Although audiences may have thought they'd seen the last of HBO's anthology series when the second season took one of the most severe critical drubbings in recent memory, it appears that Season 3 of True Detective may be happening after all. The long-awaited news comes a full year and a half since the divisive Season 2 aired its finale in August 2015. And while HBO has yet to renew the show, Entertainment Weekly announced this Monday that the network has hired David Milch, the former Deadwood showrunner, to work on True Detective Season 3 alongside creator Nic Pizzolatto.
According to EW's report, "Pizzolatto has penned at least the first two episodes for a potential third edition of the acclaimed anthology crime drama," which has yet to be officially green-lit. And while the Deadwood creator's involvement is exciting news, the exact role he'll play in the hypothetical season remains mysterious. "The extent of Pizzolatto and Milch's collaboration is still early days and not yet formalized," per EW. "Obviously, Milch's experience as a writer will be a key component, but for the record he's not expected to serve as the True Detective showrunner (at this stage, there is no specified season 3 showrunner)."
So, what is Milch's involvement in True Detective? The man isn't a director, and if he's not being made the new showrunner, then what will his duties be exactly? So far, one of the things that has distinguished the anthology series is the fact that Pizzolatto himself has personally written every single episode of both seasons. (Novelist Scott Lasser had co-writing credit on two of Season 2's episodes alongside Pizzolatto.) Is HBO changing that up for Season 3? Are they hoping to fix the mistakes made in the second season by giving other writers a chance to pen episodes? Or will Milch simply be serving in some advisory capacity?
While we wait for confirmation on those questions, there is one group of people out there who probably won't be cheering this particular development: Deadwood fans, for whom any news about Milch working on anything other than that long-awaited Deadwood movie is bad news. (A similar phenomenon to how news of George R.R. Martin doing anything other than writing the next Game Of Thrones book always comes across as a huge annoyance to his fans.) But for everyone else, this should absolutely be good news; Milch may be exactly the person HBO needs to resuscitate its tarnished True Detective brand.
Over 10 years after its abrupt cancellation, Deadwood remains one of HBO's most beloved and critically acclaimed shows… as evidenced by the fact that fans are still clamoring for a revival a decade later. Premiering in 2004 — after the likes of Oz (which debuted in 1997), The Sopranos (1999), and The Wire (2002), but before Rome (2005), True Blood (2008), and Boardwalk Empire (2010) — Milch's show was an influential one for the premium network.
Not only did Deadwood (a Western which took place in a mining town in 1870s Dakota territory) prove that the creative and critical success of its predecessors wasn't a fluke, but it also signaled a seismic shift for HBO: a willingness to branch out from the contemporary crime dramas that typified the early era of the channel's original programming, and into more elaborate period and genre fare that it has since become known for — culminating of course in the 2011 premiere of Game Of Thrones.
Some people still refer to Deadwood as the best show HBO has ever made, but it's not Milch's sole claim to fame. He was also a writer on some of television's most formative dramas that paved the way for our current Golden Era of TV: shows like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Murder One, and NYPD Blue — the latter of which he created alongside Steve Bochco.
After Deadwood, Milch also created two other shows for HBO: the surreal surfing drama John From Cincinnati and the horse racing saga Luck. Although neither quite replicated the success of Deadwood (they were both canceled after one season), they still earned strong reviews and attracted top-tier talent to the network, including Oscar nominees like Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.
Milch's formational experience with acclaimed crime procedurals and his more recent experience with more diverse and ambitious fare should be a potent combination for working on True Detective, which mixes its traditional crime story structure with more heady metaphysical and genre trappings — sometimes to spectacular success… and sometimes not.
Hopefully with Milch onboard — in whatever capacity — True Detective Season 3 will be more of the "spectacular success" variety.