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True Detective season 4 release date, cast, trailers, plot, theories, and everything we know so far about what is next for HBO’s crime anthology

True Detective season 4
True Detective stars Mahershala Ali as Detective Wayne Hays. Pic credit: HBO


Although HBO has not confirmed True Detective for season 4, fans are already asking questions about the future of HBO’s hit crime anthology. Hints about what to expect of the upcoming season are emerging even before the end of the current season.

True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto and HBO executives have recently been sharing snippets of information that have given eager fans insight into their thoughts and plans for the upcoming season, and the future of the crime anthology series.

To save you the trouble of having to gather all the information yourself, we’ve brought together everything that we know so far about True Detective season 4 in one page, including all the latest updates.

We will also be updating this page with new information about True Detective season 4 and the future of HBO’s hit crime anthology as the news hits.

Will True Detective return for season 4 on HBO?

Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays
Mahershala Ali as Detective Wayne Hays. Pic credit: HBO

When asked in a February 8, 2019 interview with Deadline Hollywood whether HBO was already thinking about True Detective season 4, HBO’s President of Programming Casey Bloys confirmed that they were.

However, he added that they wanted to avoid “rushing into anything” to avoid repeating the mistake they believe led to the less than satisfactory season 2 outing.

“I think we are going to handle it the same way as [season 3],” Bloys told Deadline. “If Nic has an idea that he is excited about, we will talk about it but not rushing into anything.”

Pizzolatto had earlier revealed in a January 9, 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly that he had a “wild [plot] idea” for True Detective season 4 germinating in his mind and that he was already nurturing the idea as the basis of the plot and storyline for a potential return of the HBO series.

True Detective season 4
True Detective. Pic credit: HBO

“I have to say… I have an idea,” he told EW, “…and it’s wild. It’s really, really wild… I have an idea that’s kind of crazy.”

So, will True Detective return for season 4?

Bloys confirmed in the interview with Deadline Hollywood that HBO was happy with the overall performance of True Detective season 3.

“Creatively, ratings-wise, it did everything that we wanted it to do,” he said. “It’s up to 8 million viewers an episode [and] we were thrilled with the reviews. I think fans have really liked it. I was very, very, very happy with all aspects of it.”

Like all other networks, HBO has shown a keenness to capitalize on the success of a recent season by quickly ordering another season for the show.

HBO’s public expression of total satisfaction with the critical and ratings’ performance of True Detective season 3 is the strongest indication we have that the show will return for season 4.

True Detective season 4 release date

True Detective. Matthew McConaughey
True Detective. Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle. Pic credit: HBO

HBO has not officially renewed True Detective for season 4, but the network execs and Pizzolatto have already made it clear that they want the show to return for another season.

What remains unclear is the time frame for the eventual return, considering the fact that the producers and showrunners have said they don’t want “rush into anything.”

Pizzolatto told EW that he needs time to think about and develop the plot for season 4.

“I think it needs to percolate for a while,” he said. “I was looking to do another series, maybe a movie, in the meantime.”

The insistence on not wanting to “rush into anything” comes after HBO exec Michael Lombardo publicly admitted he was to blame for the situation in which season 2 failed to live up to season 1.

“I set him [Pizzolatto] up to deliver in a very short time frame [and it] became very challenging to deliver,” Lombardo explained. “He [Pizzolatto] had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Find his muse. And so I think that’s what I learned from it. Don’t do that anymore.”

Season 2 was widely panned by fans and critics for its “convoluted plot and dialogue.”

The negative response to season 2 proved so troubling for HBO and Pizzolatto (who wrote the entire season) that they sent the show on hiatus to allow time for a reappraisal and re-strategizing to deliver audience expectations.

Lombardo’s confession echoed the prevailing view that the producers had been in such a hurry to capitalize on the huge success of season 1 that they rushed to produce and release season 2 without taking time to think and plan.

True Detective season 4
True Detective poster. Pic credit: HBO

But, following the negative response to season 2, they realized their mistake and decided to take a longer break. By the time season 3 came out three-and-a-half years later, fans were getting worried it would never happen.

The resolve to not “rush into anything” suggests that fans have a long wait ahead for season 4. It seems unlikely we will have to wait three-and-a-half years for the next season.

Although Pizzolatto told EW that he planned to take time off from working on True Detective before eventually returning, fans can assume the positive response to season 3 will motivate him to complete the scripts sooner than he did in season 3.

This time around, he has the data to make a better judgment about what fans expect of their favorite crime anthology.

True Detective season 1 premiered in January 2014, while season 2 came out 18 months later in June 2015. Season 3 came out in January 2019, nearly three and a half years after season 2 premiered.

