An unsolved double murder case plays out over decades in Season 3 of HBO’s ‘True Detective’

‘True Detective’ turns macabre in Season 3

Carmen Ejogo and Mahershala Ali star in Season 3 of “True Detective,” beginning Sunday on HBO.

The unsolved murder of two schoolchildren rocks an Arkansas community and haunts a detective over the course of decades as HBO’s “True Detective” returns for a rather macabre third season this week.

As the new season opens Sunday, Jan. 13, it’s 2015 and retired West Finger, Ark., state police detective Wayne Hays (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”) is asked to recall the details of the 1980 disappearance of two preteens for a true-crime documentary, a mystery that has deepened over the decades. The action then flashes back to the investigation that Hays and fellow detective Roland West (Stephen Dorff, “Somewhere”) spearheaded with the help of local schoolteacher Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo, “Born to Be Blue”).

As the story plays out over three separate timelines – the 1980 crime, new developments in the case in 1990 and Hays’ recollections in 2015 – we learn that Reardon turns out to be a key player in the original investigation, having been the children’s teacher, and that she and Hays had become involved.

“Because of that position that she has in the community, she has access to people and information that even the detectives don’t really have,” the British actress explains. “So she becomes a very useful tool within the investigation. She then starts a relationship with Wayne and she also becomes a writer. She decides to write a sort of ‘In Cold Blood’-type book about the community and how it’s affected by this devastating crime. And as the show goes on, you realize that she is incredibly instrumental in helping to figure out what’s happened.”

Mahershala Ali and Carmen Ejogo star in Season 3 of “True Detective,” beginning Sunday on HBO.

Ejogo says she was originally attracted to the project after reading the script and learning that Ali wanted her for the role. She also credits series creator, writer and producer Nic Pizzolatto with making the character “an amazing female protagonist” and a “self-actualizing woman.”

“She’s somebody who, within a marriage and having become a mother, is also trying to sort of realize her own personal ambitions,” Ejogo says, “and in the process of doing that she presents a really very interesting and complex and dimensional woman on screen.”

But Amelia’s growth, it turns out, is hard for her husband to take.

“I don’t think I’ve seen very much on screen where you really start to watch the deterioration of a man, the emasculation even, perhaps, of a man, who is having to learn how to be with a woman that is growing in that way,” Ejogo says.

“The show really is a meditation on what love is, on what is time, how did it affect people,” she continues. “So it becomes clearer and clearer that for Wayne, as he gets older, Amelia is the person that he is really fixated on in that sense. So she becomes very much a recurring persona in his memories, in his thoughts.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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