True Detective season 3 premiered on Sunday, January 13 at 9/8c on HBO, nearly three-and-a-half years after the second season aired. Although many were in doubt that the third season would ever happen after a rough response to season two, True Detective is coming back to HBO with new detectives, a new case, and a fresh location.
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.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Detective Hays is consumed with the November, 1980 kidnapping-murder case of the Purcell siblings from the small, working-class town of West Finger, where 12-year-old Will Purcell and his 10-year-old sister Julie were last seen riding their bikes in the late afternoon. Hays is assigned to the case with his partner, Roland West (played by actor Stephen Dorff), who helps Hays delve deeper and deeper into the case, while exploring the professional and person relationship between the two men and how they work together in an effort to solve the case. Together, they deal with emotional, grieving parents, state politicians trying to wrap up the case quickly, and suspects who are easy scapegoats in which to pin the murder on.
The case is inevitably closed and reopened in the 90s, when new evidence surfaces that casts doubt on the original case. He returns again in 2015 as an aging man struggling with memory loss who reconsiders the investigation and its effect on his life as a documentary filmmaker digs into the decades-old crime.
The premiere episodes offer very little information about any suspects behind Will and Julie’s disappearance. Hays found Will Purcell’s body surrounded by handmade corn husk dolls in a small cave in the woods sometime after taking on the case in 1980, and Julie is later deemed alive after her fingerprints turn up in a CVS drugstore robbery in 1990. However, not much else is known surrounding the case at this point in the show.
Hays has West bag up the rest of the dolls following the discovery of Will’s body. They now believe that the killer (or killers) purposefully left them for the police to find, much like what the first season’s “Yellow King” did with the twig latticeworks.
With few leads to who killed Will and kidnapped Julie, Hays gives a picture of one of the dolls to school teacher Amelia Reardon, asking her to show it around to the kids. One of Julie’s classmates recognizes the dolls and claims it’s not the first time he’s seen one. Julie apparently had another one given to her while trick or treating on Halloween a few weeks prior to her disappearance.
The student didn’t have many details regarding the people who gave her the doll however. He just remembered that the adults were dressed in a lazy attempt to create a ghost costume. Hays and West create a map of the neighborhood and homes that Julie visited while trick-or-treating, and despite trying to keep the details of the crime from the public, the information is released to the public, causing hysterical reports to come pouring in with theories on what happened to the kids.
Since the Voodoo corn husk dolls made an appearance directly before Hays found Will’s body, fans have been wondering what they could mean. Is it a message from the killers? A ritualistic, religious act by the killers? Were the dolls a breadcrumb trail, leading the police to Will’s body? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! And tune in Sundays at 9/8c on HBO to keep up with the case.