I’ve just finished watching True Detective Season 3 a second time, and I enjoyed it every bit as much, if not a little more, than my first viewing. This 8-episode miniseries has a stellar cast: Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays, State Police Detective and Vietnam War veteran; Stephen Dorff as his detective partner, Roland West; and Carmen Ejogo as Amelia Reardon, who becomes Hays’s wife during the story. The writing by Nic Pizzolatto is extraordinary—in fact, after I watched the show for the first time, I experienced the same pleasure I get when I’ve just finished reading a great novel.
Unlike so many cable productions, this one doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of its audience. Too often HBO, Netflix, and others resort to ultra-dark or ultra-raunchy material out of a misguided fear that viewers won’t be lured in otherwise. Enter TD3, a smart, literate drama that is wholly mesmerizing and would probably be rated as a hard PG-13. I couldn’t take my eyes from the screen for a single minute.
The story is a complex one, taking place in 1980, 1990, and 2015. It’s about the events surrounding a horrific crime–the murder of a little boy and the abduction of his sister (done off-screen—nothing graphic depicted). This crime is the defining moment for each character’s life. Marriage, friendships, careers—all revolve around a crime that refuses to be solved. Amelia writes a best-selling book about the case, jeopardizing her husband’s career in law enforcement. Later in his life, as Wayne begins to struggle with the initial stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, a television film crew invades his home, reopening old wounds and stirring up theories of conspiracy and cover-up. The narrative slips effortlessly back and forth between time periods, slowly weaving the threads of the story together. Plot twists and turns, false leads, and ambiguities abound.
If you haven’t caught up with this show yet, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. The only greater surprise would be if it’s not nominated for an arm-long list of Emmy Awards.