‘True Detective’: The Big Questions Heading Into the Final Episode

From the first episodes of True Detective Season Three, you could tell this season would bring the HBO franchise back to life. Mahershala Ali was already in rare form, a surprising Stephen Dorff delivered alongside him, and a strong script promised more of the same ahead.

Since then, the audience got some fine cliffhangers at the end of episodes. When Tom Purcell found the pink room in the Hoyt mansion at the close of Episode Six, you could feel your skin crawl. The final moments of Episode Seven rank close behind.

After Hays (Ali) and West (Dorff) lose control during the interrogation of Harris James, we find Hays burning evidence on high alert. Things only get more unstable when Hoyt and his men show up outside Hays’s door.

That brings us to the final episode of a memorable season. Here are the big questions hanging over the show as it concludes tonight.

How much heat will Hoyt bring?

By Hays’s reaction to appearance of Hoyt outside his door, you can feel a certain level of intimidation. While there’s no way Hoyt can know where Hays and West buried James’s body, he can certainly raise a stink with his significant influence in town.

At the same time, for Hays to fold under a little intimidation seems out of character. After all, they have information connecting Hoyt to the young girl’s disappearance (and the mother’s death). We’ll have to see how much heat Hoyt decides to bring. But that leads to the next question.

Does Hays drop the case when his own family is threatened?

We know Hays left the force after the revival of the case in 1990, and we know his partner West didn’t like it. (The bitterness lasted for decades.) However, Hays had a family to look after, and the eternal bachelor West didn’t have as much to lose.

Maybe that’s why Hays gave up on the case, and why he’s regretted it ever since. If that’s the answer, it would also explain why Amelia doesn’t publish a second book on the Purcell murder-disappearance, and another reason the marriage had strains on it.

What connects the Will Purcell murder, the doll, and the one-eyed man?

A scene from the ‘True Detective’ Season 3 finale | Warrick Page/HBO

With the Will Purcell murder a cold case by 1990, the cops (and thus the audience) start thinking about Julie. But the question of why he died (and by whose hand) continues to linger heading into the season finale.

You could make a case that Will died trying to protect his sister, that the one-eyed man did it, or a number of other theories. We won’t feel closure until we get more information on it, and the significance of the doll found in Will’s hands when Hays found his body.

Does the audience ever see Julie Purcell again?

There is something especially chilling in the way the audience gets glimpses of the missing Julie Purcell. First, we see her in surveillance footage from a small-time robbery. Next, we hear her recorded voice asking for Tom to stop looking for her. Finally, we hear about her from runawatys.

But we haven’t seen her since she disappeared. True Detective could very well end without seeing her again. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the subject of a long search didn’t turn up by the time the credits rolled. (L’Avventura may have done it best.)

By 2015, there’s a good chance a runaway girl with no identity didn’t make it to her forties. But what a twist it would be for the two aged detectives to locate her after all those years.

With so many interesting storylines still dangling, we don’t blame you if you skip the Oscars and dial up HBO instead.

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