With the endgame in sight, “The Final Country” presents new twists and questions, elevating this already captivating season of True Detective.
This recap of True Detective Season 3, Episode 7, “The Final Country”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
If three timelines weren’t enough, this week in “The Final Country” we added a fourth, sometime around 2000, I would suspect. Hays is dropping his daughter Rebecca off at college. In 2015, the pair are estranged, though it has been unclear why. It’s a disconcerting open to the episode, perhaps because it seems to be there only to establish the flashback to a darker day in Hays’ past.
Last week ended on a cliffhanger with Tom and it occurred to me that the 2015 timeline had subtly avoided mention of Tom’s fate. He’s found where his son died, his head blown off and a typed suicide note implicating himself, effectively ending the investigation. Of course, we saw Harris James come up behind him, so we know the truth, or can at least guess. Hays also suspects that something more happened to Tom. But as with the original investigation, the police are given a tidy ending with a dead man who can’t defend himself accused. Never mind the one-eyed man at Amelia’s reading, Dan’s clues, or the convenience of it all. When pushed, West initially refuses to pursue it, noting that he only took the case to help Hays get his career back. It’s a lie built on guilt over Tom’s death. When Dan goes missing, Hays prepares to leave the force. He finds a phone number and passenger manifest that links Harris James to Lucy’s death. West joins him after much prompting to hunt down Harris.
Several episodes have teased that West and Hays did something terrible in the 1990 timeline, implied to be Dan’s death. Though that remains unsolved this week (I still say Harris), we do find out what crime they committed. During the interrogation of Harris, it seems like he might be willing to give up the information. But he tries to escape, attacking Hays, and West kills him. Both men are guilty. West may have pulled the trigger, but Hays set up the shot. The two fight, in what we can assume is the argument that alienated them all those years ago. Later, we are shown Hays burning his blood-stained clothes outside the house. The next morning, Hays receives a call from Edward Hoyt wanting to discuss the events of the previous evening. Hays agrees to meet with him, walking out on his family with the promise of one last time, unsure if he will ever return. (As this is the end of “The Final Country”, we don’t know either.)
Prior to this, still on the case, Amelia asks Julie’s best friend about the one-eyed man and the Halloween doll. In the background of some old photographs are two adults dressed as ghosts, with one black and one white hand showing. After great hesitation, she lets Amelia borrow the picture. One of the things that have been most impactful this season are the glimpses of how tragedy destroys the lives of those around it, even the minor characters. Amelia continues her detective work, searching for the one-eyed man.
The documentary continues in 2015, including a little throwback to Season 1. Elisa believes that Julie and perhaps Will were sold by their parents to a pedophile ring similar to the one in Season 1. She hopes that Hays will supply the missing piece to solve the case, but is met with disappointment when he has nothing else to give. However, he gains from her the name of the one-eyed man who inquired after Julie after the case was closed–Watts.
Hays and West set out to search for more answers, interviewing a former housekeeper for the Hoyts who reveals the existence of Mr. June, a man who lives in the main house who also meets the one-eyed man description, and has sole access to the lower levels which contain, among other things, the pink castle we saw at the end of Episode 6. Likewise, we learn about Miss Isabel, the Hoyt’s daughter who tragically lost her daughter and husband following a 1977 crash that has kept her homebound. Cue the Southern Gothic! It seems that instead of a Mad Woman in the Attic, we have a Mad Woman in the basement.
Did Lucy sell Julie to Mr. June to replace Miss Isabel’s dead daughter? Are Mr. June and Watts the same person? Did Julie take her fake name, Mary July, from Mr. June? Has Hays known all along what happened, after his meeting with Edward Hoyt, and just forgotten? Why did Amelia never write her sequel? Is it possible Julie killed her brother, going willingly with the alleged kidnappers? Is this all connected to Season 1 beyond just pedophile rings? So many, many questions to be answered and only one episode left to do it.
“The Final Country” is genuinely well-crafted. The timeline segues have a simple, yet lyrical quality to them. Ali and Dorff are turning in strong performances that drive the narrative, even in the quieter moments. Perhaps my favorite is West trying to convince Henry that his father needs care. Despite their past, it is clear, like Rust and Marty in Season 1, the pair will come together to see this case through to its end. Whatever that may be.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.