With the sheer number of anthology series that have popped up over the past few seasons of television, it's easy to forget that the current craze over the format is still a relatively new one. FX's American Horror Story started the craze four years ago; then HBO premiered True Detective last season and FX debuted its own crime anthology, Fargo. Not to be ignored, broadcast channels got in on the game this year with ABC's American Crime; and next year will see the debut of FX's third anthology series, American Crime Story. As with an trend in its infancy, it's sometimes difficult to predict how it will manifest. Will the upcoming iteration of HBO's crime drama be wildly different than the first? Or will True Detective Season 2 connect to Season 1?
One's an incident, two's a coincidence, three's a pattern. After four seasons, we know what to expect from AHS: variations on a theme of oppressed minorities rebelling against the monstrous majority, presented with a campy tone by stellar actors chewing the scenery with relish. But we don't even have two seasons of True Detective yet, which means we haven't even entered the realm of coincidence. We won't know how similar or different the new season is from its predecessor until we see it for ourselves when it premieres this Sunday night.
Based on the initial teaser, the footage seemed to be giving off major Season 1 vibes. But as more and more material was released, the ways in which the new season would differ from the show's freshman outing became increasingly clear. We've left rural Louisiana behind for urban Los Angeles; the buddy-cop dynamic between Rust Cohle and Martin Hart has been swapped for a tangled web of relationships between four interconnected protagonists; the cult horror writers who inspired Season 1, namly Thomas Ligotti (The Conspiracy Against The Human Race) and Robert W. Chambers (The King In Yellow), are traded in for famous noir authors Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential).
There are changes behind the camera, as well. Part of what made the first season of Detective so unique was the singularity of its vision. Creator Nic Pizzolatto wrote every script himself, and every single episode was directed by the same man, Cary Fukunaga. This was literally unprecedented in the history of television. While Pizzolatto (below, with Season 1 star Matthew McConaughey) is reprising this feat for Season 2, Fukunaga has departed the show for other projects — which means the eight episodes could be filmed by as many as seven different directors. (Justin Lin, of The Fast And The Furious 3-6 , directs the first two hours.)
We knew that the various seasons of True Detective wouldn't be directly connected from the moment it was announced that McConaughey and co-star Woody Harrelson were only signing on for one season of the anthology. But lest fans get nervous that things are going to get too drastically different, Pizzolatto would like to assure us all that Season 2 is still the same series we all know and love. And what's the connective tissue tying these disparate iterations together? Why, Pizzolatto himself, of course. "Crime, detectives, intimacies, and ideas … but it’s all just me," the creator told The Hollywood Reporter. "That’s what makes it the same show." So if the first season of True Detective gave you faith in Pizzolatto, you should go into Season 2 with total confidence.
Images: Lacey Terrell/HBO (2), Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images