“True Detective” season 3, debuting on HBO Jan. 13 and filmed and set in Northwest Arkansas, is a return form for the anthology series, critics seem to agree. That’s good news. Because Arkansas has so few moments in popular culture, you were obligated to watch it to support the scenery and local extras and so you could knowingly tell your spouse, “They fished that dead body out of the Monte Ne ruins.” So I’m glad to hear people think it’s worthwhile.

Nic Pizzolatto, who went to graduate school at the University of Arkansas, created and executive produced the show. North Little Rock screenwriter Graham Gordy was a writer and consulting producer on episodes five through eight. He tagged in for David Milch when Milch left the show to make the “Deadwood” feature film.

I’m thrilled that our regular movie reviewer Sam Eifling will be recapping the series for us every week.

Here’s the early critical roundup:

From Variety:

“True Detective” springs, sprightly and with confident assurance, from a years-long absence. Its last episode aired in August 2015, a lifetime ago and a hiatus that saw HBO debut “Big Little Lies” and “Sharp Objects,” Jean-Marc Vallée’s two wild riffs on the mystery genre. The new season of “Detective” may not hit the operatic highs of those more bombastically edited series, but it’s a compelling and worthy example of a tradition that goes back even further than the first season of “Detective.” Like a good investigator, the show is methodically working a case. It’s digging through the kind of clues that were embedded in past seasons’ trajectories and in the mystery genre more broadly, and it produces clear evidence that a crime story, done simply and well — without elaborate thematic digressions or stuntiness — can punch above its weight even in a crowded TV landscape.

From Indiewire:

With strong performances all-around — and a flat-out remarkable turn from Mahershala Ali — HBO’s third season benefits from reliable genre elements, a compelling central story, and aesthetics as lush as they are eerie.

From Vox:

In some ways, True Detective season three is a baldfaced redo of season one. But maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Given a 3.5-year respite to either go fallow or diminish expectations, True Detective returns to HBO in January with a third season that may be hailed as a full comeback by those with a short memory, but actually falls into that vast middle ground as less nuanced and rich than the start of the first season yet still in most ways superior to whatever you’ve been trying to repress about the second. At the very least, the new True Detective season is a three-tiered showcase for Mahershala Ali, who stays consistently mesmerizing even if the mystery around him does not.