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True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto went from being a TV wunderkind with the highly lauded first outing to target practice with the heavily panned Season 2. Over three years later, Pizzolatto is returning to HBO with the well-enough-received True Detective Season 3, which has much in common with the occult-driven freshman season. The new episodes might not be as difficult to follow, however, which Pizzolatto revealed while speaking with CinemaBlend's Jeff McCobb and other press outlets. In his words:
For those who might not know the basic details, True Detective's third season centers on the Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali's Detective Wayne Hays across its three timelines. In 1980, Wayne and partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) are investigating a case involving two missing children in the Arkansas Ozarks. In 1990, Wayne is involved in a new line of inquiries. And in 2015, the war vet is revisiting the community-spoiling crime for a TV documentary. Sounds easy enough, but...
As anyone who's ever watched a high-minded drama knows, even a single timeline can warp the mind with enough new information being flung around. So three timelines could have been disastrous if Nic Pizzolatto's intentions were purely to mess with people. Instead, he has seemingly crafted an anti-confusing season of television where the most current timeline makes viewers aware of things they'll learn about in past narratives.
Of course, it'll probably be done in completely incoherent ways are only understandable with distant hindsight. But at least Nic Pizzolatto aimed to learn from past mistakes -- both his own and those of other drama TV creators -- by delivering a storyline that wasn't so focused on making its dark crimes as mysterious and complex as possible.
Basically, that meant Nic Pizzolatto had to work that much harder to craft the story in just such a way, and he talked about teetering on the brink of insanity thanks to his big board full of post-it notes stringing the timelines together. Thankfully, he was able to pull it off, and Pizzolatto credits star Mahershala Ali with being the glue that held it all together.
Having seen the first handful of episodes, I whole-heartedly agree with Nic Pizzolatto's compliment-filled take on Mahershala Ali's impact on True Detective Season 3. There are definitely non-Wayne elements that help audiences recognize which timeline they're in, from the technology to the vehicles and so on. However, the only hint anyone really needs is atop the actor's and character's head.
Beyond just helping to keep the timelines noted, True Detective immediately makes itself a contender for hair and makeup awards with Season 3, transporting fans across time via Mahershala Ali's hairdo. Wayne's earliest days saw him adhering to a proto-fro, while the 1990 timeline features the character's box-top look. The current day is marked by the elderly character's white hair and the deep lines worn into his face.
The timeline switcheroos aren't the only details within True Detective Season 3 that could cause confusion, considering all the facts involved with the missing children case. But that just makes it all the more important to have an ever-present visual anchoring everyone to the proper setting, so that more rabid attention can be given to street signs and background actors.