The immediate reaction on Twitter and Reddit proved that the Mahershala Ali effect is very real and very strong:

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Ali has single-handedly brought True Detective back from the dead. There are few, if any, other actors who wield such enormous power to overcome what had become an internet joke.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the new season will necessarily be good—it just means that people will watch it, and HBO made a smart decision by centering the show’s revival around as uncontroversial a talent as possible.

And indeed, a closer look reveals that this new season contains certain elements that plagued the prior season: Writer-creator Nic Pizzolatto will again write every episode himself (except for one in which he shares credit with NYPD Blue creator David Milch). The director of the series, Jeremy Saulnier, exited after just two episodes amid rumors of clashes with Pizzolatto. Saulnier was replaced by Daniel Sackheim, an HBO veteran and savvy TV director who counts installments of Game of ThronesThe Leftovers, and The Americans to his name—but behind-the-scenes drama and director turnover rarely turns out well.

Perhaps it won’t matter. Perhaps Ali really can redeem the show himself. We won’t know until January 2019, when the new season debuts, but HBO has be thrilled that fans are at least willing to give it another chance.

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