Sunday, February 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'True Detective' - Wayne Pushes Himself to Learn Exactly What Happened to Julie Purcell in 'Now Am Found'

HBO's True Detective - Episode 3.08 "Now Am Found"

Wayne struggles to hold on to his memories, and his grip on reality, as the truth behind the Purcell case is finally revealed.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's True Detective.

"Now Am Found" was written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Daniel Sackheim

The lives of Wayne Hays and Julie Purcell have been intertwined for so long. However, it was always Wayne chasing after answers as to what happened to Julie back in 1980. Many answers have been given over the years. But none of them actually provided any kind of satisfying conclusion. Most of them only increasingly muddied this story and the people involved. Many people died. The area was forever changed by this case. Even Wayne only had a few fleeting moments of his life where he wasn't at war with trying to understand what happened and how to find purpose in the ambiguity. But all of this makes it so powerful when Wayne and Julie are actually interacting for the first time here. They do so not having any awareness of who the other is. Wayne has been chasing this for so long. When the moment arrives, his mind is simply unable to recognize the importance of it all. This story doesn't end with Wayne getting conclusion with this case. That is nice and appreciated. It provides a satisfying conclusion to the audience who have been just as invested in this story and have been following all of the plot threads. But it was also about Wayne finding that peace and clarity. He is still struck with nightmares after he was seemingly standing over Julie's grave. He feels the urge to persist and keep investigating even when every natural instinct is telling him the case is now closed. He now knows what happened to Julie Purcell. He will have to live with the guilt of being too late to change her story. Instead, he pushes and gets very lucky in finding the connections that prove that she is actually still alive. Despite every horrible thing that has happened to her, she too has built a nice and happy life for herself. It's a life in which she is even willing to name her daughter after her mother despite everything she put her through in order to appease the Hoyt family. It's beautiful that all of this has a happy conclusion. But again, it's all about the inner turmoil felt by Wayne. He still felt this pull to investigate because that's the man that he has become. It has always been core to his identity. It almost destroyed his life on a number of occasions too. He pushed things too far and committed some heinous acts in the name of justice. And now, all of that may have actually been pointless because Julie still found happiness in her life. As such, that needs to be the same final message for Wayne. He may be heading into the forest of despair once more as his memories are plagued with dark images and an uncertain future. However, he has that happiness that comes from his family being all together again. Sure, the show slides past the idea that Wayne has to make things right with his daughter after being estranged for too many years. She barely pops in as a character at the end of all of this. It mostly points to the ways in which all of this is a weight off of the shoulders of this old man even though he doesn't have the clarity he has long been searching for. The release is lifted no matter what. There is some part of his brain that is still connecting the beauty that has occurred throughout his life.

Of course, it's also fascinating to watch and see which stories the show feels need adequate conclusions and which are left open-ended or simply unaddressed all together. Back in 1980, Wayne was reassigned to desk duty because he refused to sign a statement saying that Amelia twisted his words around to form her story about the Purcell case being far from over after the investigation pinned all of the blame on Brett Woodard. That was the truth. But the heart of this story was also the corruption of the police and the inability for Wayne and Roland to get anything done. Sure, they still committed some horrifying thing that may leave them feeling like they don't deserve happiness or redemption. They killed a man. That forever kept them from investigating further and figuring out what happened to Julie. In 1990, the case was once again closed because the investigation had a convenient dead man to pin all of the crimes on. Woodard and Tom were completely innocent in all of this. Woodard was subjected to horrible racism while Tom had no awareness that his wife was secretly selling her daughter off to someone who wanted her more. The Hoyt family simply had too much power and influence in the area. When the troubled daughter wanted Julie to replace the child she lost, the family and its employees were more than happy to make it happen. It's truly chilling to watch as Mr. June tries to normalize and rationalize all of this. He wants to believe that Julie thrived in this environment. But the horrors are abundantly clear - especially when it's revealed that she was being drugged in order to stay obedient. That is truly sickening and depressing. But Wayne and Roland stopped looking because they killed a guy and Edward Hoyt knew it. He could simply blackmail them into submission. That was the moment that radically changed their lives. It effectively ends all elements of this investigation until 2015. That's why Julie wasn't found even though she popped up again in 1990. Wayne and Roland were still far away from actually solving the case. It takes a long time until they get every piece of the puzzle. And yet, Tom found Julie's secret room in the Hoyt mansion. That's why he died. Meanwhile, Amelia saw Mr. June and knew to suspect him as someone connected to the crime. She also found the convent. She interviewed the nuns and troubled girls there. She was actually a brilliant investigator. But she still made that choice to end it completely in order to keep her marriage alive. There was that brief glimpse at the life the two of them landed on with her returning to teaching and him as chief of security for the school. But more time is spent on how they fight and were these big personalities that clashed frequently especially as it pertained to this case. The story of Julie Purcell ultimately didn't define their marriage. But it echoes through everything about them as well.

All of this presents as an all-encompassing journey. Wayne gets the clarity he has long been searching for while the show reminds the audience of the humanity and tragic circumstances revolving around all of this. It's peaceful to see that conclusion. And yet, no update is given as to how the documentary about the Julie Purcell story factors into anything. Elisa provided many clues to Wayne. That's what allowed him to finish this case. She gets none of the appreciation or recognition. Nor does she get the satisfaction that the case has now been closed. She doesn't because it would be Wayne condemning his own life just to provide an answer. He gets that clarity for himself. He can't share it with anyone though. His mind is too far gone. He can't comprehend enough to make sense of it. That doesn't mean that Henry and Roland will go along with all of that. They too could pick on these investigative threads that have been left behind by Wayne and Amelia. They too may come to the realization that Wayne found Julie Purcell. But the documentary doesn't factor into the resolution one bit. As such, that makes it increasingly seem as if it was just a plot device in order for the show to deliver some expositional bits while teasing a connection between this story and the first season's. That's lame and really forced. It doesn't really add anything to the context of this narrative either. Meanwhile, it's inherently problematic that the show co-opts the story of someone dying from HIV in order to offer a brief tease that Julie's life also came to a tragic ending. The pain of that time with that disease has left a significant scar on the gay community. It feels like the show mentions it here just to sensationalize the subject and provide a clarity of just how hard Julie's life was following her own addictions and troubles. But HIV didn't need to be the story crafted by the nuns just so that no one could ever find Julie again. And yet, the powerful performances by the entire ensemble really carry every aspect of this story during this conclusion. Again, not everything works. But the audience feels the pain and the relief because of the looks on the faces of Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo and Stephen Dorff. Those actors made the audience feel connected and invested to this investigation with every twist and turn it took to get to the truth.