True Detective Season 3: What Should the Show Do For the Third Installment?

by Kevin Roberts
on November 17, 2016

The anticipation for True Detective Season 3 has understandably died down.

After a meteoric rise of True Detective, featuring flawless performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the second installment of HBO’s anthology series hit a brick wall, and so too, did the series’ fanbase.

Unable to live up to the ridiculous expectations a dark and spellbinding True Detective Season 1 dished out, season two fell remarkably short, scoring just a 63% on RottenTomatoes.com, as opposed to season one’s impressive 87% rating.

Where True Detective Went Wrong

The reason? A confusing plot without much substance, too many characters we didn’t care about and a promise for darkness and mystery that ultimately came up short.

The casting missed the mark, too. When Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn are your leading men, you pause and wonder about the possibilities. From the beginning of the season season of True Detective, however, it was instantly evident that none of the four main characters had the depth, range or intrigue of McConaughey’s Rust Cohle.

Cohle’s worldview expressed sorrow, regret and dispirited acceptance, but it also profiled a defeated man who rediscovered purpose and wouldn’t quit the job until the job was done right.

Season two still uncovered what the underlying message behind True Detective is supposed to be: that being a detective isn’t just a job, and that no bad guys should get away with the bad things they do.

The worst part about True Detective season two, however, wasn’t all of the negatives a critic with no day job could conjure up. It’s that it wasn’t True Detective season one. They was no Rust Cohle. The dark, winding world of sex, religion and icky depths we can’t unsee – it didn’t exist.

The second season of True Detective was harsh, edgy and dark in its own way. The characters were hardened and had struggles beyond fulfilling their duties as detectives.

But the lingering impact of – quite simply – an amazing first run made us constantly want/expect/hope for more.

Because of that, the second season of True Detective failed, and that’s okay.

To be frank, if you haven’t watched the first season of True Detective, I suggest you don’t and then go watch season two first. Perhaps without anything to compare it to, you’ll be able to appreciate it more.

True Detective Return?

The good news is that even with the disappointment that forever will be True Detective season two, there is still plenty of chatter about a third installment.

It’s certainly something we should want, because while the second part of this series wasn’t nearly as good as the first, there are still two very friendly truths:

  • It wasn’t that bad
  • They can find where they went wrong

That’s part of the reason why . It also crushed in the first season and has a devoted following, too, so there is plenty of reason to pick up the pieces and mold it into something new and exciting.

What exactly that could be, of course, no one knows. No news could be good news, however, as HBO programming president Casey Bloys recently suggested that True Detective hadn’t been cancelled, but rather his team is still “thinking of ideas”.

There hasn’t been any news about any big names popping up on the True Detective season three radar, and that probably won’t happen until an actual idea for the show comes around.

It doesn’t sound like they are there yet.

While that’s likely the case, True Detective season three could still be fast tracked for 2017, seeing as the first two seasons were released in 2014 and 2015.

So, it’s not here yet, but it’s quite possible an announcement about True Detective season 3 could be just around the corner.

Fixing the Bugs

While the True Detective season three news has been slow to come out, we get the sense that HBO and fans alike do want a third installment. With that thought in mind, we thought we’d touch on a few things the show could correct:

  • Better Casting
  • Less Distractions
  • Better Character Development
  • Layered Story
  • More Mystery
  • Cohesive Progression
  • More Twists
  • Amazing Ending

This is really just a start and it’s the basics, but seriously, season two of True Detective pretty much botched all of these.

Without giving anything away if you haven’t seen the second season, let’s just say that the casting wasn’t flawless. They had the big names and you got excited enough, but they didn’t have a single heavy hitter, whereas the first True Detective had two.

That doesn’t mean True Detective 3 needs to have two huge movie stars, but it should mean more meaningful casting. The first season cast two fantastic, versatile actors who were 100% perfect for their roles. You believed them, and it hit you from the beginning. Because of that, you bought in and you were glued to the screen and from there you cared about the characters, the story and had that giddy “what comes next…” feeling.

This simply wasn’t there in the second installment. The acting felt very forced at times, some of the characters didn’t feel complete or well drawn out and their back stories were overly complicated or layered in areas where they just didn’t need to be.

There were also inappropriate twists where they shouldn’t have been and the show called for you to truly care about the characters and story way too early.

And that’s just the characters and the casting.

On top of that, the story was more convoluted than it had to be, and it was so busy without anything really ever happening. Despite the business, there lacked a real sense of mystery to the second season, in a sense where you didn’t know precisely what was going on or where to turn, but it didn’t engage you enough to fully be immersed, either.

The second season also had too many bumps and distractions along the way. The stories and characters did not always fit together and the show’s progression rarely felt natural or organic.

On the flip side, the plot twists or surprises either came too early or came in a fashion where you weren’t surprised or simply didn’t care.

And the worst part? Season one of True Detective had all of these things and made all the right moves and still found a way to wrap it up flawlessly with an impeccable ending.

Season two? Not so much.

Actors We’d Love to See

Everything can’t be perfect when it comes to True Detective season three. We get that. But one great place to start to at least try to make sure this train doesn’t go off the rails immediately is to go out and cast amazing actors that not only make you want to watch the show, but are so fantastic at their craft that you’re not going to be worried for a second about their ability to sell their character or the story.

On top of that, True Detective needs to go back to what works best: two great actors in one awesome story.

Here are a few actors we think could help pull that off:

  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Russell Crowe
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Denzel Washington
  • Christian Bale
  • Hilary Swank
  • Amy Adams
  • Natalie Portman
  • Jon Bernthal

This is just somewhere for TD 3 runners to start with, but all of these actors and actresses are either immensely talented or have the temperament, range or experience to sell a role as a detective.

We’ve literally seen the likes of Gyllenhaal, Crowe, Gosling, Denzel and Bernthal play cops or detectives, and they crushed it in those roles. And if we’re looking for a strong female lead, who better than Swank, Adams or Portman?

The point here is that True Detective season three needs to go back to the basics. They need great actors, a powerful story, better direction and less confusion and distractions. If they strip it down to what made this series amazing in the first place, it can be successful again and it can be a show we don’t just hype up or talk about – but love just as much as the first one.

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