TV ReviewsTrue Detective Season 3 Episode 5: If You Have Ghosts Review

Keith NoakesFebruary 3, 2019

For our review of the last episode of True Detective, click here.

Synopsis: Wayne finds himself in a no-win situation as new clues emerge in the Purcell case. Roland wrestles with how to keep evidence secure as lawyers demand a new investigation. Amelia finds her relationship with Wayne imperiled by her writing aspirations and his jealousy. (HBO)

Writer: Nic Pizzolatto

Director: Nic Pizzolatto

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 59mins

Airs: Sundays at 9pm on HBO Canada (Canada)/HBO (United States)

We are now closer than we’ve ever been to the truth and we get an emotional reunion in this latest episode that continues what has been an amazing season and a return to form.

This episode started in the 90s as the new investigation was getting under way. It would hit a snag almost right away as Tom Purcell, who was called to the station to make a statement, would walk in and see a set of images that he probably shouldn’t have seen of his overdosed wife and what could be his missing daughter. West was still getting used to being in charge which occasionally conflicted with Hays who showed Tom a picture of what could be his daughter against West’s wishes.

Now going back to where the last episode ended with the standoff at Woodard’s house, it was a bloodbath following the explosion. Eventually, Hays would find himself sneaking up on Woodard who Hays was forced to shoot and kill for not cooperating after a tense conversation. It seemed to hit him rather hard.

Woodard was posthumously convicted in the Purcell case in the 80s and the deposition in the 90s were taken for a case started by Woodard’s children to have their father’s conviction overturned. Their lawyer would interrupt a press conference where Tom Purcell would make a public plea for help. From there, Hays and West would retrace their steps from the 80s investigation. Times have clearly changed but they learned that someone may have been meeting the kids on their way to the woods.

Hays and West tracked where 90s Julie Purcell could have been. She was living on the streets, telling stories about having lost her brother. They were having trouble finding information. Hays and Amelia’s marriage would continue to implode over the Purcell case. They were both using the case to fulfill their own selfish desires (in a weird scene after the Woodard incident in the 80s, they went home together from the hospital to make love).

While attempting to reexamine old evidence from the 80s, Hays discovered that the fingerprints from the recovered toys went missing. He also found that evidence may have been planted at the Woodard scene to suggest that he was guilty. Going further with this would put the new investigation in jeopardy. Hays and West had Tom Purcell listen to a tip they received of a woman that sounded like Julie Purcell. She was afraid of a man on the television from Tom’s press conference (it was just Tom and Kindt, now an attention-seeking district attorney), a man who she claimed did things to her and Will.

In 2015, an officer who processed the Woodard scene in the 80s went missing in the 90s. Hays would make a breakthrough, discovering that it was Lucy Purcell who wrote the letter. 2015 West finally makes an appearance and runs a dog kennel! Hays was apprehensive about approaching him. West has been pissed at him for not talking to him for the past 24 years. Something had happened that drove them apart but Hays didn’t remember that or much else which worried West who believed Hays may reveal certain information to the TV show about something they did. They spoke about the Purcell case, however, West was more preoccupied on being abandoned by Hays. Hays got emotional as he opened up to West about his problems with his memory. West offered to be there for him though he was the furthest thing from interested in the case until he started to turn around.

Overall, If You Have Ghost is another amazing episode of True Detective that got us even closer to the truth while positioning us for the final stretch. It appeared to have closed the door on the 80s with Woodard’s demise while introducing a new suspect with Kindt. Considering all the evidence presented so far, it makes sense that there would be some sort of conspiracy at play. Will they find Julie Purcell before her pursuer? Signs point to no but it will be exciting to see what happens. Everyone here, acting-wise, was at the top of their games in this episode with Scoot McNairy having a standout moment while listening to his daughter’s tape. Ultimately, the 2015 reunion of Hays and West was by far the best part of the episode. Whatever connects the 90s and 2015 timelines remain to be seen but the performances of Ali and Dorff and their chemistry was simply amazing to behold here. The prospect of an elderly Hays and an elderly West stirring things up while going after the person or persons responsible will definitely be something to look forward to.

Score: 9.5/10

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