Though “The Final Country” didn’t pack quite the wallop of last week’s “Hunters in the Dark”, one can mostly chalk that up to the role of a penultimate episode of television in properly setting the stage for a finale. “Hunters” seemingly had a cliffhanger, but in actuality the hour told one of the most self-contained stories in True Detective to date. We saw and understood Tom Purcell’s shift from sobered-up reformee to off-the-wagon vigilante, spurred by an unjust targeting from those he thought were his friends (and by a little eavesdropping at the police station). Tom’s ultimate fate wasn’t necessarily something we knew, but then again the reveal of his dead body in the opening minutes of “Final Country” felt pretty inevitable. If “Hunters” hadn’t been such a closed loop, any remorse over Tom’s death would’ve felt unearned.
The end of “Final Country” was a true cliffhanger, though. The primary question isn’t so much whodunit? anymore, though we do still need specifics regarding how the Hoyt Family, a man named Watts and/or Mister June, Lucy Purcell, Dan O’Brien and Princess Julie all fit together. The primary question now, as 1990 Wayne hops into the car with The Character That Knows the Truth, is how 2015 Wayne could still be so far away from that truth all these years later.
He’s got memory loss, duh. Yes, technically, it’s possible Wayne has just forgotten the vital bits of his experience in 1990. But that seems cheap, and besides, Nic Pizzolatto has been increasingly blunt on Instagram in putting that particular theory to bed:
So it would follow that the entire notion of an unreliable narrator — a theory that had us convinced after the first episode — also doesn’t apply here; a retroactive reveal of that kind of device deployed now, heading into the final hour, would be a useless diversion into gotcha! territory. “Final Country” primed us for a lot more than just gotcha!
…then again, we also just definitively entered Diegetic Country:
I’m cool with references to the larger interconnectedness of True Detective. Actually, I was more than cool with this particular flourish. I think I said YES! out loud. But past what amounts to a name-drop, I’m not sure the finale needs to take another step in this direction or — as some rabid theorizers have insisted must happen — actually cameo 2015 versions of Rust Cohle or Marty Hart. Again, that’d feel cheap at this stage in the third season. If Thanos rolls up with a full Infinity Gauntlet, okay, fine: Detectives Assemble. Otherwise, this feels like a case that Wayne Hays needs to solve on his own.
Before a quick rundown of what we do expect in next week’s conclusion, there were a few strands from “Final Country” that are asking to be pulled. The moment when Amelia glances over at her car and thinks her children have been taken from the backseat was an ominous one, and one that mirrored Wayne’s experience losing Becca at the Wal-Mart a few episodes ago. With a new, fourth timeline glimpsing Becca heading to college, set in an indeterminate year (c. 2000, maybe) and noticeably absent the presence of Amelia, the Hays Women loomed over the action of “Country”.
And that overarching sense of dread is worth lauding one more time. Mystery is a genre heavily reliant on plot and on facts, and True Detective spawned a particular brand of internet-savvy, reddit-scrolling, quick-pause-that-scene armchair sleuths intent on mining every nugget of quantitative evidence for gold. “The Final Country” was full of rich diversions, like the two car scenes described above, that built atmosphere without distracting from the actual case at hand. The whole season has done that, subtly building and building toward a finale in which a certain amount of doom is inevitable. Fun as the guessing game may be, the doomworthy details (Wayne wandering through time, Amelia’s reading on the absence of a child, the constant positioning of clocks above Wayne’s head) hardly ever involve actual detective work.
…but, yeah, the guessing game is fun, and this is the last chance we get to play detective before (hopefully) the fourth season. So, on a more specific level, here’s what might unfurl in next week’s finale “Now Am Found”:
- Hoyt’s ace. He’s got one up his sleeve, and it likely involves threats (or greater) to Wayne’s family. If Amelia dies in 1990 as a result of both her and Wayne’s insistent involvement in the Purcell case, it’s possible Hoyt is responsible as a way to force Wayne to drop it. To boot, with Michael Rooker playing Hoyt, he’ll probably be menacing as hell.
- Becca lost. She’s still alive in 2015, according to the dinner conversation with Henry, so it’s possible her estrangement arises when she discovers what really happened with her mother.
- Julie found. Storytelling 101 dictates that we need to see Julie, in the flesh, for the first time since she rode away on her bike in 1980. It’s possible we’ll see her immediately after that bike ride, with the ’80 timeline showing her meeting Isabel Hoyt in the woods. Slightly less likely would be meeting her in 1990. Personally, meeting a 45-year-old Julie in 2015 would best underscore the longevity of Wayne’s search for her.
- Wayne/Roland defeat. The death of Harris James almost certainly drives a 25-year wedge into Wayne and Roland’s relationship, and we might see that made explicit in the 1990 timeline.
- Wayne/Roland victory. The Elderly Gentlemen’s Detective Club will likely score a victory in finally solving the Purcell case in 2015, but knowing True Detective it might be an incomplete, bittersweet victory.
- Stephen Dorff Face. Those nostrils though.