Everyone here is good, and the show works well as a conventional mystery. What elevates it are the brooding atmosphere and Ali’s magnetic performance, from his dogged pursuit of the facts in his younger days to his convincing vulnerability in his elderly ones.
“True Detective” helped give a major push to the limited-series format in 2014 (McConaughey and Harrelson, it’s worth noting, still hold producer titles on the show), with the challenge being that replicating the spark of stand-alone series — with nothing more than the title as connective tissue — represents a formidable challenge. The second was enough of a disappointment to risk killing the franchise.
One can argue about the wisdom of repeatedly going back to the same well, as is Hollywood’s preference, but strictly as a viewing proposition, the third “True Detective” has gotten its mojo back.
“True Detective” premieres Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. on HBO. Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.