True Detective Is Better Without Its Butthurt Creator

By Robert Scucci | Published

true detective

If you want know what sour grapes smell like, all you need to do is head on over to Nic Pizzolatto’s Instagram page and take a whiff of his most recent post about season 4 of True Detective. The anthology series’ creator and former showrunner has taken to the internet to air out his grievances about the direction the series is going, and there’s nothing worse than watching a grown man complain about his own creation after handing creative control over to somebody who wants to push the series into new and exciting territory. Between his ungracious response to the show moving on without him and the mixed quality after the stellar first season, it’s clear the series is better off in someone else’s hands.

Pizzolatto Helped Change TV

true detective season 1

On his Instagram post, Pizzolatto opened the floor for trolling and infighting among True Detective fans, but comments have since been capped and removed from the post entirely as of this writing.

For context, Nic Pizzolatto kicked off what many critics and viewers considered to be the new “golden age of television drama” with True Detective‘s first season. Across eight episodes, we bore witness to one of the most compelling mysteries we’ve seen thanks to the natural on-screen chemistry between Matthew McConaughey’s nihilistic yet extremely relatable protagonist, Rustin Cole, and his partner, Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart, who functioned as the perfect foil. Using non-linear storytelling (time is a flat circle, after all), we were slowly clued into a murder investigation that spanned 17 years as their partnership became strained, which made for inherently compelling storytelling.

It Jumped The Shark Early

true detective

But what goes up must come down, and season 2 of True Detective fell off hard in both critical reception and viewership. While season 1 was a high-water mark for the series, garnering a 91 percent critical score against an audience score of 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the neo-noir vibe that season 2 offered was met with a 47 percent critical score against an audience score of 25 percent. Though we’ve got to give Pizzolatto credit for not wanting to rest on his laurels, one could argue that he was a little too ambitious with his season 1 followup.

No One Liked Season 2

true detective

Looking back at season 2 today, it’s actually not that bad … just wildly different from what season 1 of True Detective had to offer. When it comes to anthology series, each new season stands to alienate the audience, as expectations don’t always necessarily align with the end result. It goes without question that Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Vince Vaughn knew the assignment, but the assignment itself lacked the charm and comic relief that McConaughey and Harrelson brought to the series in season 1.

In other words, season 2 of True Detective fell flat in delivering a well-rounded narrative with a satisfying conclusion, but honestly, it deserves a second chance. If you were to watch season 2 in a vacuum without knowing what preceded it, it makes for a solid viewing experience. But comparison is the thief of joy, so here we are.

Critics Loved Season 3, Fans Weren’t As Convinced

Season 3 of True Detective marked a return to form for the series, but still couldn’t live up to the former glory of its first season. While the critical consensus was mostly positive – and overwhelmingly pointing to a powerhouse performance by lead actor Mahershala Ali – its critical score of 84 percent was largely offset by its audience score of 54 percent. While the storytelling was on point, fans of the series felt that the egregious exposition dumps felt patronizing and ultimately led to an underwhelming ending after so much buildup.

The important takeaway here is that the first three seasons of True Detective were the brainchild of Nic Pizzolatto.

Night Country

true detective: night country

Season 4, which just finished its own six-episode run, marks the first time that he wasn’t involved in the creative process, though he is still attached to the project as an executive producer. And thanks to the writing and show-running capabilities of Issa López, season 4 has won over critics with a 92 percent critical score, but received mixed reviews from audiences.

Season 4’s Finale

Most importantly, season 4’s finale has the highest viewing numbers across the entire True Detective series despite its less-than-desirable audience score of 58 percent, which must have left a bad taste in Pizzolatto’s mouth. He encouraged trolling on his personal Instagram page and has gone on record criticizing the season for having sloppy writing despite the fact that Jodie Foster and Kali Reis absolutely earned their keep as the first two strong female lead detectives in the series.

Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away

It certainly seems like Nic Pizzolatto is a bit jealous that True Detective’s 4th season did what he couldn’t do since season 1: receive universal critical acclaim along with a high viewership. While he’s busy burning bridges with HBO because of his willingness to bury his creation with insults instead of celebrating the redemption that the series so desperately needs, we can’t help but wonder if True Detective is better off without him.