HBO is in a tight spot with True Detective. When Nic Pizzolatto’s dark crime anthology debuted to critical and popular acclaim in 2014, it felt like the cable network’s new flagship series had arrived (and just in time to take the reigns from the rapidly-concluding Game of Thrones). The series premiered with a moody and stylish crime story, headlined by two great Hollywood-level performances and the sprawling backdrop of the American Deep South. However, the second season of the show wasn’t nearly as successful. Many were disappointed by the new cast, the slower pace or the move to a slower more traditional urban crime narrative.
Since Season 2 concluded, HBO has remained silent on whether the anthology will reconfigure itself for another outing. Former HBO president Michael Lombardo was a vocal supporter of Pizzalotto’s work but it’s unknown as to whether the company’s new President of Programming (Casey Bloys) will continue that support. Another season of True Detective is just as likely to damage the HBO brand as it is to help it.
However, we think the show still has merit. Here are 10 Reasons To Bring True Detective Back For A Third Season.
10. Everybody loves a comeback
True Detective debuted with such widespread acclaim for its electric first season that it feels like the series’ sophomore effort was never going to live up to the hype. Sure enough, the second sits in the shadow of the first but there’s no reason that Season 3 couldn’t be the chance Nic Pizzolatto needs to make a comeback. The whole beauty of the show’s anthology format is that they can shuffle the setting and cast each season. Each season is a reboot for the brand, which means True Detective is more than capable of returning to the quality level of the first seaso, or even surpassing it. HBO themselves admitted that they rushed into production on Season 2 and they paid the price for it. There’s no reason to think that if they took their time and gave Pizzolatto a more reasonable window to develop and write the series that the quality of the show wouldn’t improve. On top of this, having two very different seasons of True Detective under his belt leaves Pizzolatto is much stronger position when it comes to developing a new incarnation of the show. He knows what works and what doesn’t. It’s not like anyone is sitting around at HBO hoping or waiting for True Detective to fail. After all, fans of the show would much rather see HBO give it another shot than give up because of a single bad hand.
9. We still need to have two female detectives
#TrueDetectiveSeason2 was such a fun and ever-green Twitter trend that it’s hard not to root for some of the great fan-casting picks it produced to become a reality. Specifically, the hugely popular idea of doing a True Detective season based around two female leads. The first season was a fascinating critique of masculinity and the male psyche and, with the right talent behind it, a third season could tackle things from the other side of the gender spectrum. We got a little bit of that through Rachel McAdams’ Detective Ani Bezzerides. However, her role as Season 2’s sole female lead and trope-laden backstory really hinder what Pizzolatto could have done with the character. Bringing back True Detective for at least one more season gives him another shot to do things right and explore female characters whose strength aren’t born of trauma alone. In spite of all its missteps, season two did a great job at hinting at what the show could do if led by a pair of female detectives – and that’s a possibility worth mining.
8. We need more moody intros
The opening credits of the first season of True Detective were so good they literally won awards. Set to The Handsome Family’s “Far From Any Road”, the sequence used double-exposure photography to blend together images of its two lead detectives and the murky world they inhabit. Season 2 received many complaints but few took issue with the second season’s moody intro. This time set to Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind” and featuring imagery of it’s sprawling cast and their urbanized purgatory. Again, the series left an incredibly memorable impression – both musically and visually. What’s more, Pizzolatto incorporated this into the story arc of the season by switching up the verses featured to suit the gradual escalation of the narrative. Season 3 of True Detective could see this technique further develop and even in the worst case scenario where we end up with another storytelling misfire, we’d have another haunting set of opening credits to obsess over.
7. There’s still plenty of ‘the unseen America’ to explore
Part of the beauty of True Detective was that it took the televised crime drama to locations that aren’t usually a focus. With too many crime shows taking place in locales like wealthy metropolitan cities Los Angeles and New York, the focus of both Season 1 and 2 on parts of America that don’t usually make it onto television was really refreshing. What’s more, there’s plenty of ground left to be covered. There’s a great sense of character that can be found and drawn out by a good location and it’d be great to see the Nic Pizzolatto capture that a third time. We’ve yet to see what a True Detective-style show set in the snows of Alaska looks like, nor one in the idyllic prairies of Kansas, let alone the Appalachians. There’s so much rich imagery to be mined from ‘the unseen America’ and a third season would be poised to take advantage of this characteristic.
