The rise of social media has proven to be possibly the ultimate double-edged sword for television. Everybody has an opinion, and they're ready and willing to broadcast it on Twitter whilst the episode goes out. When a show is going down well, positive buzz is generated. But when there are flaws on display, the vultures taking pleasure in picking at them, and the buzz turns negative.
No series is more familiar with this process than True Detective. Season 1 went down a storm, and generated a ton of social media buzz which helped it grow its audiences as it went on. Season 2 became a phenomenon for entirely different reasons - and although audiences figures declined, social media buzz exploded. Apparently, people love to talk about shows they hate.
We don't know yet if True Detective will return for season 3. The show is written entirely by one man, Nic Pizzolatto, so even if he has started writing another chapter of his bleak noir anthology, it could be a while until we see it on screen. Bearing in mind some of the louder criticism season 2 received, let's take a look at a few of the ways season 3 could reinvent itself.
Take the story outside of the United States
This is a pretty big one. The first season buried its mystery deep in the wilds of rural Louisiana, whilst the second found misery in the overwhelmingly corrupt city of Vinci, Los Angeles. Both of these locations played a big part in defining the character of their respective seasons, but both felt quintessentially American in their worldview. So maybe it's time to travel overseas and find a new character in the mafiosa heartlands of Southern Italy or the cocaine empires of Colombia. The United States is a big place, but the rest of the world is a whole lot bigger.
Find a way to bring back Ani
Now I don't believe for a moment that Pizzolatto would actually do this - he envisaged True Detective as an anthology series with a new storyline each time around - and Rachel McAdams might have her hands full with Doctor Strange.
But consider how Ani and Ray were the only aspects of season 2 to receive universal praise, even from those who found nothing else to like about the show's sophomore run. McAdams did sterling work with this flawed but likable character, finding layers in her that weren't always present in the script. Taking the most successful aspect of season 2 and transporting her into season 3 might actually be a smart move, if it could be worked believably into the story.
Be about 10% more coherent
This may be like asking Santa Clause to try and be a little more incognito as he rides through the sky in a red suit with his posse of reindeer and a huge sack of presents on Christmas Eve, but the truth is that Nic Pizzolatto's style of writing alienated a lot of people who, presumably, wanted to enjoy season 2. Or even just to understand it. Many story threads were introduced, some going the distance, some being casually forgotten, a few not making one iota of sense. Why, for instance, did we learn that Paul Woodrugh's mother had discovered and spent the huge bag full of cash he'd stupidly stashed in her trailer? It didn't affect the story. It barely even affected their relationship.
Pizzolatto is clearly a man with a great many ideas, most of them very good, but sometimes the execution is a little confusing, to say the least. Streamline it. Get somebody in to put the scripts through an edit. That 10% extra cohesion would go a long way in making season 3 more digestible.
...but don't dial back the wildly ridiculous dialogue
This is one True Detective-ism we really can't do without. Who can forget a line like "God forgive me for misreading what subtle clues you embed for me in your limp dick, which is as wishy-washy as your fucking mood"?
If you do nothing else today, spend five minutes watching Seth Myers take the piss out of the most absurd pieces of dialogue from season 2.
Repeat the 'Vince Vaughn experiment'
You might not consider this wise, considering that Vince Vaughn's acting this season came in for a whole freight train full of harsh criticism, but didn't his casting do exactly what it was intended to? Didn't we spend a whole season talking about him? There are plenty of typecast actors out there with the power to surprise, so let's find the next one. For better or worse, social media is the bedrock of a show like this, so cast smartly and keep people talking.
Season 3 might win back the acclaim of True Detective's debut run, or it might crash and burn in the afterglow of Ray, Ani, Frank and co. It may not happen at all, although HBO have said they want it, and the ball is in Pizzolatto's court.
Check out my previous article The Good, Bad and Bizarre of True Detective season 2, leave your thoughts on the possibilities for season 3 in the comments, and remember... never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.