True Detective Season 1 was Good. It was about how time is a flat circle and long, uninterrupted shots are cool. True Detective Season 2 was Bad and was about... Chinatown but with a train and Vince Vaughn being apoplectic or something? It was confusing. Season 2 was so bad, in fact, that HBO almost seemed like it didn't want to do another one. Maybe Season 1 was a fluke, the thinking went, and what was good about it came from director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who didn't return for Season 2, and not from creator Nic Pizzolatto.
But then last summer, more than two years after the Season 2 finale, HBO announced that True D would be back for Season 3, which premieres Sunday, Jan. 13. It will air about three and a half years after the previous season, a long gap even for an anthology series. Hopefully that means they're taking the time to get it right. We're cautiously optimistic about Season 3, though, because from what we know about it so far, it has a lot going for it and far more in common with Season 1 than Season 2.
Here's what the green-eared spaghetti monster told us about Season 3.
It premieres Sunday, Jan. 13. The first two of the season's eight episodes, "The Great War and Modern Memory" and "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," will air back-to-back starting at 9/8c, with single episodes airing at the same time on subsequent Sundays.
It will be set in the Ozarks. Season 1 took place on the Louisiana coast, while Season 2 moved to industrial Los Angeles. Season 3 will head back east and settle in the Ozark mountain range. Don't expect to run into Jason Bateman, though; Ozark is set in Missouri (and shot in Georgia), while True Detective is filmed on location in Arkansas.
It will experiment with time again. Season 1 was set in 1995 and 2012 and moved back and forth to great effect, and Season 3 will be even more ambitious with its nonlinear storytelling, adding a third timeline to its murder investigation. The story will unfold in 1980, 1990 and 2015.
An Oscar winner will star. Moonlight's Mahershala Ali will play the lead role of Wayne Hays, a state police detective from West Finger, Arkansas. And his and his co-stars' late Jimmy Carter-era style is on point.
Here's what it's actually about. "In 2015, retired detective Wayne Hays, his memory failing, looks back at the disappearance of 12-year-old Will and ten-year-old Julie Purcell, recalling the days and weeks immediately following the 1980 crime, as well as developments in 1990, when he and his former partner, Roland West, were subpoenaed after a major break in the case," per HBO. Episode descriptions hint at West Memphis Three-style Satanic panic and creepy Albert Fish-style letters from the killer to the parents. It's a "macabre" crime story about being haunted by mystery and memory.
The rest of the cast is also top notch. The female lead is Selma's Carmen Ejogo, who plays Amelia Reardon, Will's teacher who gets romantically involved with the unavailable Hays and eventually writes a book about the investigation. Vape pitchman Stephen Dorff will play Roland West, Hays' partner in 1980. Halt and Catch Fire's Scoot McNairy and The Good Wife's Mamie Gummer — Meryl Streep's other daughter — play Tom and Lucy Purcell, the missing kids' parents. Justice League's Ray Fisher will play Hays' son Freddy Burns. Other cast members include Fear the Walking Dead's Michael Greyeyes and 13 Reasons Why's Brandon Flynn as suspects.
Nic Pizzolatto is writing the whole thing, with some notable exceptions. Episode 4 is co-written by Deadwood creator David Milch, who may have advised Pizzolatto on other story-related matters as well. If the dialogue contains a certain ten-letter word, Milch probably wrote it. Episode 6 is co-written by Quarry's Graham Gordy.
There are three directors. Part of the magic of Season 1 was that one person, Cary Joji Fukunaga, directed the whole thing, and he had a very clear vision for what the show was supposed to be. Season 2 had six directors, and the vision got muddled. Season 3 will split the difference, with the first two episodes of the eight episode season directed by Green Room's Jeremy Saulnier. The remaining six will be split between by Emmy-winning TV vet Daniel Sackheim and Pizzolatto himself, who's directing the Milch-written episode, so that one, called "The Hour and the Day," is gonna be one to watch.
The first trailer lays the masculine brooding on thick. "Things I've seen, things I know, won't do anything but cause harm," Ali gravely intones at the top of this trailer. He's a very haunted cop. He's done bad things like tying someone up with duct tape and putting them in the trunk of a car. But he's doing it to protect his family, probably, even though he can never talk to them about it, even when he's an old man. He's a True Detective, and being a True Detective means you don't communicate with your wife very well.
The other trailers make it look like my kind of show. I really love noir-ish period piece murder shows, man.
True Detective Season 3 premieres Sunday, Jan. 13 at 9/8c on AMC.