If we’ve learned anything from True Detective this far, it’s that creator Nic Pizzolatto doesn’t do plot holes. So as more facets of Tom Purcell’s (Scoot McNairy) life are revealed in season three, episode six, we’re left to wonder what role he and his struggles play in the case.
Through a chat with his boss at (what used to be) the school bus factory, Wayne and Roland discover that Tom was ostracized by his colleagues when they found out he might be gay. (Also, as a side note: When operating heavy machinery, day drinking makes things dangerous, which also contributed to him being fired.)
We know Tom is (was?) troubled. We know he drinks too much and struggles in an unhappy marriage. If indeed, he is gay, it doesn’t just call into question whether or not the children are someone else’s, as Tom’s parents seemed to imply at the wake, but whether his marriage to Lucy (Mamie Gummer) was ever a good one. At the time of the kids’ disappearance, their parents are no longer sharing a bed, but we have to believe this has been an ongoing problem since the beginning.
In 1990, Tom is still questioning his sexual identity, as evidenced by the flyer in his trailer. And this all, frankly, could be a really interesting conversation to have about what it was like to be in the closet in 1980s small-town America.
The question is, why bring this up once Tom is taken out of the equation? In life, things happen out of chronology. Sometimes you find things out after the people involved are no longer around. But this is a scripted show where every clue, at this point, ought to matter. So why open the door to this now? What does it mean?
The plot thickens when True Detective returns with episode seven on HBO on Sunday, February 17, at 9 p.m. PT/ET.