• Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: Jan 12, 2014
Season #: 1, 2, 3
Metascore
70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31

Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Jan 11, 2019
    91
    Ali is impressive in all three life stages, but his performance as the haunted and addled 70-year-old Hays has the most resonance.
  2. Reviewed by: Dorothy Rabinowitz
    Jan 10, 2019
    90
    The superbly written first chapter signals the horror to come in haunting detail. ... This is a script determinedly dedicated to the slow reveal. But it also one alive with passion and a mordant wit. ... A subtle and affecting portrayal by Mr. Ali.
  3. TV Guide Magazine
    Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    Jan 3, 2019
    90
    [Nic Pizzolatto] puts story and character first in this long-awaited comeback season. ... Even when the script takes heady philosophical detours into poetry and Einstein, it never loses sight of the toll of the investigation takes on those charged with solving the case. [7-20 Jan 2019, p.10]
  4. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Jan 11, 2019
    80
    If you subscribe to the opinion that the original True Detective was terrific and the second edition, well, wasn't, the third marks a bracing case of going back to the future. That's because this latest season largely mirrors the first, unspooling a mystery across three distinct time frames while receiving an enormous star-power boost courtesy of Mahershala Ali.
  5. Reviewed by: Robert Lloyd
    Jan 10, 2019
    80
    It's an ambitious and imperfect work, beautiful and corny, believable and less believable by turns. I recommend it, with advisories. ... What's most compelling, and touching, in True Detective are these elements of memory and time, how it moves on and stands still. Ali, especially, with the help of some crack makeup and hair people, is persuasive as Wayne across a span of 35 years, living in the present and in an incomplete past that is running away from him even as he runs toward it.
  6. Reviewed by: Ellen Gray
    Jan 10, 2019
    80
    [Mahershala Ali's] take on Hays enhances rather than overwhelms a story intriguing enough to justify the show’s 35-year timeline.
  7. Reviewed by: Willa Paskin
    Jan 10, 2019
    80
    The new season has some of this same incomprehensibility [of season 1 and 2], but a relatively small amount. Everything about it is toned down. The creepy totems left at the scene of the crime seem like a willful echo of the first season’s tangles of twigs, but without their eerie power. Ali is excellent as Hays.
  8. Reviewed by: Kristi Turnquist
    Jan 9, 2019
    80
    Through it all, Ali is a marvel. Even when the dialogue lets him down, Ali imbues Hays with pride, tamped-down anger, sadness and so much humanity he makes True Detective something special.
  9. Reviewed by: Todd VanDerWerff
    Jan 2, 2019
    80
    The five episodes I have seen take the best stuff about True Detective and finally wed it to a story that proceeds in a mostly satisfying fashion.
  10. Reviewed by: Daniel D'Addario
    Jan 2, 2019
    80
    Tightly directed (in its first episodes by Jeremy Saulnier) and plotted, and with a performance at its center that steers away from calling attention to itself, the new “True Detective” transcends hype and amounts to 2019’s first pleasant small-screen surprise.
  11. Reviewed by: Allison Keene
    Jan 2, 2019
    80
    It may not be as arresting or iconic as the first season, but time is a flat circle. True Detective has come back around with a true return to form.
  12. Reviewed by: Liam Mathews
    Jan 2, 2019
    77
    Just like Nas could never make another Illmatic, Nic Pizzolatto can never make another Season 1. You only get one divinely inspired first impression. But Nas made Stillmatic and has had a long, solid career. And that's what's happening here. True Detective is pivoting to reliability. It's no longer trying to be a sensation. It's just trying to be a good show.
  13. Reviewed by: Judy Berman
    Jan 11, 2019
    75
    A solid third season whose structure and style hew close to those of the first.
  14. Reviewed by: Peter Hartlaub
    Jan 4, 2019
    75
    The third season of Nick Pizzolatto’s anthology series swings back like a pendulum, losing the absurdity of the second season for an approach that’s considerably more staid. ... But season three powers through with wonderfully dense visuals, a layered story and an absolute powerhouse performance by Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, who portrays brooding Detective Wayne Hays in three time periods.
  15. Reviewed by: Ben Travers
    Jan 2, 2019
    75
    The first five episodes are stirring entertainment, steadying a very rocky boat and teasing an end that feels far more likely to exceed expectations than spoil a strong setup.
  16. 70
    It’s a time-shifting saga about an emotionally disturbed person trying to solve the disappearance of children in a rural area, a tale told mere months ago on this same cable channel, in a dazzling adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. But there’s still plenty to like, starting with the way Pizzolatto and Deadwood creator David Milch (who was a consultant and co-wrote an episode) have decided to focus not on a mismatched buddy-cop team, but on a single protagonist, Arkansas detective Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali).
  17. Reviewed by: Matthew Gilbert
    Jan 10, 2019
    70
    [Mahershala Ali's] performance gives the season its unifying theme, and at times the case is most compelling for the ways it intersects with his life. Despite the shadowy distractions, True Detective is a solid procedural led by a faceted leading performance.
  18. Reviewed by: James Poniewozik
    Jan 10, 2019
    70
    If you score “True Detective” Season 3 on originality, it fails--for repeating both its own history and the already-dated cable genre of glum loners confronting the evils men do. But if you treat it as a do-over--if the series, like one of its haunted antiheroes, is retracing its steps to try to get things right--then it’s fine. Often quite good. Far more consistent.
  19. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Jan 9, 2019
    70
    [The third season] has much more in common structurally and tonally with the first season but still can’t quite compare with that year or the best of current television it so wishes to join.
  20. Reviewed by: Dan Fienberg
    Jan 2, 2019
    70
    True Detective arrives for a third installment seeming to have already established its peaks and valleys. As a vehicle for actors and mood, few shows are better, and with Ali front and center, the new season is easy to get interested in, despite a lackluster mystery that may make it a struggle to stay interested.
