True Detective: Now Am Found

Hays: "Suppose we get caught?"
West: "We’re old and confused."

I was expecting a sorrowful, tragic ending. What I got instead was something more bittersweet. A state of peaceful contentment in the face of oblivion.

I think this season of True Detective did a masterful job of playing into our expectations based on what came before, then subverting those expectations.

They set up the dark conspiracy, the mysterious boogieman, the final confrontation with evil, but it all turned out to be much simpler than we might have imagined. At least, that’s what it felt like to me.

Despite Hays’ ominous car ride with Edward Hoyt and the menacing vibe given off by the one-eyed Junius “Mr. June” Watts, it turns out that they were not behind some twisted pedophile ring. In fact, they’re not even necessarily “evil” in the conventional sense of the word.

Watts willingly lays it all out to our detectives when they finally track him down. Hoyt’s daughter Isabelle was forever traumatized by the loss of her husband and daughter, and locked on to Julie Purcell, viewing her as her daughter Mary. With Lucy Purcell and Dan O’Brien, Watts and Isabelle arranged for Julie to be given to them. However, things spiraled out of control when Isabelle accidentally killed Will on the day they took Julie. And so the investigation began.

No seedy kid-killing conspiracy, no ritualistic murderer. Just a tragic mistake.

Watts was only trying to make his beloved friend happy by giving her a new daughter, and Hoyt was just using his assets to try and protect them when everything went wrong.

Although it was indeed heavy on exposition, the clarity that Watts provided to Old Hays and West satisfied me. I found it poetic that everything from the abduction to Will’s death to Julie’s resurfacing was a result of a person trying to mend the wound of a lost family. When so much of this season has been about Hays learning to take solace in his own family, as opposed to letting the case consume his life.

And it was especially poetic that Old Hays discovered the real truth about what happened to Julie and, upon finding her, completely forgot what it was he found. I liked that it ended that way.

Because I don’t think that would have given Hays the peace he was really looking for. As West told him in the previous episode, police work isn’t meant to help one exorcise their personal demons. Throughout the whole season, what's been of equal importance to Hays alongside the Purcell case, was working out his feelings toward his loved ones. Most notably Amelia. The scene in 1980 where Hays angrily breaks up with her caught me off guard halfway through the episode. I wasn't sure how they were going to reconcile that, but the scene in which they do was my favorite. Hays' first thought breaking up with her would be easier than admitting to himself that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, and coming to terms with that filled him with a fear he didn't get from dealing with standoffs and shootouts.

The contrast between light and dark in these final scenes really sums up the duality of this character. While part of him will always be that man in the jungles of Vietnam fearlessly walking alone into the dark unknown, Hays ultimately found he has the strength to embrace love and family and be at peace with that.

I appreciate that, for as dark as these stories are, they usually end on a brighter, more hopeful note.

Bits and Pieces:

* I have to commend the three lead actors. Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff both turned in award worthy performances. They lived and breathed Hays and West. And Carmen Ejogo has a very commanding screen presence, both as the character of Amelia and the ghost of Amelia that haunts Hays’ conscience.

* I should also say that Michael Rooker, a favorite character actor of mine, completely owned his one scene as Hoyt.

* I found it interesting that Hoyt and Watts kind of acted as parallels to Hays. Hoyt was worn down with regret over the dissolution of his family and Watts was haunted for the rest of his days by his inability to find and save Julie, just like Old Hays.

* Besides the final scene between Hays and Amelia in the bar, my favorite part of this episode was probably the scene where we discover the origin of West's fondness for dogs. Both of these scenes were just such sweet, pitiful moments of vulnerability for two hard men.

* Did not expect Julie’s friend Mike to come back into play. That was a good twist. And I enjoyed that they were able to give Julie a happy ending.

* Even so, I like that it at least had a scene where Hays gives the address note to Henry and he pointedly decides to keep it, likely intending to look into it later. So there’s at least a chance that Old Hays and West might learn the truth in the future.

What can I say? This was a thrilling new season of a show I have quite a bit of affection for. If people were on the fence about True Detective after the second season, I believe this will remedy that. Five out of five wall murals.

2 comments:

Tim said...

Great reviews, Logan.

Thanks.

topher darling said...

I have not been that satisfied with the season. I think that lacked something and the throwback to the first season felt cheap so I loved that they defied expectations and did not make it about trafficking children.

I also agree that the Mr June scene was really heavy on the exposition and I actually turned to my partner and said, "I think we can just shut it off now," instead of finishing the last half hour. I am so glad we didn't. I have never really had a show redeem itself so much in the last 30 minutes. I absolutely loved it by the end.

I also really grew to like West. His bar fight scene was humorous and sad at the same time and the dog scene hit all of the feelings and tied really nicely into the first episode when West was going to shoot that poor fox.

Thanks for all of your reviews!