Ray Fisher and Mahershala Ali in True Detective, "The Big Never" | HBO
The third episode of True Detective‘s third season trudges onward through deeper and greater complexities in both the life of Wayne Hays and the case that shaped his entire adult life. As detectives Hays and West make a few telling discoveries about the two abducted children during their work on the case in 1980, we also are given more insight into where the two of them are at ten years later in 1990, and continue to see Hays’ battle with the onset of Alzheimer’s in 2015 while making some loose connections back to the case as his interviewer reveals some information to him. It was an episode built heavily on exposition and unfortunately lost a lot of the style and atmosphere that Saulnier brought to the first two episodes.
All three timelines presented more details on Detective Hays’ relationship with Amelia. In 1980 we see their relationship continue to blossom as their bond over the case acts as a foundation by which they can find comfort in each other. In 1990, the seems are beginning to crack in their marriage. As they have developed as individuals, their relationship to their family and the case seem to be in two very different places. Amelia’s mind is still very much with the case as she has written memoirs on her experience with it and she is diving even deeper into its cold case files now that new information has come to light. Wayne, however, seems to be struggling with these revelations and is hesitant to bring the darkness of the case back into their lives. In an excellent scene, we see Wayne have a panic attack at the local Walmart when he loses sight of his daughter. Because of this, it came as somewhat of a surprise later in the episode when Hays was drinking alone at a local bar and Roland came by with an offer for him to join Roland in picking back up the case nine years later and he agreed. These two partners have gone in two very separate directions in the time since and it will be interesting to see how they gel as a duo going forward. Judging from Hays’ current state in 2015, as well as the state of the case, it appears that their reunion in 1990 was unsuccessful at best.
While the episode provided a ton of further exposition and explanation on the narrative, pushing forward the timelines laid out in the first couple episodes, the sense of brooding atmosphere that was woven into those episodes felt lost here. Of course, this can be directly attributed to the loss of Jeremy Saulnier guiding the proceedings. This episode was directed by Daniel Sackheim, who has worked on a ton of TV dramas going all the way back to the 90s like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The X-Files and more recently shows like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Better Call Saul, and Ozark, to name a few. Sackheim is certainly capable and is a steady hand at presenting Pizzolatto’s material, but he doesn’t bring the same stylistic flair as Saulnier nor the heralded direction of Cary Fukanaga’s first season. Next week’s episode is directed by Pizzolatto himself, who famously helmed the entire second season to much criticism. It will be interesting to see if he is able to carry forward the series in an entertaining and enticing way or if he will fall into the same convoluted writing and stale presentation that plagued his second season. For now, the intrigue of the story presented in the first three episodes as well as the career-best performance of Mahershala Ali are enough for cautious optimism.
‘True Detective’ is currently airing its third season Sundays at 9pmET on HBO
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