The True Detective season 3 premiere introduced two state police officers investigating a missing children’s case as the story was told from the point of view of three different decades.
Mahershala Ali stars as Wayne Hays, a police detective who thought he cracked the case in 1980 after finding the body of one of the children.
The case was reopened 10 years later when the news broke that one of the missing children was likely still alive and involved in a robbery in Oklahoma. Then, in 2015, Hays was interviewed by a true crime documentarian about the classic case.
Immediately following the True Detective season 3 premiere, the second episode of season 1 aired, continuing the story.
True Detective season 3, episode 2 recap
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The second episode of True Detective season 3 opens with the police casing the lake for anything they can find. In the police lab, they are dusting the bike for prints. There is also the coroner’s report – blunt force trauma, the little boy had a broken neck.
In 1990, Wayne Hays wants to get information about the police investigation and the prints of the girl. Wayne is asked to finish up the day’s questioning and Alan Jones tells him that he will talk to him afterward.
In 1980, Wayne and West are questioning everyone in town. They even talked to the man, Brett, who collects the garbage. He is questioned and admits he saw the kids riding their bikes. He told them he came back from the war, but he came back and was gone for too long and his wife left him and took the kids with her.
Brett said that he misses having a family. He said that he isn’t one of those burnouts and isn’t a bum. He does what he can to survive. He said that he misses when “don’t get killed” was his only order on his to-do list. “You ever been someplace that you couldn’t leave and couldn’t stay all at the same time?”
That flashes to 2015 and Wayne looking at the old West Finger Community Center. His son asks if he remembers the place and he said that he remembers.
In 1980, the community center has a community meeting where the sheriff is talking to everyone about how they will find out what happened. The man who is in the questioning meeting in 1990 is there as well. They are setting up a curfew for the kids of 8 p.m.
Someone asks what the city is doing to clean up that park and the kids who hang out there, causing problems. Another woman asks about how they will clear out the junkies and the heroin. Someone else asks them to look at Brett and another asks if the girl was still alive.
They hand out photographs.
It turns out that the man who was holding the meeting won reelection and went on to become the state attorney general. After the meeting, they talked about the kid having his hands folded after his death and then the dolls being weird. Wayne had a hard time reading the crowd because of his “redneck radar.”
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Wayne then talks to Amelia after the meeting as well. She said that people are scared – especially at the school. He showed her a picture of the doll and asked if she knew anything about it, but she said that she didn’t know anyone with it, but it was something you might find in a craft store. She asks to keep the photo and said she will ask around.
Someone comes and picks her up.
Back in 2015, Henry asks his dad if they have spent enough time with this as a family. Wayne said that the documentary is bringing things back. Wayne admits to his son that parts of his life is missing pieces. Henry asks if he thinks mom would want him to keep doing this. He asks when the last time they saw Rebecca (his daughter) and Henry said at his mom’s funeral and maybe on the phone a few months back.
Henry wonders if his dad needs to keep talking to the TV people. Wayne said that the director promised to show him something next time, but Henry said she is baiting him to get more viewers for her “sh*tty show.” Wayne said the two of them always had different ideas.
Wayne and West had the feds come in to investigate the kidnapping while the state police continue the murder investigation. They will work as a team and share information.
Wayne and West go to the little boy’s funeral. It is there that they talk to the boy’s uncle Dan (in the last episode they found Playboys under the mattress and a hole in the wall of the closet to the girl’s room). He admits that those were his Playboys. They ask if he saw any strange adults talking to the kids. He said that the kids kept to themselves, but they were around parents who were always fighting.
Dan said that he played with the kids sometimes. He said they were good kids. He thinks that Tom (the dad) is an all right guy but he felt sorry for him because his sister needed a strong male in her life. Dan said that he had to get back to work. West asked if anyone could confirm where he was the night of, and he said he was at a bar having drinks. He also said they could look at his place, but he thought they should be out there trying to find his niece.
They next questioned their grandparents. They said that Lucy is always running around on Tom and the grandmother wondered if there was a chance that the kids might not be Tom’s. After this, Tom said that they needed to leave for the day when he saw his mother break down.
In 2015, they are setting up for another day of interviews. The director shows a website that discusses unsolved cases and there is an entire section on the disappearance of the girl and death of the boy in 1980.
She asks if he felt that his ideas were looked down at because of his race and seems to be pushing towards a racist angle against him in trying to crack the case but Wayne isn’t interested. She then mentions the dolls and Wayne said that Amelia was who got them that lead.
Back to 1980 and Amelia is talking to kids on the playground about seeing a doll. She then notices Freddy appearing to bully someone out by the fence. She walks on and asks a young boy named Mike, and he said that someone was passing dolls like those out at Halloween. He said that Julie (the missing child) was given one. The kid is very upset.
At a plant, Tom is heading into work. They asked him why he is back at work so soon after his kid’s death. Everyone is staring at him. He said that he has worked full time since he was a kid and he can’t sit at home with all this stuff in his head. He is walked out and told that they put him on leave because people start to think about other things and that could cause injuries.
He is told he can’t come back to work, so he quits and walks out.
The police are asking the boy about the dolls and he can’t remember which house was handing them out. He said that he didn’t see her get the doll, but she showed him at the end when they were comparing what they got. The boy said that he saw Julie talking to what he thought were two adults dressed as ghosts at one point on Halloween. He then shows them the path they were trick or treating on.
