Debuting in early 2014, the HBO crime drama True Detective premiered to almost universal acclaim, earned Emmy nominations for lead actors Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and became the subject of water cooler speculation in a way few HBO series not named Game of Thrones have managed to accomplish. Naturally, hype and anticipation for this summer’s second season was through the roof, albeit with some cautious skepticism about whether True Detective’s sophomore year could possibly live up to its freshman one. Well, if you listen to most critics and many fans, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that True Detective season two is reviled. The season scores in the 60s on review aggregators Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and possesses similarly above average user scores on both websites. The problem is not that True Detective’s sophomore year is awful, it’s that it hasn’t lived up to the shining reputation earned by the Cary Fukunaga-helmed debut season.
HBO president Michael Lombardo was recently asked to weigh in on this subject during a TCA press event in Los Angeles, and he took the opportunity to unequivocally defend True Detective’s critically divisive current season. Not only is Lombardo “enormously proud” of season two, he considers the upcoming season finale “as satisfying as any I’ve seen.” Lombardo also encourages viewers to not judge the season until after seeing all eight episodes.
While it’s not too surprising that an HBO executive would defend one of the network’s programs against critical backlash, Lombardo’s comments serve to illustrate just how much confidence HBO still has in True Detective as a franchise going forward, and in particular its creator Nic Pizzolatto. According to Lombardo, Pizzolatto is a “bold storyteller,” and Lombardo has never felt the need to “micromanage” the author’s creative process.
Of course, if HBO loves True Detective so much, one logically wonders why they have yet to announce a third season pickup for the anthology drama. Well, it would appear that the ball is completely in Pizzolatto’s court on that front. Lombardo says that the “door is open” for season three, and that he’d love to “do another season” with Pizzolatto. In short, Nic Pizzolatto is in a position every TV showrunner dreams of: If he wants to do more, he can; if he doesn’t, he won’t. It’s as simple as that.
If a third season of True Detective does happen, it’ll be interesting to see if Pizzolatto stays the course with the series’ current style despite the criticism, or decides to go back to basics and return to the darker realm occupied by season one. With HBO firmly in his corner, Pizzolatto truly has the ability to make the exact show he wants. The only problem with that type of freedom is that fans know exactly where to put the blame for anything they don’t like.
True Detective season 2 airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.