Lucy and Tom Purcell, the fictional, grieving parents on the third season of True Detective, are featured heavily throughout the season and are played by actors Mamie Gummer and Scoot McNairy.
To better understand the Purcells, a quick rundown of the plot of season three is necessary. Season three centers around Detective Wayne Hays, played by Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali, who is a retired, 70-year-old Arkansas state police detective. Hays’ story, which plays out over three separate time periods covering the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, involves Hays attempting to uncover the unsettling story of two missing children in the Ozarks – Will and Julie Purcell.
Lucy Purcell is the hard-drinking, young mother of the two children who go missing. She walked out on her husband and children months before the kids were kidnapped. Tom Purcell, Lucy’s estranged husband, is “a father who suffers a terrible loss that ties his fate to that of two state police detectives over 10 years,” according to the HBO synopsis.
From scenes in the trailer, which can be viewed above and below, it’s obvious that both parents are extremely distraught over the disappearance of their children, with Lucy blaming Tom for letting them out his sight. Early in the trailer above, a clip of Tom shouting at his kids to “be back before the sun goes down” while they ride away on their bicycles is followed by an eerie scene of the two kids riding past a purple car filled with people watching them ride by.
A devastated Tom can be heard telling the detective “I’m telling you, they didn’t run off,” while Lucy Purcell screams “all you had to do was watch them!” at Tom shortly after. Later in the trailer above, you can see Lucy lunge at somebody, with other short clips of her crying on the couch with another woman holding her in the trailer below.
Scenes of volunteers and police out searching for the children, as well as a clip of boats out on a river presumably searching for a body, are abundant in both trailers. In the synopsis for the second episode, HBO reveals that Tom and Lucy receive a “cryptic note from an anonymous source,” confirming that the children were most likely kidnapped, and didn’t run away or meet an untimely, accidental death.
Little else is revealed about the Purcells from the trailers. According to the Washington Post, at one point in the show, Lucy tells Amelia Reardon, Detective Hays wife, that she has “the soul of a whore.” She asks Reardon “what kind of woman hates the only things that have ever shown her love?”
The only thing that is clear is that Detective Wayne Hays continues to search for their children’s kidnapper and/or murderer. Hays investigates, discovers and relives truths about the Purcell case throughout the entire season, all the while experiencing the onset of dementia and jumping back and forth between different time periods.
To find out more about how the Purcells fit into the show, tune in on Sunday, January 13 at 9/8c on HBO to catch the season premiere of True Detective. If you miss the season premiere, fear not – the first two episodes will air back-to-back on January 13 followed by another showing on Monday, the 14. Single episodes will proceed Sunday at the same time on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO GO.