They are driving along and saw Tom walking home. They give him a ride and talk to him about his relationship with Lucy. It turns out they only knew each other for a few months and got married because she was pregnant. He said that they didn’t know each other very well. He then started to cry and said he can’t live through this if he doesn’t know one way or the other what happened to Julie.
“I can’t go to sleep and I can’t wake up.”
The investigation team is talking about the dolls that were found at the scene and that someone was handing out dolls on Halloween. They recommend going to houses and asking if they can look around and see if anyone gets twitchy about it. Wayne said that he is more concerned about the girl and not the possible trial.
They are not given permission to search houses. West mentions that if they tip their hat, the perp might run or kill the little girl, and that does not go over well.
At a porn shop, West went in and talked to the man there and it turns out that the man there is a vice cop, running an investigation. He points out that someone named Ted LeGrange has come into town, an ex-con who has asked about little kids.
Wayne is at a bar having drinks and Amelia comes over to talk to him. He thanked her for her help and when she asked why he gave her the picture, he said it was instinct because the kids wouldn’t talk to them. She said that when cops need to know about someone, they look them up and asked if he looked her up. He said he thought about it but didn’t. She told him all about herself.
Wayne told her about himself after that. She tells him that she wants to be a writer and write books and he said he doesn’t read much and likes comics, but had dyslexia growing up. The two admit to acting a little crazy at times and seemed to hit it off well.
On the TV, there is a press conference with the prosecuting attorney and they reveal to the community that the person who might have been guilty might have seen the girl on Halloween and even showed the map they made out, giving away any chance they had of a lead in the case. Wayne is pissed.
He is in a car with West and said that he knew they wouldn’t listen to him but wishes he had stopped them. Wayne said that when he talks, they don’t care what he says but West could have stopped them. Wayne is angry and said that he believes no one will listen to him because he isn’t white.
West mentions the guy that vice gave him the lead on. Wayne wants to go get him, but West said they need to wait it out to morning and toss the place first.
In 2015, Wayne said the prosecuting attorney giving the clues on TV caused widespread panic in the town. False clues and parents afraid to let their kids take the bus to school. His actions scared everyone – including Wayne and West.
The two officers found LeGrange at a diner eating. They take him out to the country while he is crying that it wasn’t him. They handcuff him to a post. West then starts to beat up LeGrange while Wayne asks him questions. Ted keeps telling them that he didn’t do anything, and he changed his name because he wanted a fresh start.
Wayne tells them that he heard that he wasn’t home the night the kids were taken. Ted said he didn’t do it and West starts hitting him more. Wayne tells him to tell them what he did that night and on Halloween night. He won’t answer, and West keeps hitting him.
The two then arrive at a daycare center later in the day. It turns out that the child predator plays guitar at the daycare center and she admits that he was there when the disappearance of the kids happened. They realize he is not the guilty one and tells her that he won’t be back to work there again.
In 1990, Wayne is having drinks with Alan and learns more about the fingerprints from the girl at the robbery, proving she is alive. Wayne asks if he is ready to go up against his old boss (who is not state’s attorney) and he said they it is overdue. Alan said that he has an appointment with West, who has “done well.”
Out in the country, Wayne and West open the trunk of their car and LeGrange is tied up and beaten. West said they should execute him. Wayne said that he will make sure he ends up back in jail as a known child predator if he says anything about them.
Wayne gets a call to go to the Purcell place and that the family got a note.
In 1990, Wayne gets home, and his two young kids are in the living room watching TV. He gets a beer and sees that Amelia’s galleys have arrived for her true crime book on the case.
In 2015, Wayne is holding her book and said that the two of them being together was the closest there was to a happy ending.
The documentarian revealed that he left the police force in 1990 based on what happened to Julie and her father and wondered if it was because he felt the case ended too abruptly.
Instead of answering, he tells her that his wife wrote six more books, but his case was her first. He asked if she read it and she asked if he had theories that were not in line with his superior’s directives. He said that he heard what she asked, and the answer is that he never stopped coming up with theories about that case.
A young Henry is talking to his dad at dinner about baseball, but Wayne is preoccupied and not listening. He smiles at his daughter though. Henry is later in his office and is still preoccupied. Amelia said that he can’t act that way in front of their kids. She asked if they are overturning the conviction and he tells her that Julie Purcell is still alive.
In 1980, Wayne and West show up and there is a note that is created with cut out magazine letters that read: “Do not worry. Julies is in a good place and safe. The children shud laugh. Do not look. Let go.” Tom is a mess.
The second episode of True Detective season 3 ends back in 2015 and Wayne is looking at his wife’s photo.
Wayne is having dinner with his son and his family. He is talking about how reliving the case is tiring and admits he never read much of his late wife’s book about the true crime since he was a part of the case.
He is clearly suffering from dementia which bothers his son when he asks to bring Rebecca back to see her. Henry tells him that Rebecca is in Los Angeles. He asked when that happened and is told that she is playing music. They say she is okay, but she won’t come home to visit, and Henry said that she never liked it there.
Wayne then says that they should get Rebecca out there because he would like to see her, obviously not remembering that he just asked about it. He then looks at the photo of his late wife.
Wayne is then outside and looking around confused. He is still in his robe and is looking at where the Purcell house used to be, which has been destroyed and never rebuilt.
What are your thoughts on the direction that season 3 of True Detective is heading? Let us know in the comments and be sure to tune in every Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST on HBO as the season moves on.