True Detective Season 3 Finale Theories: We Should Have Seen This Coming
True Detective Season 3 spoilers below!
True Detective: Season 3 didn't have a happy ending, per se. But given how badly things could have shaken out? It was about as happy as it could have been. Julie Purcell is alive, first and foremost. She slipped out of the Hoyt compound after Mr. June left the door open, and she found some peace and happiness with her elementary school sweetheart and her daughter. Roland has a family to love him, after years of only havings dogs for company. Wayne solved the mystery, even if he doesn't quite know that he did.
And that's the undercurrent of tragedy to this whole affair; nothing can stop or change the merciless passage of time. Woodard, Tom, and others are still dead, and without the knowledge that Julie made it through. And Wayne's mind will continue to degrade, until he's forever lost in the figurative forest in the season's final shot. The happiness is temporary. But it's all these characters can hope for, and it will have to do.
Season 3 will reward repeated viewings, especially equipped with our current knowledge of what really happened. Here are a few things you might not have picked up on.
1. A Visit To The Women's Home
When old Roland and old Wayne visit a nearby young women's shelter, a head nun tells them that Julie stayed at the home for a little over three years, but died of AIDS. She leads them to the grave where Julie is buried (under the name Mary July). We later learn that's a lie; the nuns faked her death, allowing Julie to leave the home with Mike Ardoin, who had a crush on her when they were both kids.
If the head nun looks a little familiar, you're not imagining things. This is the same woman who Amelia interviewed back in the '90s, who said that Julie had been at the home for a brief time before leaving. You can tell by the pronounced birthmark/scar under her left eye.
Apparently, the nuns and the young women in the home had their made-up story straight by the time Amelia came to question them. Or, Julie was still homeless at this point; she may have stopped by the home briefly, but had not yet committed to staying. Either way, it's intriguing to imagine that Julie may have been on or around the grounds in the '90s, hidden from view, while Amelia snooped around.
2. A Meta Narrative
Early on, viewers derided Season 3 as a retread of Season 1--the abducted children, the mysterious cult, the conspiracy of local politicians covering for bigger ones. Season 3 leaned into these suspicions at first, with the creepy straw dolls, Will's prayer hands, and the imagery of the "pink castle," which appeared to complement the "Yellow King" from Season 1.
But it turns out the opposite was true. There was no deliberate murder, only an accident. There was no pedophile ring, only an unstable mother with a hole in her heart. And old man Hoyt was no secret society mastermind; he was a sad old drunk, primarily interested in protecting the reputation of his daughter and what remained of his crumbling family's legacy.
It seems obvious now, looking back, that these were red herrings all along. The documentarian, who references Rusty and Martin, is supposed to represent us, the obsessive fans who convene online to concoct massive conspiracy schemes. The truth was much more pathetic, sad, and simple, and we should have seen that coming.
3. Seeing Julie?
At the end of the episode, Wayne meets Julie but doesn't know it's her. His memory fails him at a crucial moment, and all he can do is ask for directions, because he's lost. It creates an ironic parallel; at one point, Wayne was looking for a lost Julie. Now, Julie is helping to guide a lost Wayne.
It seems he won't discover the truth. But then, there's a three second moment--it's when Wayne is drinking the water--that he might recognize Julie and her daughter for who they are. His eyes light up momentarily as he looks at both of them, but he quickly recovers himself. He then goes back to the car, and appears deep in thought when Henry pulls up. Julie seems to appreciate his discretion; she has a somewhat defensive, nervous look, even when she's speaking kindly to him.
There are two ways you can interpret this. Either Wayne had a moment of familiarity that disappeared just as quickly, owing to his senility. Or, in that moment, he actually realized who they were. But he realized that to expose them or reveal who they were would be to bring them misery. So he left them be.
Rewatch the scene--Mahershala Ali's acting is subtle enough to deserve such scrutiny--and see what you think.
4. Extra Tidbits from Nic Pizzolatto
We got a glimpse of Wayne peeking in on Amelia teaching, set between the '90s timeline and the 2015 timeline. It shows the couple in happier times, and it whet a lot of viewer's appetites for more information. How did Amelia die? And was there a rift between Becca and Wayne?
On his Instagram account, True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto revealed the answers to these questions. Amelia died in her sleep, peacefully, in 2013; she and Wayne were planning a trip around the world at the time. Becca and Wayne never had a falling out; they were both reserved people, and Amelia was the one who was better at staying in touch. Pizzolatto also expressed hope that one day, these deleted scenes would be available on a DVD release.
5. A Single Loose Thread
This isn't so much a clue as a speculation, which is sure to aggravate viewers for months to come. Wayne has likely forgotten that he met Julie, which means, essentially, that Julie's secret is safe. But there is one loose end: the address to Julie's home, which Wayne had in his pocket, and which his son Henry finds. Rather than crumple it up and throw it in the garbage, Henry pockets the address.
What happens from here? We can trust that Wayne, out of moral goodness, would have protected Julie's identity, but what makes us sure that Henry would share Wayne's principled reservations? If Henry tracks down Julie himself and discovers her, does he spill the beans? Does he go to the documentary woman who he seems to be sleeping with, and tell her what he knows?
Julie is safe, for now. But so long as Henry has that address, there's still a loose thread and a chance that this entire conclusion could unravel.
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