It’s officially official: True Detective is back. While HBO hit something of a pause button after the critically derided second season, buzz about True Detective Season 3 started surfacing earlier this year, suggesting the show wasn’t entirely dead. Indeed, creator/showrunner Nic Pizzolatto was teamed up with HBO veteran David Milch (Deadwood, Luck) to come up with a story for a third season of the anthology series, and Oscar-winning Moonlight actor Mahershala Ali signed on to star this summer.
Now HBO has given the official greenlight to True Detective Season 3, per THR, announcing that Green Room and Blue Ruin filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier will direct alongside Pizzolatto, who will make his directorial debut on the third season. As for the story? Buckle up, the Season 3 synopsis is as follows:
Season 3 of True Detective will tell the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods. Ali will play the lead role of Wayne Hays, a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas.
As you may or may not be aware, Netflix just launched an Ozark-centric crime series of its own with Jason Bateman’s Ozark, so it’ll be interesting to see if True Detective Season 3 draws comparisons to that drama or if it’ll truly stand out on its own. Regardless, Northwest Arkansas is a fantastic choice of setting, and Saulnier is a tremendously exciting choice to direct having shown a knack for gritty and visceral storytelling with his previous work.
Pizzolato wrote every script for Season 3, save for Episode 4 which he co-wrote with Milch. It has not been announced exactly how many episodes Season 3 will entail because Pizzolatto is still writing (the first two seasons were eight episodes each), but this marks a return to form of sorts. Pizzolatto wrote the entirety of the critically acclaimed Season 1, but brought in co-writers to work with on True Detective Season 2, which also utilized multiple directors.
Indeed it very much sounds like Season 3 is going to return to the roots that made this show great in the first place, with Saulnier filling the role that Cary Fukunaga filled on Season 1. That Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson-led season was a tremendous melding of the creative minds of Fukunaga and Pizzolatto, whereas Season 2 saw a handful of different directors serving solely Pizzolatto’s vision. By bringing Saulnier as the primary director of Season 3, True Detective is adding another strong creative voice that will be consistent throughout the new season.
When Season 2 faltered with critics (side note: ratings-wise, it did great), HBO presented Pizzolatto with a few options for a potential third season, one of which was teaming him up with a co-showrunner. A variation of that appears to be the choice he settled on, working with Milch to craft the overall story arc for Season 3 instead of going it alone like he did on Season 2.
Pizzolatto serves as showrunner for True Detective Season 3 and executive produces alongside Saulnier and returning executive producers Scott Stephens, Steve Golin, Bard Dorros, Richard Brown, and Season 1’s McConaughey, Harrelson, and Fukunaga who no doubt have “executive producer in perpetuity” in their contracts for helping create that initial season.
This is all really exciting news. I didn’t wholly hate Season 2—I think Pizzolatto was trying some bold things and taking the series in a new, L.A. Film Noir direction. It didn’t all work, but there were bright spots to be sure and I’m generally a fan of Pizzolatto’s writing. So I’m excited to see what Pizzolatto and Saulnier put together for Season 3.