Matthew McConaughey recently stirred up some folks by saying that yes, he misses playing Rust Cohle and, yes, he would consider reprising that character, if given the right opportunity.
“Would you ever consider going back,” his interviewer asked him. “Yeah, I would,” McConaughey answered.
This fueled some speculation and some argument. Questions like what would Rust Cohle do if he returned to the screen? And, is his narrative not finished? Would it be a prequel, of his days in Alaska or Texas? The story of the loss of his wife and daughter? Or a sequel, in which he goes after the last remnants of the cult of the Yellow King?
There is also a valid point regarding the how of this. Would he return in a third season of True Detective? And if so, wouldn’t that be in direct conflict with the anthology nature of this HBO series? True Detective has been established as an anthology series, in which each season tells its own, independent tale, similar to American Horror Story (in which each season stands alone) or Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Tales from the Crypt (in which individual episodes stand alone.)
To establish something as an anthology series, but then backtrack and decide that no, nah, it’s not that anymore. Is there any anthology series that just stopped being one? Where they said “let’s go back to the story from the first installment”? Is there any other precedent?
Yes, there is: the Halloween film series.
How Halloween started and then stopped being an anthology series
The first Halloween invited a direct sequel: it ended with a killer at-large, with victims still standing, and with a strong showing at the box office. And it got that sequel, three years later. But with the sequel came a clear resolution: the killer, Michael Myers, was unambiguously dead, his story resolved.
From there, the team behind Halloween decided that to continue with the franchise, it could only be as an anthology film series. Which is why, one year after Halloween 2, we got Halloween 3: The Season of The Witch, a critically-panned box office failure with zero canonical connection to the first two Halloweens. Where the first Halloweens were slasher films, this film tilted toward sci-fi horror.
Was the reaction to Halloween 3 as dramatic as the reaction to True Detective 2? Not quite. It’s not a perfect corollary, in that Halloween II: The Nightmare Isn’t Over and its mediocre reviews and box office (40% score on Metacritic, $25 million) falls between Halloweens I and III.
However, it’s fair to say that Halloween 3: The Season of the Witch and True Detective’s second season are both, in their own rights, largely considered to be failures. (Although, yes, I do have a history of defending the second season.)
Will Rust and Marty follow in the footsteps of Michael Myers?
There is currently zero clarity regarding a third season of HBO. Some speculate that it will return, while others are certain it will not. And this is another place that it could resemble the Halloween series. After Halloween 3, it looked as if Halloween would never return. Nothing happened for years, until Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers came out in 1988, a decade after the first film’s release.
With nothing announced regarding the fate of True Detective, it will be years between the second and third seasons, if a third season ever arrives.
The Precedence of Corrective Sequels
Of course, there are other times that we have seen what one could call a “corrective sequel,” although usually these occur after a failed reboot or requel, rather than after a failed effort at being an anthology series. It is nothing novel for a film series to return to its roots—and its original star or stars—when the efforts at expanding in new directions fails.
Some examples of “corrective sequels” include:
- The upcoming Jason Bourne film returns with the same writer, director, and star. The fourth film in the series, The Bourne Legacy, featured zero Matt Damon but did have Jeremy Renner as another guy with a similar situation.
- Fast and Furious, the fourth installment in that never-ending franchise, brought back the leads from the first two films, after the films forayed into Asia with Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and none of the original cast (aside from a cameo by Mr. Diesel.)
- Terminator: Genisys brought back Arnold as The Terminator, plus returned to the themes of time travel and an endangered Sarah Conor – all things that were absent in 2009’s Terminator: Salvation.
- Even the latest Star Wars film could be considered a corrective sequel, in its return to the cast and settings of the original Star Wars trilogy.
Of course, these are all more conventional than the situations of Halloween and True Detective, as none of these series ever claimed to be “anthologies.” Rather, they are the natural consequences of the Hollywood sequel machine and its endless drive to whip every horse until it has given its last dollar.
Do Rust and Marty Deserve to Return?
The question remains: is the Halloween franchise really something that you want to imitate? Its history has been one identity crisis after another. Its various sequels, and its 2007 reboot, haven’t exactly been considered “good.” That, and there is the other obvious distinction: Halloween is film series, while True Detective is a television series.
Forget Halloween for a moment. As indicated by the list above, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a corrective sequel. Fast Five is universally considered the best film in the Fast & Furious Franchise, and Jason Bourne looks to be just as good as anything that has preceded it. If the right talent is involved—a caveat that McConaughey has made clear he would require in order to become Rust again—then returning to the roots of a series can be a very good thing.
So perhaps Halloween isn’t a fair example, even if it’s the one and only example of an attempted anthology series that ultimately became a regular ol’ film series.
The biggest rule for the next season of True Detective should be this: it has to be good.