'True Detective': 3 Takeaways from the New Season 3 Trailer

HBO has released a full-length trailer for season three of True Detective, and it offers up a deeper — and somewhat clarifying — look at how the new case will play out.

The new season, due Jan. 13, stars Mahershala Ali as Wayne Hays, a detective in northwest Arkansas who's haunted by a case from his past. Stephen Dorff and Carmen Ejogo also star.

The trailer offers up several hints at what's to come when the show resets after a critical drubbing for season two way back in 2015. Above is the trailer, followed by three key takeaways from it.

Back to What Worked?

The trailer hints at a structure similar to season one, which bounced back and forth between the 1990s, when Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) investigated a gruesome killing, and the present day, when they were interrogated about what happened.

In season three, Hays catches a case involving two missing kids in 1980; gets interrogated (by a character played by Josh Hopkins) about it some years later; and remains haunted by it as an elderly man. The structure of season one, Cohle and Hart sometimes acting as unreliable narrators, played a part in capturing audiences' attention; creator Nic Pizzolatto appears to be going back to that structure after the second season's more straightforward story. 

Mahershala Ali Will Carry the Show

Where season one was largely a two-hander with McConaughey and Harrelson, and season two split its focus between Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Taylor Kitsch, Oscar winner Ali (Moonlight) is unquestionably at the center of season three. He has relationships with the characters played by Dorff, his partner on the initial case, and Ejogo, a teacher of one of the missing kids and, as seen in the first teaser for the season, later his romantic partner, but it's clearly a star vehicle for him.

Time Is Still a Flat Circle

Where Cohle and Hart were at times covering up misdeeds in their past, Hays comes across as genuinely unsure of his memories of the 1980 case. "I never stop coming up with theories about that case," he tells his interrogator.

The line that seems destined to become enshrined in pop culture, a la McConaughey's "Time is a flat circle" comment in season one, comes from Hopkins' character: "What you don't remember, you don't know you don't remember." The trailer is not subtle about Hays' foggy memory being central to the story of True Detective season three, and that line seems to be the key.

True Detective returns Jan. 13 on HBO.