6. We need to bring back Rust and connect the universes
Given the mixed-reception to the second season, HBO will probably want to hedge their bets when it comes to the third. This means they’ll probably want a big and high-profile story hook to change the conversation around the series from one of disappointment to one of excitement again. The obvious solution here is to bring back Matthew McConaughey’s character, Rustin Cole. Sure, it’s absolutely cheating in terms of staying true to the series’ anthology format but it could also prove a game changer for True Detective going forward. The return of Rust would acknowledge that a sort-of connected universe exists across the different seasons, fundamentally changing the way that audiences define and describe the premise of the series. Whether they bring him back for a cameo, guest or even lead role on season three, it’s the kind of move that’d be sure to reignite of interest in the show again. It’s a clear way that HBO could telegraph that True Detective is back and better than ever. Rust very much represents everything that audiences loved about that first season and very little of that audience is going to turn down the chance to see more of the character.
5. Someone else could pick up where Nic Pizzolatto left off
With no shared universe (yet) or mythology behind it, True Detective is a marvelously malleable property. While the word is that while HBO is keen to continue working with Nic Pizzolatto, at this stage, it’s more likely to be on an entirely new project than it is another season of True Detective. If this is the case, it’s very possible they could look to hand off the series to someone else and give them a crack at it. Even just an attempt to see what someone would else could make with the True Detective formula would be compelling in its own right and, if successful, it could lead to a more versatile series in the long run. True Detective already rotates the cast and setting of the show with every season, is it that crazy to imagine a version of the show that reset its writer’s room as well? Pizzolatto’s approach and style of storytelling was fascinating to watch unfold but it also came with significant shortcomings. It’d be fascinating to see what a third season of True Detective looks like without him.
4. It shows that crime TV can be about characters not just one big mystery
In film, crime stories tend to happen fast. Everything will be happening at once and the detectives will only have a limited window in which to stop the killer. Meanwhile, on TV, mysteries tend to unfold their crime stories in a very slow fashion, over the course of a 10-20 hour season. The first two seasons of True Detective struck on this interesting middle-ground that allowed them to tackle both. They didn’t need to rush towards a big splashy ending, nor did they need to break up the drama across a couple dozen episodes. The pacing felt natural and it allowed the show to focus not just on the investigation that drove the story but the individual tics, quirks and relationships of its characters. The story unfolded in a way that really let us breathe and take it all in, and it’s not hard to wish for more drama series’ like this.
3. Big action sequences
Another big draw for the series was its marquee action moments. The big raid and escape scene in the first season was a jaw-dropping and daring feat of filmmaking by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Not to mention one that cemented True Detective as a series that wasn’t afraid to break from the rigid conventions of crime TV by going big. Jeremy Podeswa’s work on the street-level shootout in season two didn’t quite hit the same mark but still made for a very tense and graphic sequence to watch play out. Naturally, those involved with a third season of True Detective would want to top that. Maybe we’ll see another raid or bank robbery. Maybe we’ll see what a True Detective car chase looks like. In any case, season three will add to the series’ legacy by bringing with it another dynamic and sprawling action scene – and that’s something we want to see.
2. It’s another chance to watch big-name actors deliver big performances
Although slightly less fun than the casting speculation it inspired over social media, it is actually pretty enjoyable to watch big name actors like Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell make their way through the True Detective machine. It’s rare that Hollywood offers up roles with the same level of dramatic meat hanging from the bones of the characters in True Detective and it’s fascinating to watch them try and match that with their performances and to give them as much depth as the writing does. The series’ star-studded cast is a part of the formula and it’d be interesting to watch more heavyweights of cinema make their way onto the small screen with the series. With the exception of Taylor Kitsch’s utterly-forgettable Officer Paul Woodrugh, all the leads have been fascinating and compelling figures in their own right, and there’s always room for more. What does True Detective look like with an immigrant on the front lines of law enforcement? We should totally find out.
1. There’s still plenty of darkness out there for Marty and Rust to fight
To build on the “Bring back Matthew McConaughey” idea from before, there’s definitely some merit to the idea of returning to the story of Rust and Marty. Sure, that first season pretty conclusively wrapped up the story of Dora Lange but it left Rust and Marty in a more open-ended place. The finale of the first season saw the two settle their differences but there’s still plenty of room to explore with them. As the finale notes, there’s always going to be evil out in the world and a third season that returns to Rust and Marty would be an interesting direction for the series to explore. Admittedly, this idea does go against the entire premise of True Detective as an anthology, but given that any future season is going to find it difficult to escape from the legacy of the first, they might as well give us another round of it. The first season caught lightning in a bottle but bringing back its two leads for another adventure would be a great way to reestablish what we loved about the series.