For a long time, it seemed that True Detective Season 3 was in doubt. A rough second season nearly killed off a franchise that seemed poised for greatness after debuting to much fanfare in 2014. You can’t keep a good detective out of the game for long, though. Come January, True Detective returns to HBO with new detectives, a new case, and a fresh location.
Nic Pizzolatto, who also serves as showrunner, is the sole writer of the third season with the exception of Episode 4, which he co-wrote with David Milch (Deadwood), who signed on to help Pizzolatto prepare the third season. Director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room), was slated to direct three episodes, but according to a report from Variety, left the project after completing two of them. To replace Saulnier, they enlisted the help of Daniel Sackheim, who’s helmed episodes of The Americans, Ozark, and The Leftovers. The cause of Saulnier’s departure is a scheduling conflict, according to the network.
Here’s everything else we know about the upcoming third season…
True Detective Season 3 Return Date
The next episode of True Detective is called “The Hour and the Day” and it airs on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 9 pm ET on HBO. Here’s a synopsis:
Hays (Mahershala Ali) and West (Stephen Dorff) see a possible connection between the local church and the Purcell crimes. As the detectives search for one suspect and round up another for interrogation, Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) is targeted by a vigilante group.
Here’s a trailer for the episodes ahead:
True Detective Season 3 Episodes
True Detective Season 3 will consist of eight episodes telling a story over three timelines.
True Detective Season 3 Episode 1: The Great War and Modern Memory
“The disappearance of a young Arkansas boy (Phoenix Elkin) and his sister (Lena McCarthy) in 1980 triggers vivid memories and enduring questions for retired detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali), who worked the case 35 years before with partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff). What started as a routine case becomes a long journey to dissect and make sense of the crime.”
Written by Nic Pizzolatto; directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
air date: 1/13/19
Read our review of “The Great War and Modern Memory”
True Detective Season 3 Episode 2: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
“Hays (Mahershala Ali) looks back at the aftermath of the 1980 Purcell case in West Finger, Ark., including possible evidence left behind at the Devil’s Den, an outdoor hangout for local kids. As attention focuses on two conspicuous suspects – Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes), a solitary vet and trash collector, and Ted LaGrange (Shawn-Caulin Young), an ex-con with a penchant for children – the parents of the missing kids, Tom (Scoot McNairy) and Lucy Purcell (Mamie Gummer), receive a cryptic note from an anonymous source.”
Written by Nic Pizzolatto; directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
air date: 1/13/19
Read our review of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”
True Detective Season 3 Episode 3: The Big Never
“Hays (Mahershala Ali) recalls his early romance with Amelia (Carmen Ejogo), as well as cracks in their relationship that surfaced after they married and had children. Ten years after the Purcell crimes, new evidence emerges, giving him a second chance to vindicate himself and the investigation.”
Written by Nic Pizzolatto; directed by Daniel Sackheim.
air date: 1/20/19
Read our review of “The Big Never”
True Detective Season 3 Episode 4: The Hour and the Day
“Hays (Mahershala Ali) and West (Stephen Dorff) see a possible connection between the local church and the Purcell crimes. As the detectives search for one suspect and round up another for interrogation, Woodard (Michael Greyeyes) is targeted by a vigilante group.”
Written by David Milch & Nic Pizzolatto; directed by Nic Pizzolatto.
air date: 1/27/19
True Detective Season 3 Episode 5: If You Have Ghosts
air date: 2/3/19
True Detective Season 3 Episode 6: Hunters in the Dark
air date: 2/10/19
True Detective Season 3 Episode 7: The Final Country
air date: 2/17/19
True Detective Season 3 Episode 8: Now Am Found
air date: 2/24/19
True Detective Season 3 Cast
Mahershala Ali will be headlining True Detective Season 3. Ali won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight and can currently be seen in Green Book. He’s been one of the hardest working people in the business recently, popping up in everything from Marvel’s Luke Cage to Free State of Jones and Hidden Figures. He’ll play Wayne Hayes.
“The lead was white, and the other cop was black. And once you see the show, you’ll see that is different from the other seasons, in that the lead character, he’s at the point of the arrowhead. I read the scripts. I was blown away. I got to read the first four, and I could have played that second lead, the supporting character….And so I came back to (Nic) and I was like, ‘I want to play that part.’ And he thought about it a couple of days, got back to me, and he was like, ‘Yo, let’s do this. I’m down.’”
Stephen Dorff is his partner, Detective Roland West, “an Arkansas State Investigator.”
Deborah Ayorinde is Becca Hayes, the estranged daughter of Ali’s retired retired Arkansas State Police detective.
Josh Hopkins is Jim Dobkins, “a private attorney in Fayetteville, Arkansas involved in deposing state police detectives in an ongoing investigation.”
Jodi Balfour is Lori, “long-term love interest to Det. Roland West. Chavis will play Wayne Hays’ (Ali) son at age 9.”
Both of the above casting descriptions come via Deadline.
Carmen Ejogo is Amelia Reardon. Amelia is an Arkansas schoolteacher who has a connection to two missing children in 1980.
Mamie Gummer will play a young mother of two named Lucy Purcell at the center of a tragic crime. Rounding out the cast is Ray Fisher (Justice League), Michael Greyeyes, Jon Tenney, and Rhys Wakefield.
True Detective Season 3 Review
Here’s an excerpt from our review of the first five episodes…
“Here the true crime anthology series goes as far back to its roots as possible without veering directly into self-plagiarism. This season, like the ether-rattling first, deals with only two detectives (this time played by Ali and Stephen Dorff, echoing the pairing of season one’s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson), from the American South (the Ozarks instead of the Bayou) who are confronted with a gruesome case that involves children and possibly even a touch of the occult.”
True Detective Season 3 Story
Here’s the official synopsis, courtesy of HBO:
1980: Will and Julie Purcell, the children of feuding parents Tom and Lucy Purcell, go missing a week after Halloween in West Finger, Ark.
2015: Retired detective Wayne Hays, who originally investigated the crime, is asked to look back on the twists of the unsolved case with a true-crime documentary producer.
Playing out in three separate time periods, the third season tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades. Mahershala Ali (Oscar® winner for “Moonlight”) stars as state police detective Wayne Hays, with Stephen Dorff (“Somewhere”) starring as Roland West, the detective who investigated the case with Hays, and Carmen Ejogo (“Selma”) starring as schoolteacher and writer Amelia Reardon.
In 2015, retired detective Wayne Hays, his memory failing, looks back at the disappearance of 12-year-old Will and ten-year-old Julie Purcell, recalling the days and weeks immediately following the 1980 crime, as well as developments in 1990, when he and his former partner, Roland West, were subpoenaed after a major break in the case.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.