'True Detective' Season 3 Could Still Be Good

Evaluating the show's potential strengths upon the arrival of #TrueDetectiveSeason3 memes


True Detective’s second season ended just over a week ago, and the #TrueDetectiveSeason3 hashtag is already very active. The quick turnaround isn’t surprising given the popularity of last year’s #TrueDetectiveSeason2 hashtag. Season 2 was received pretty negatively, so why do people want another season so badly? If the hashtag is any indication, it’s because people want more of Season 1 in Season 3.

Whether it’s the earnest football club or internet jokester, people are still tweeting unlikely pairings as potential True D costars. It’s almost as if the real Season 2 didn’t exist. Where are the “four hapless idiots” memes? The #TrueDetectiveSeason3 hashtag has ignored Season 2 not only because it’s hard to find four wacky celebrities in a photo together, but also because the show needs to get back to basics for the next season, which should be renewed to salvage any remaining good will from Season 1.

Season 2’s problems culminated in its finale. It was unnecessarily complicated, which rendered the show uninteresting and nonsensical. Nic Pizzolatto tried to write a complex crime mystery drama and give four characters unique, dense backstories. Four! Season 1’s mystery wasn’t easy to solve, but the detectives had leads and followed trails. Their personal lives informed who they were as characters, too. For instance, Rust Cohle worked the original 1995 endlessly because he needed something to fill the emptiness of his life without his daughter. In Season 2, however, Ani Bezzerides is kinda standoffish because she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted as a child — a traumatic event that’s reduced to nothing more than a token.

To succeed with Season 3, Pizzolatto needs to strip back some of the excess of Season 2. He may decide to get rid of the personal aspects and focus on writing a truly thrilling mystery. At some point, it’s irrelevant who’s solving the case when it’s interesting enough on its own. Alternatively, he could make the characters the focal point. Mad Men, for example, focused primarily on the various people involved. The advertising world where it took place was more of a reflection than a guiding force.

In either case, separating the suspects from the protagonists would improve the show. In Season 1, the Yellow King and Carcosa became their own mysterious entities. Pizzolatto doesn’t need to carbon copy his own work (or David Lynch’s, for that matter), but it was disappointing to see Season 2’s bad guys, who were nothing more than wrinkly government officials. Season 1 allowed the imagination to run wild, while Season 2 gave no clues before ruining all the fun of speculation with concrete losers.

If nothing else, Nic Pizzolatto needs to get another pair of high-profile actors to bring the show to life. For all we know, we’d be talking about Season 2’s success after a boring first season if Matthew McConaughey and Vince Vaughn’s respective roles were reversed. Keeping the show at two protagonists is a core tenet that should be revisited. True Detective, at its heart, is a noir-ish buddy cop show that occasionally strikes gold with suspense and stylized cinematography. Pizzolatto should embrace it.

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