True Detective Season 3 kicked off promising to be as weirdly creepy as the first season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson was. It helps the action has shifted back to the deep south, with the new season set in the Ozarks of Arkansas, not all that far from Season 1's Louisiana based mystery. Once again, the mystery comes with a sense of failure, as Mahershala Ali's now retired detective Wayne Hays looks back on a case he never solved. But the really creepy stuff begins with the corn husk dolls in True Detective Season 3. Warning: Spoilers for True Detective Season 3 follow.
When Will and Julie Purcell first disappear from their neighborhood, Hays and his partner, Roland West, turn up on the scene. But it's not immediately clear who saw them last, or who might have wanted to harm them. But there's a bad sign someone wished Julie harm when Hays and West find a peephole drilled in Will's closet, giving someone a clear view to the prepubescent girl's bedroom.
Moreover, after the two have been gone for more than a day and search parties have failed to find any trace of them, it takes someone like Hays and his uncanny tracking skills to track where they went. Where the trail gets hard to follow, someone marked it with corn husk dolls.
These sorts of crafty handmade dolls are recognizable to anyone who has wandered into a craft store on Halloween, where home decor gurus like Martha Stewart have turned them into genericized fall-appropriate decor for people to spend their energy making. But back in 1980, these creations were not so ubiquitous, nor were they so divorced from their Native American connotations in an area like this one. Instead of heading for the nearest Michael's or A.C. Moore, Hays and West try to keep their clue on the down low, lest their suspect destroy other dolls they might have.
Acting on instinct, and possibly a slight crush, Hays gives a picture of one of the dolls to school teacher Amelia Reardon, asking her to show it around to the kids. It works too, as one of Julie's classmates says it's not the first time he's seen one. Julie apparently had another one given to her while trick or treating a week or two previously on Halloween.
Unfortunately for Hays and West, their desire to keep this clue undercover doesn't sit well with their superiors, who are thinking about their careers rather than finding the suspects. Before the episode is over, everything from the dolls to the map of the houses Julie hit on Halloween is out in the open for the public to make increasingly hysterical reports on.
Though, to be fair, the boy didn't say the doll can from a house. All he saw was Julie talking to adults in lazy but effect ghost Halloween costumes. Come one of them drilled the hole in Will's closet?
Perhaps the Halloween map wasn't the clue Hays and West were hoping for. But the corn husk dolls just keep cropping up.