‘True Detective’ Season 3 Finale Recap: The Truth Revealed

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

After seven puzzling episodes, the season three finale of True Detective aired last night on HBO, and it finally gave us the answers we’ve been waiting for: What happened to Julie and Will?

Here’s what went down in season three, episode eight, titled “Now Am Found.”

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Well, will you look at that? We finally meet old Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) in a classroom, reading a poem to her class. The question, however, remains: Is Wayne (Mahershala Ali) a reliable witness to his own past? And where in the timeline does this fall?

Back in 1990, Wayne is in the town car with Mr. Hoyt (Michael Rooker), and he’s taking him somewhere…private. “I’m hoping we can resolve the situation, just the two of us,” says Hoyt. When Wayne tries to inquire what this situation might be, Hoyt tells him he very well knows what this is about.

They’ve both fought in the war, so there’s common ground between the man who’s investigating the death of a child and the child’s possible murderer. Hoyt wants to know what happened to Harris James. Wayne plays stupid, but Hoyt isn’t buying it. Hoyt plays equally coy when asked about Julie Purcell.

The thought of family makes Hoyt nostalgic. Ellen, his wife, got sick. His child is also gone. Wayne fishes for a confession, but Hoyt says he doesn’t know about Julie Purcell. Harris apparently had a GPS locator in his beeper, and Hoyt knows where Harris was last. He suggests the two of them go looking for Harris with a pair of shovels. Hoyt does seem to know more about Julie than he’s letting on and says that if Wayne won’t stop looking for Julie, there are others who might find her first.

Old Wayne and Roland (Stephen Dorff) are still looking for the one-eyed man, and they’ve found someone who might know him—Harris’s wife. She does remember him. He came to the house after Harris disappeared in the ’90s, asking if Harris had ever found the girl.

The one-eyed man is named Junius Watts, Mr. June, we now believe. Roland wants to go and re-investigate the area the housekeeper said she couldn’t enter at the Hoyt estate.

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In 1980, Wayne gets into trouble for being the alleged anonymous source of a newspaper article saying the investigation was closed prematurely and came to a false conclusion in convicting Woodard. The brass asks him to ring up the paper and say his quotes were used without his permission, and Roland wants him to backtrack as well. But Wayne refuses to burn Amelia, and he pays the price.  

In 2015, Wayne and Roland are making their way down the same hallways that got Tom killed in 1990. There it is—the pink room, with a mural of a pink castle on the wall. Twenty-five years of investigating and this is the first time they see the room. “What the hell were you doing?” snaps Roland, in reference to Wayne never mentioning the visit from Hoyt in 1990. “I thought it was the right thing,” says Wayne. “I had a family.”

Old Wayne turns to see 1990s Wayne meeting up with Amelia at a bar, following his meeting with Hoyt. Amelia thinks he’s cheating, but he says it’s just the case and it’s now over. He won’t give her details because it will only cause harm. She reminds him that he promised to tell her everything, but he says that’s a mistake. Again, it looks like they’re on the cusp of a breakup. They are certainly at an impasse. She wants information, he won’t share.

Roland’s picking a fight at another bar with a man twice his size. It seems like he’s just looking for an excuse to get pummeled.

Amelia and Wayne finally talk about what the Purcell case has meant for the two of them. Amelia doesn’t think one date night a week won’t get them where they need to be. She reminds Wayne that he joined the army because if he died, his mother would get $10,000 from the government. Wayne suggests they both leave the Purcell case behind: He quits the force, she quits her sequel.

A worse for wear Roland whimpers on the ground and is visited by a stray dog. (Enough with the symbolism, let’s get to who killed Will and kidnapped Julie.)

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Our geriatric duo is now going after Junius Watts. Watts has been expecting them—he’s the one who’s been surveilling Wayne. Watts helped Hoyt raise his daughter, Isabelle after he lost his wife. Isabelle went to college and met a man, with whom they had a child, Mary. The Hoyts were happy until the husband and child skidded off a mountain on their way to meet Isabelle. Isabelle became worse than sad and started taking lithium. One night, Isabelle takes a car and tries to smash it up. Harris James helps them keep it quiet.

Then in 1979, at an employee picnic, she sees a little girl, and goes out and tries to grab her. Watts pulls Lucy (Mamie Gummer) aside and talks to her about letting Miss Isabel play with Julie. Lucy says it’s OK, but she wants money, and she wants the brother to be there to keep an eye on her. For a little while that works. But then Isabelle wants to adopt the girl. Isabelle is confused because she’s stopped taking her meds and believes Julie is Mary (MARY JULY, y’all!).

A tug-of-war in the woods results in Will’s accidental death, and Watts is tasked with bringing him to the cave. It’s Julie who clasps his hands in prayer. Hoyt’s on safari and knows nothing about this. Harris James stages Woodard’s house with the backpack. Harris explains the accident to Lucy and offers her a lot of money in exchange for Julie.

Julie lives in the pink basement, happily, for a couple of years until Watts realizes Isabelle has been drugging her with lithium since she was 10 years old. When Julie grew up, she started asking questions and experiencing memories of her brother, leading Watts to help her escape the dungeon. He gave her a map to a meeting point, but she never showed up and he’s been looking for her ever since. After Julie ran off, Isabelle had a breakdown and killed herself.

In 1997, Watts finds out where she went. She’d been working in a convent and called herself Mary. She stayed for three and a half years. She had HIV. They took care of her, but in a few months, she was gone. According to her gravestone, she passed in 1995. Watts is ready to be killed or taken in, whatever these guys decide. Old Wayne and Roland put their guns away, deciding the best punishment for Watts is to let him live with his guilt.

Wayne and Roland visit Julie’s grave, apologizing for the shoddy job they did on her behalf. All of a sudden, Mike the caretaker of the convent, comes out to tell his daughter, Lucy, to stop running around. Can’t be a coincidence. The two go back to Wayne’s and start packing up the boxes of paperwork that Wayne has been pouring over. The two of them don’t feel any kind of closure…and with 30 minutes left of the finale, neither do we.

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Wayne in 1980 is ghosting Amelia, and she’s wondering if it’s because of what she wrote in the newspaper using her “anonymous source.” He’s packed up her stuff in a box, saying he doesn’t want to see her anymore. He’s been relegated to a public information officer because he wouldn’t apologize for her article, and now he’s punishing her for his decision. She stands up to his BS, calling him weak. It’s pretty clear that they’re breaking up.

In 2015, Wayne drops Amelia’s book and it opens up to a passage about a Mike Ardoin, who took Julie’s disappearance hardest. He said he always thought he’d marry Julie when he grew up. Amelia haunts Wayne. “What if the ending isn’t really the ending at all?” asks Ghost Amelia. “What if Julie found life at that convent?” Amelia paints a picture of the nuns faking the death of Julie to protect her. “Wouldn’t that be a story worth telling?”

Wayne drives out to Mike’s but by the time he gets to the house, he forgot where he is and why he’s there. He gets out to ask adult Julie where he is, but even speaking to her triggers no memory. Wayne’s kids come to pick him up and we see grown-up Rebecca for the first time. Wayne hands the note with Julie’s address to his son, who puts it in his pocket.

Back at Wayne’s son’s house, Roland pulls up and meets Wayne’s fam. As Wayne watches his grandkids bike in the street he’s taken back to 1980, where Amelia finds Wayne at the military-friendly bar. She tells him she will not be spoken to the way he did earlier. “You want a do-over?” she says. He says he wants to marry her. “Let’s get you home, and you can think about how you’re going to propose,” says Amelia. And so, it all begins.

Talk about full circle.

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