Warning: Contains spoilers for season three.

Wayne Hays and Roland West became a unified force in a second timeline, a suspicious priest enters the fold and Lucy Purcell almost the steals the show in this compelling fourth episode.

After in the mystery, a tighter focus around suspects and connections between timelines made this a much better paced episode. We pick up as Wayne and Roland question a priest who took the photograph of Will Purcell closed-eyes in ‘prayerful repose’. Roland is agitated by the priest, with the pair keeping a close-watch on his services in the hopes of answers over why he’s the only child without his eyes open.

This ran simultaneously with Roland and Wayne’s second investigation into the whereabouts of Julie Purcell who they discovered, years later, is alive. Wayne’s relationship with Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo) in this timeline is at a rocky place, prone to arguments and intense rounds of make-up sex.

One of the reoccurring themes is the race relations within this small town. After Roland is threatened by the town’s black community while questioning a suspect, Wayne, who defuses the situation, doesn’t want the act logged against them on a race basis. We also see Wayne’s discomfort over repeatedly being branded a ‘negro’ by potential suspects. 

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The repeated emphasis on this tension may point towards the reasons for Waynes questioning by police later. Did he overlook key parts of the case in his determination to shun racial stereotyping? Did obvious evidence get disregarded because he wanted to protect the black community from the predominantly white police force? If there isn’t a reason for these nods beyond setting window dressing, their inclusion is increasingly odd. 

The older Wayne is now also coming to terms with his failing memory, and recruits his son’s help to seek out Roland in the hope he’ll remember more about the case. It’s clear they haven’t been in touch in years, not even knowing if he’s dead or not, but if he is alive – it’ll raise an entirely new box of questions over why they didn’t keep in touch following their second reunion.

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After leaving his interviews with the investigative journalist on a sour note, Wayne abruptly confronts her in order to find out what she knows. She agrees hesitantly to divulge information, but not all at once. Seeing his age and early signs of dementia as a curtain call, Wayne appears to be recruiting all the help he can to finally find the answers he’s sought all his life. 

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The standout moment of the episode, surprisingly, didn’t feature either Mahershala Ali or Stephen Dorff. Amelia, before she’s partnered with Wayne, visits distressed mother Lucy Purcell with a box of school projects created by her late son. The pair soon share an intimate, harrowing scene where Lucy spills her anguish over not being able to make her children laugh. As we learn of her dismal fate in another timeline, the scene acts as a haunting omen of the slope Lucy has taken.

True Detective continues to twist and unwind its timelines into creating a full picture. At this point, it’s unclear how long we’ll have to wait for more clear-cut answers, but the show’s confident ability to test and tease its audience is a promising indicator of quality to come. 

True Detective airs on HBO in the US on Sundays, and on Sky Atlantic in the UK Mondays at 9pm.

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