‘True Detective’ Season 3 review: Ozark Noir

More than a Comeback: Four years after the divisive second season, ‘True Detective’ returns with its best season yet, with eight episodes of near perfect television. Pictured are Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and partner Roland West (Stephen Dorff) whose phenomenal acting and chemistry were some of the best I have seen.

HBO hits another home run after 2018’s “Sharp Objects,” with one of the best seasons of television I have ever seen.

Walking into the third season of “True Detective,” I was cautiously hopeful. I enjoyed both seasons of True Detective, but for the second, it was nearly universally thought by critics and some fans that the show had taken a hit in quality. And looking back, disregarding particularly Colin Farrell’s absolutely phenomenal performance, it was definitely a questionable season for writer Nic Pizzolatto and co., especially considering the near dead on similarities between it and author James Ellroy’s work.

Nevertheless, to say “True Detective” season 3 is a bounce back is a massive understatement: it absolutely knocked any of the expectations I had out of the park. Known for giving actors not necessarily famous for mind-blowing acting a chance to show how good they actually are, I was ecstatic to see Mahershala Ali, a tried and true phenomenal actor, to be given the lead role for the series, playing an Arkansas Major Crimes detective Wayne Hays, through 3 periods in his life: 1980, the 1990s, and 2015. 

The setting itself is startlingly perfect, with the Southern U.S. Ozarks being the main backdrop of the story. The first season had connections  to American historical crime cornerstones of the 20th century, and 3 follows suit, bringing in connections to country wide stories and ones closer to home. The Arkansas setting is used to full advantage, drawing well-read viewers attention to real life true crime stories put in the mix, particularly the West Memphis Three, and the startling amount of ongoing government corruption within Arkansas.

The basic premise is that two children, Will and Julie Purcell, are put in danger by an unknown force, with the show focusing on Ali’s Wayne and Stephen Dorff’s Roland West, partners who immerse themselves deep into the case whilst investigating it. They are joined by a perfect cast, particularly Scoot McNairy and Carmen Ejogo.

One of the most surprising things about the series though is Dorff. The show pre-release was marketed as Mahershala Ali as the main attraction, but while he is indisputably one of my favorite actors of all time, Dorff is absolute perfection. Having only seen him previously in the first “Blade” movie years ago and in e-cigarette commercials, his performance blew me away, the same with Ejogo and McNairy especially, who plays the father of the two Purcell children. 

The only problem I see with the series is the finale. While near perfect, there is just one small problem I have, and that is with the casting of an integral character introduced late into the season, jarringly played by a well-known actor. First seeing the person appear, there was an undeniable disconnect that is really just hard to describe. However, this is a small part, to a near perfect series.

I can without a doubt say True Detective’s third season is amazing, near flawless television. It has an incredibly engaging storyline, phenomenal characters that let me escape reality and dive into a deep rabbit hole. When the credits for the last episode rolled, I found myself sad, seeing as that I’d never get to see these characters again, or experience it for the first time.