’s body, and, I suspect, her active interest in the investigation may not be because of Hays, per se.
Furthermore, during the bar conversation, she mentions briefly that she only sometimes likes her job, but that she has ambitions of becoming a writer. Perhaps she orchestrated all of this as an opportunity to get a writing career off the ground. Maybe that is the reason why she ended up together with Hays — she needed more intel.
After all, in the first episode, it did seem like Hays needed to figure out if the documentary crew knew something they weren’t supposed to. Maybe he is trying to cover up for his late wife. Or maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills. Maybe she’s a red herring. Maybe my theory is as wrong as the ones the documentary interviewer has — or as wrong as Hays clearly thinks her theories are.
This was another strong episode of this season of True Detective. What little we’ve already been told is fascinating, and we don’t have our answers just yet. Also, the mystery has added depth after Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, which put the spotlight on Hays’ family — his wife, his son, and his daughter.
I would’ve liked, however, to see more in the 1990-time period, and I’m still confused about why we aren’t seeing more of West after 1980. Mahershala Ali continues to impress, and Saulnier, who will not direct future episodes, ends his run with two great episodes of a show that has found its footing again.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.