  21. Reviewed by: Mark A. Perigard
    Jan 10, 2019
    67
    This season is more season one True Detective than season two True Detective, with Ali giving a tour de force performance as the show toggles between three time periods. The bad news? The central mystery is more fitting for a CBS crime procedural, and over eight episodes is stretched to its limit.
  22. Reviewed by: Darren Franich
    Jan 2, 2019
    67
    The new somber mystery will satisfy fans seeking the old True Detective high, and the Ozarks setting will surely please your cousin who loves Ozark. The acting is very strong. ... But Saulnier departs the series after the second hour. And the episodes that follow (I’ve seen through the fifth) feel repetitive, dreary, self-serious if not just mopey.
  23. Reviewed by: Dave Nemetz
    Jan 2, 2019
    67
    It’s safe to say that Season 3 improves on that mess [Vince Vaughn’s Season 2 performance], but it still registers as a mild disappointment, all things considered.
  24. Reviewed by: Verne Gay
    Jan 9, 2019
    63
    A thin story spread over a lot of hours, but Ali is excellent and so is his support.
  25. Reviewed by: David Sims
    Jan 14, 2019
    60
    True Detective Season 3 is a little more workmanlike and less baroque, perhaps too eager to prove that it can tell a legible story again. But it’s anchored by Ali’s terrific work in the lead role--a little more restrained than stars past, though just as captivating.
  26. Reviewed by: Alan Sepinwall
    Jan 3, 2019
    60
    The many echoes of that original story are at first reassuring, as if lessons were learned from the Farrell/Vaughn mess. But in time, Ali’s performance is the only thing disguising how rote this all feels, and how much the series keeps repeating itself, within seasons as well as across them. There are periodic moments that pulse with life--or, at least, that feel like clichés done right. And then there are others where it all feels like antihero-drama karaoke in an era when TV has mostly moved away from these overused tropes.
  27. Reviewed by: Erik Adams
    Jan 11, 2019
    58
    Ali sculpts a full, tragic figure in a relatively short amount of time and from a fairly limited amount of raw material. Even as the story’s focal point, Wayne is underwritten, a character more notable for the way he’s played and the extraordinary circumstances he finds himself in than for, say, his past as an army tracker or his off-duty boar-hunting hobby. The lack of personality pervades the scripts.
  28. Reviewed by: Melanie McFarland
    Jan 14, 2019
    50
    The plot’s framework may be a retread, but those who kept the faith through the three-and-a-half year gap between the disastrous season 2 and this new story may be heartened by its intentional recall to the McConaughey-Harrelson chapter. If this is Pizzolatto asking for a do-over, Ali’s smolder lends the writer enough currency to buy at least a few hours of patience. But from there it’s hard to definitively characterize this season as more of a success that the season it resembles most.
  29. Reviewed by: Steven Scaife
    Jan 10, 2019
    50
    The initially welcome focus on Hays, however, continues much longer than the character--or even Ali’s nuanced performance--can ultimately sustain. Large swaths of the season drag as a result, seemingly begging for a more engaging mystery or some other character to latch onto in an equal capacity, or even the pulpy excess of True Detective‘s second season.
  30. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    Jan 10, 2019
    40
    Ponderous. ... What’s more remarkable is how Ali elevates the material without much help from the scripts. ... The lack of imagination extends to the female characters. ... [Nic Pizzolotto’s] show struggles to find its sweet spot as a work of television, maybe because it’s conceived with a pace and style that is better suited to the page.
  31. Reviewed by: Troy Patterson
    Jan 7, 2019
    40
    The new “True Detective” is faintly pretentious, manageably ridiculous, and dull. ... Throughout his terrific performance as this emotionally wounded warrior, Ali steams and simmers and smolders with repressed emotion. The display of heat is all the more remarkable because the script sheds little light on Hays’s inner self.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 50 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 42 out of 50
  2. Negative: 7 out of 50
  1. Jan 14, 2019
    10
    Amazing start for True Detective season 3. Incredible performances (particularly Ali, Dorff and McNairy), beautiful cinematography and reallyAmazing start for True Detective season 3. Incredible performances (particularly Ali, Dorff and McNairy), beautiful cinematography and really tight writing help make the first 2 episodes match the first season in quality. On a side note, Metacritic can you please add Richard Roeper's (Chicago Sun Times) 4 out of 4 star review for this season. Thank You. Full Review »
  2. Jan 13, 2019
    10
    Just enough like season 1 to feel like a real follow-up, but the characters and the world are so distinct that it doesn't feel like an attemptJust enough like season 1 to feel like a real follow-up, but the characters and the world are so distinct that it doesn't feel like an attempt to repeat past glory. It's so good to have it back. As everyone points out, it's not season 1, but it doesn't really have to be and it's unfair to constantly compare the two. This is fantastic in its own right. Full Review »
  3. Jan 13, 2019
    9
    It has been nearly four years that we haven't heard anything much about True Detective ever returning back to TV, and ladies and gentlemen itIt has been nearly four years that we haven't heard anything much about True Detective ever returning back to TV, and ladies and gentlemen it is here, the long awaited third season of True Detective is back and better than ever. Season three is the true season that we all truly deserved since the first. There may be ups-and-downs in terms of a slogged-up underutilization of choices that adds up to the conclusion with only eight episodes again, but everything from the superb acting, casting, camera work, and writing of this new season may be the best flavor to chew on rather than a rushed plot that divided most people on the second season years back. And again, season three is a big improvement than its anthological predecessor since it's a revitalization of the first season with a much clearer picture and a gritty narrative that we’re all familiar of. Is it better than season one? Nope – but it’s better than two alright. Full Review »