Do you remember how bad True Detective Season 2 was?
Do you remember Colin Farrell’s clichéd corrupt cop with a drinking problem, Ray Velcoro and all that weird stuff with his charmless, Friends-loving kid that went nowhere?
Or Vince Vaughn’s bizarrely named gangster-gone-straight-but-not Frank Semyon? Every week he split his time between spouting utter nonsense like “never do anything out of hunger, not even eating” and beating the crap out of people we didn’t care about.
Rachel McAdams was in it too as the tough-as-nails cop Ani Bezzerides. She was supposed to be strong female character the series had been crying out for. And she kind of was. Except, more like a horny teenage boy’s depiction of a strong female character, all macho, beating up guys and talking about dicks and stuff.
Oh, and her sister is a prostitute while her dad was some sort of cult leader. Bet you forgot about that. Mainly because it served zero purpose. And let’s not forget Taylor Kitsch’s closeted motorcycle cop. Possibly the most poorly drawn of the lot. A forgettable presence in an already overstuffed drama.
Speaking of which, do you remember the plot? Author James Ellroy might, considering fans noted how similar it was to one that featured in one of his novels. The only real difference was that this lacked the same pacing, characterisation and overarching narrative the book did.
Ridiculously violent, often incoherent and rarely enthralling, the show might have bagged decent ratings but most of us were only tuning in to see how far it would descend.
How much further into cliché would Farrell go, what wisdom would Vaughn come up with next and when would we get to see McAdams go the whole hog and end up penetrating a man with a strap-on? It became perversely watchable.
Then it ended, limply. And everyone was angry. So angry that it’s taken two years for True Detective to return with Deadwood creator David Milch serving as a consultant and parole officer of sorts for True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, who went majorly off the rails.
But the good news is that the new series is already better than season two, based on the trailer alone. It feels like a return to what made the first season so good.
A clearer narrative focus, centred on one man played by the ever-watchable Mahershala Ali. The show might be returning to the themes of masculinity present in the first season but, after the misstep of McAdams’ character not to mention Kelly Reilly’s reductive role as Jordan Semyon. Issues surrounding race are likely to play a part given the show’s setting too, ensuring the plot doesn’t amount to a similar retread of the debut series.
A familiar and effective setting, somewhere in rural America, a place where the killing and mayhem comes in the sparse and eery cornfields that cover the land. Last but not least, flashbacks, with a timeline-hopping narrative that moves between a crime in the past and the present.
Though details remain scarce, the official plot synopsis indicates the series will focus on Ali’s character, Detective Wayne Hayes, and his investigation into the murders of two children in the 1980s. Stephen Dorff is playing a fellow investigator forever haunted by the mystery while Carmen Ejogo has joined the cast as a schoolteacher helping Ali’s Wayne in his investigation.
A return to the kind of plot and setting of the first season, it seemed baffling that season 2 discarded so much of this. So, having stripped things back, returned to its roots and opted for a more focused approach, it’s clear True Detective Season 3 is going to be better than Season 2.
After all, it couldn’t get much worse, could it?