True Detective. Carmen Ejogo as Amelia Reardon. Pic credit: HBO

Thankfully, season 3 was well received and HBO is happy about it.

Depending on other factors, HBO will likely try to get out another season in a time frame longer than 18 months that it took for season 2 to come out, but shorter than three and a half years that it took for season 3 to come out.

Our best guess is that True Detective season 4 will come out sometime between late 2020 and early 2022.

True Detective: Overview

True Detective
True Detective is a crime anthology. Pic credit: HBO

True Detective is an anthology crime drama series created and written by former literature professor Nic Pizzolatto. Each season of True Detective has featured a self-contained story, with a different setting and new cast members playing a new set of characters.

True Detective season 1 premiered on HBO on January 12, 2014, and starred Matthew McConaughey as Louisiana State Police homicide detective Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson as his partner Marty Hart. The season followed Rust and Marty’s 17-year-long investigation of the murder of Dora Lange.

Season 1 was filmed in Louisiana, and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Season 1 was a critical and ratings’ success, receiving many nominations and winning multiple awards and accolades. On Rotten Tomatoes, season 1 earned an approval rating of 87% based on 81 reviews.

True Detective season 4
True Detective poster. Pic credit: HBO

It earned universal acclaim on Metacritic with a score of 87/100 based on 41 critical reviews.

True Detective season 2 premiered on HBO in June 2015, with Colin Farrell playing Detective Ray Velcoro, Rachel McAdams playing Detective Sergeant Ani Bezzerides, and Taylor Kitsch portraying Officer Paul Woodrugh.

Vince Vaughn stars as a former criminal named Frank Semyon who is also involved in the investigation of killings believed to be related to the murder of city manager Ben Caspere.

True Detective season 2, written by Pizzolatto and Scott Lasser, is set in California. The season was filmed in California, with Justin Lin directing episodes 1 and 2.

Following the critical and ratings’ success of season 1, season 2 got mixed reviews, with many critics saying it did not live up to season 1.

On Rotten Tomatoes, season 2 earned a mediocre approval rating of 64% based on 86 reviews. On Metacritic, it also earned an unimpressive Metascore of 61/100 based on 41 critical reviews.

Although the viewership numbers were satisfactory, season 2 was widely panned for its supposedly slow-paced, moody, and unduly long-drawn-out plot.

Many critics thought that the showrunners had rushed to production and did not allow time for the plot idea to mature.

Others thought that season 2 might have missed the mark because the creators went out of their way to avoid echoing season 1 and in the end got it wrong.

True Detective season 4
True Detective poster. Pic credit: HBO

But more favorably disposed fans argued that season 2 was only a victim of season 1’s success and that impatient fans misunderstood the plot because they wanted to see something similar to season 1. Many were upset when the new season deviated from what they had expected.

True Detective season 3 premiered on HBO in January 2019 and starred Mahershala Ali as Arkansas state police detective Wayne Hays investigating a grisly crime involving two missing children. Stephen Dorff played Hays’ partner Roland West.

Season 3 is set in the Ozarks and written by Pizzolatto. David Milch and Graham Gordy co-wrote episodes 4 and 6 with Pizzolatto. Jimmy Saulnier directed the first two episodes, while Pizzolatto and Daniel Sackheim directed the remaining six episodes.

True Detective season 3 was also a critical and ratings’ success. It was widely praised as marking a “return to form” of the series, and fans were full of praise for Mahershala Ali’s performance.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the season scored an approval rating of 84% based on 74 critical reviews. On Metacritic, the season earned a “generally favorable” Metascore of 71/100, based on 32 critical reviews.

True Detective season 4 trailer

True Detective
True Detective is written by Nic Pizzolatto. Pic credit: HBO

A trailer for True Detective season 4 is not yet in sight. We will update this page when the first teaser of full trailer drops.

Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer for season 3.

True Detective Season 4 cast

True Detective
True Detective. Pic credit: HBO

Given the fact that True Detective is an anthology series, we should expect season 4 to feature new cast members playing a new set of characters in a different story setting than season 3.

While each season of True Detective has so far stuck to the standard anthology format, creator Pizzolatto has recently hinted that he is thinking of bringing back characters from previous seasons to feature together in season 4.

True Detective season 4
Will True Detective return for season 4? Pic credit: HBO

Stephen Dorff, who played Roland West in season 3, was the first to hint that Pizzolatto might be thinking of bringing previous series stars and their characters together in a single story that establishes that all the previous seasons took place in the same fictional universe.

“I would love to work with Nic again, and I would love to play Roland again,” he said in a January 2019 interview with Esquire. “Nic always said he’d like to do something one day where he gets to bring back all of the characters, like Rust Cohle.”

