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How We’d Fix It: ‘True Detective’ Season 3

Season 2 isn’t even in the books, and we’re thinking about how we could improve #TrueDetectiveS3. You’re welcome!

Season 2 isn’t even in the books, and we’re thinking about how we could improve #TrueDetectiveS3. You’re welcome!

Get a Good Bad Guy

Mark Lisanti: Here’s what I want from #TDS3: a big-boy serial killer. Nic Pizzolatto’s long, dark Ojai motorcycle rides of the soul have thus far produced one mystery corpse per season, each bearing the kind of baroque marks usually associated with the disturbed-mass-murderer set: antlers the first time around, and the acid-scalded eyes/shotgun-castration combo meal of this much-derided Season 2. Let’s order the body bags in bulk and start chasing a real sickie. Think about how good those languid, nihilistic speeches would sound coming out of the mouth of a deranged philosopher-slasher. Think of all the water-damaged ceilings upon which our antagonist might project the moldering ruins of his childhood. That swirling void above our tortured creator’s vision-yurt cries out to be filled with the screams of multiple victims. So give us a new Hannibal. The other one’s going away sooner than we’d like. But Pizz should be careful when he sits down at the keyboard and pours the darkness out. Whoever writes monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become one.

On the other hand, once-celebrated-HBO-showrunner-turns-bloodthirsty-maniac could be exactly the juice that helps Season 4 — that’s right, we’re zooming past the end of Season 3 and signing up for another one right now — recapture the black magic we lost this time around. Maybe that’s the move that finally gets Brad Pitt interested in this thing. Can’t hurt to try. All we need is a typewriter, a leather jacket, and a very disturbing dream.

Location, Location, Location

banh-miHBO

Chris Ryan: We have to go back … to the banh mi stand. The second season of True Detective didn’t just miss Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Cary Fukunaga — it missed a sense of place. The Louisiana of the first season could be urban, rural, communal, lonely, modern, and ancient. It had dive bars, churches, suburban developments, police stations, towns, and country. It was surreal, but it felt real — the humidity, the vegetation, the decay. You felt like you were somewhere.

Despite having the wildly diverse culture and topography of California to play with, the past seven episodes of television have felt stagey — little rooms, two people, conversations that could be had anywhere. There were overhead shots galore, but they felt like stock footage. The characters never interacted with the landscape. Look at the image above from the first season. How come Ray and Ani never got a taco?

Were there to be a third season, setting would be as important as casting. Pizzolatto should go east. We’ve had a season set in a dreamlike bayou and another in a postindustrial California nightmare. Let’s go to the city. There hasn’t been a great New York cop show since, what, NYPD Blue? How cool would a vast criminal conspiracy set among the skyscrapers and subway lines be? Go east, young Pizz.

Ditch the Fantastic Four

Dave Schilling: In Pizzolatto’s now-infamous Vanity Fair profile, he asks, “Do you really just want to see two stars riding around in a car talking?” He asked this as a means of defending his choice to tinker with the format of his hit series in Season 2. That he felt the need to ask this question points to a fundamental misunderstanding of the average television viewer. Of course they want to see two stars riding around in a car talking! That’s like asking James Bond fans if they want to see Bond hook up with a supermodel.

Instead of recognizing how important the two-character structure of Season 1 was to his fans, Pizzolatto found the #truedetectiveseason2 hashtag to be “flattering.” We get a season with too many plot threads, too much exposition, and too many characters. Say what you will about Season 1’s philosophical ramblings and allusions to the supernatural, but it never strayed from the twin poles of Rust and Marty. In Season 2, significant time has been spent worrying about a character named Stan who didn’t have any lines until he ended up dead. I hate Stan. Wait, that’s not true. How can I hate Stan since I have no idea who the hell he is? What I actually hate is that this season has been such a scatterbrained mess. If there is a Season 3, it has to focus on character again. Going back to a two-handed narrative structure would go a long way toward that noble goal.