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, because from what we know about it so far, it has a lot going for it, with more in common with Season 1 than Season 2.
Here's what the green-eared spaghetti monster told us about Season 3.
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.
An Oscar winner will star. Moonlight's Mahershala Ali will play the lead role of Wayne Hays, a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas. And his and his co-stars' Jimmy Carter-era style is on point.
The rest of the cast is top notch, too. The female lead is Selma's Carmen Ejogo, who plays Amelia Reardon, "an Arkansas schoolteacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980." Vape pitchman Stephen Dorff will play Roland West, "an Arkansas State Investigator whose career has been influenced by a baffling crime." Halt and Catch Fire's Scoot McNairy will play Tom, "a father who suffers a terrible loss that ties his fate to that of two state police detectives over 10 years." The Good Wife's Mamie Gummer — Meryl Streep's other daughter — will play Lucy Purcell, "a mother of two children who finds herself involved in a crime." 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.
Nic Pizzolatto is writing the whole thing, with one notable exception. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 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.
There are three directors. Part of the magic of Season 1 was that one man, 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. We don't know exactly how many they'll do each.
The 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 the 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.
True Detective Season 3 premieres Sunday, Jan. 13 at 9/8c on AMC.