The idea of a shared fictional universe for all previous seasons of True Detective and a season in which all of the previous series stars appear together in a single story isn’t a radically new idea. The series has so far made occasional subtle nods in that direction.

For instance, in season 3, episode 2 (Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye), documentary filmmaker Elisa Montgomery (Sarah Gardon) mentions a “crooked spiral” while linking the case involving the missing children Will and Julie Purcell to previous crimes.

Fans immediately recognized this as a reference to season 1’s Carcosa spiral motif, and executive producer Scott Stephens confirmed it during a chat with Hollywood Reporter.

“I guess it’s set in the same fictional world everything is set in, right?” Stephens said.

“The reference is kind of a nod to [season one],” Stephens continued. “The stuff in season one was based on the same sort of pedophilia stories that are mentioned by the documentary crew. That’s kind of the connective tissue.”

“It’s just a fun way to tie things in,” he concluded.

The season 3, episode 5 promo video below also contains an Easter egg referencing season 1. See if you can spot it (see the YouTube thread for the answer).

The interview with Esquire was not the first time that McConaughey had talked about reprising his role as Rust Cohle. He confirmed during an appearance on DirecTV’s Rich Eisen Show in June 2016 that he had talked to Pizzolatto about the possibility of returning to True Detective to play Cohle.

“I miss Rust Cohle, man,” McConaughey said. “I miss watching him on Sunday nights.”

“It would have to be the right context, the right way,” he added.

The backlash against season 2 apparently further encouraged McConaughey to reach out to the showrunners about returning to the show.

So, the question now is whether season 4 will provide the “right context” for McConaughey to return to reprise his role as Rust Cohle.

A True Detective season 4 return that establishes a shared fictional universe for previous season stories would obviously provide the “right context” that McConaughey wants.

Fans are speculating that a shared fictional universe in which all the seasons take place could be what Pizzolatto was hinting at when he told EW that he had a “wild… crazy idea” for the upcoming season.

The suggestion that previous stars could return in season 4 has also raised questions whether any of characters from the unpopular season 2 iteration of the anthology would be able to make the cut.

True Detective season 4 plot and theories

True Detective
True Detective on HBO. Pic credit: HBO

A close reading of Pizzolatto’s comments in his interview with EW could lead to the insistence that the suggestion that season 4 will bring previous series stars together in a single fictional universe is more than just a fan theory and that Pizzolatto’s words plainly implied it.

“I dream of making a TV show where you have recurring characters and don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time,” he told EW. “After one of these, I always feel so depleted. But I have to say… I have an idea.”

Not wanting to “reinvent the wheel every time” appears to reference the idea that Pizzolatto plans to return some of the previous stars and revisit previous settings and plots possibly to address specific plot and story issues that were left unresolved in the respective seasons.

“Where do you even go after this [third season]?” he continued. “I just had a lead character who’s 35, 45 and 70 all at the same time and this mystery that has to reach false resolutions and keep going into the future without cheating the audience and all these complicated structural elements.”

Based on the Pizzolatto’s comments so far, it does appear that bringing the elements of the previous seasons together in a single season story to establish a thread of mystery that runs through and links all the seasons is the next level of complicated plot and narrative left to explore.

Season 1, for instance, offers a non-linear narrative in which Rust Cohle and Marty revisit their investigation of the 1995 murder of Dora Lange and several other unsolved crimes 17 years later.

Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays
True Detective: Mahershala Ali’s Wayne Hays as an old man. Pic credit: HBO

Similarly, season 3 adopts a non-linear narrative approach. It follows Arkansas State Police detective Hays (Mahershala Ali) and his partner Roland West (Stephen Dorf) who investigate a case involving two missing children, Will and Julie Purcell.

After initially investigating the crime in 1980 they revisit it in 1990 but have to close it again after exhausting all lines of investigation. Years later, in 2015 Hays is in his old age and suffering a partial loss of memory, but is still deeply affected by the case.

He thinks about the case very often, obsessively going over the details in his mind and suffering hallucinations.

“I used to think back then that there was before ‘Nam, and after ‘Nam,” old Hays says reflectively. “Now it’s before the Purcell case, and after the Purcell case.”

In the season 1 finale, Cohle and Hart enter the Carcosa temple (the interested reader can learn more here bout the Carcosa mythology underlying the True Detective series) in Louisiana and confront the character who appears to be the cult leader.

It has been suggested that True Detective’s allusions to the Carcosa mythology hint at a bigger mystery that extends unresolved beyond each season and the entire show.

The thematic refrain in True Detective is the unsolved mystery we revisit over and over and over again all through our lives without ever arriving at a satisfactory resolution.

This is reflected in the rabbit hole symbol of the spiral which hints at an unresolved grand mystery at the end of the series.


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