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Will TRUE DETECTIVE Season 3 Be a Western?

Will TRUE DETECTIVE Season 3 Be a Western?

Word is starting to circulate that a third season of True Detective is in the works, which is good news for fans of the mystery anthology series. Even better news is the fact that creator Nic Pizzolatto is teaming up with David Milch, of Deadwood fame, for this outing. The full extent of the collaboration has yet to be revealed, and it’s worth noting that HBO has not even greenlit this third season yet, but we can’t help but wonder: is True Detective season three shaping up to be a Western?

When considering the Western genre, one of the most famous and simple descriptions come from legendary director Sergio Leone. Describing the setting and atmosphere of his famous Dollars Trilogy, Leone said they are set in a world where “life has no value.” At their best, Westerns are bleak and lawless, painting justice–or frontier justice, as it became to be know–as the most elusive thing in the world.


The American Film Institute defines Westerns as films that “embody the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.” It’s the form that “new frontier” takes that allows the Western to be so malleable. Landscape and setting play a huge role in True Detective. Whether it’s the backwoods of Louisiana or the back alleys of Los Angeles, the landscape of the show is always a character.

After the very divisive second season came to an end, we pointed out that True Detective had set each story arc thematically around different genres. The beloved first season was steeped in what you’d call weird fiction, a detective story set to the tune of H.P. Lovecraft. The second season was an homage to film noir, with a huge cast of characters constantly betraying each other in search of a fabled set of blue diamonds. Both seasons were detective stories and driven by a murder mystery, but that’s where their similarities ended.


This leads us to the rumored third season and the edition of David Milch. Sure, we’re just spitballing at this point, but a Western framework would fit the True Detective series like a glove. Picture a nameless gunslinger who doesn’t fit in with civilized society, who ends up battling a corrupt sheriff while struggling for his own redemption.

The first two seasons play with the themes of outsiders struggling to fit into the chaos of the modern world. Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle and Rachel McAdams’ Ani Bezzerides embodied this role perfectly; characters who lived by a different code and had difficulty understanding the motivations and rules of “civilized society.” The contrast between the natural world and the world of concrete and structure played through these characters as vividly as the sweeping, establishing shots that defined the look of the show.

True Detective main

Westerns are often known as the genre of revenge and redemption; think Unforgiven or The Proposition. In True Detective, these motifs could be seen in characters like Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart. These were hard men with dark pasts who were looking to make things right in some small way. In both cases, this struggle for redemption led down a path of violence and destruction, which is often the case in these sort of stories.

Nic Pizzolatto is an expert at crafting characters and mood, but the addition of David Milch could be exactly what True Detective needs to craft its best season yet. Milch excels when it comes to dialogue and structure, two areas you could argue True Detective was lacking in. When you consider Milch’s expertise with molding the Western genre and its tropes, the notion that True Detective season three would head in a Western direction becomes very possible. Likely, even.


All this is to say that True Detective is ready and primed for a Western season. We’re not suggesting that the story be set on the frontier and feature a bunch of cowboys. We’re merely pointing out that the hallmarks of a good Western wonderfully into the world of True Detective, just like weird fiction fit into season one and noir fit into season two. And with Milch at the helm, it’s a prospect we’re interested in seeing out.

What would you think about a Western season of True Detective? Let us know!

Images: HBO

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