I haven’t said much about the case for this season. There’s a good reason for that. It’s complicated.
But that has as much to do with the story’s structure as it does the mystery itself.
The mystery is pretty straightforward: Will and Julie Purcell rode their bikes off and disappeared in 1980. Wayne Hays, a detective and former tracker/Vietnam war vet, found Will’s body later but never found Julie.
In 1990, she reappeared and something happened. Will is being questioned heavily by two lawyers as part of a deposition.
And in 2015, elderly Wayne is being interviewed for some kind of documentary show, one his adult son Henry (hey, it’s Ray “Cyborg” Fisher!) is kinda wary of. Wayne’s memory is off, and it looks like much of this series is Wayne remembering the other two time periods from 2015 when his memory ain’t what it used to be. He doesn’t remember why his daughter isn’t around anymore, and there must have been something big going on to keep her away.
In 1980, Wayne meets his future wife, school teacher Amelia. She knows one of the missing kids and is actually quite helpful when it comes to helping Wayne find clues.
In 1990, Amelia has just published a work of literary nonfiction about the case, but Wayne knows it isn’t over just yet.
In 2015, the interviewer asks Wayne about racism in the police force. Wayne says it wasn’t a factor.
In 1980, Wayne gets mad at his white partner Roland for not doing more to stop the DA from leaking valuable intelligence to the press in order to keep a better handle on the investigation.
In 1990, Wayne is still mad about that.
What clues do we have? Well, a Native American vet named Brett Woodard is suspected by most of the locals, but Wayne found some cornhusk dolls near the site of Will’s body, and the kids at the local school said someone was giving them out as Halloween treats. Who? No one remembers, but Julie had one. And Wayne and Roland were hoping to quietly search all the houses in the neighborhood (with the owners’ permission) to see who in there was acting squirrelly, hence the reason they didn’t need the DA to say that in a press conference, but the career-minded goober did anyway.
And someone left a note for Julie’s parents, a perpetually fighting pair, to find that reads Julie is safe where she is.
So, yeah, this is really mysterious, and Wayne is haunted by this case…whatever happened. It’s True Detective. They aren’t going to tell us right away what’s up.