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Mahershala Ali Gives the Past a Long, Hard Stare in the Trailer for True Detective Season 3

Actor Mahershala Ali stares into the camera in a still from True Detective.
Mahershala Ali, haunted by his past. HBO

HBO released the first trailer for True Detective Season 3 on Sunday, and it looks like Nic Pizzolatto’s noir series is returning to its flashback-heavy roots after the complicated maze that was the second season. Each season of True Detective has its own cast and its own story; the third outing will star Mahershala Ali. Here’s a first look:

According to HBO, the season will take place in three distinct time periods as Ali’s character investigates a particularly horrible crime in the Ozarks. As with previous seasons, there’s an impressive array of talent working on True Detective. Ali, who just won an Academy Award for his performance in Moonlight, knows a thing or two about stories that span multiple decades, and this time around his character gets to be in all three timelines. And the season’s first two episodes are from director Jeremy Saulnier, whose feature Blue Ruin is a model example of a film that takes violence seriously without taking itself too seriously, which was a problem area for previous seasons of True Detective. So there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the show’s return, even for people who found the second season to be a slog.

But there’s only one question true True Detective detectives have about the third season, and the trailer doesn’t answer it: Where is the Yellow King? For more on this, here’s a video essay about one of True Detective’s most enduring mysteries, which Pizzolatto has stubbornly refused to clear up:

With any luck, audiences will get a chance to learn more about the mysterious Yellow King when True Detective returns in January.