Time is a flat circle, and "True Detective" fans are standing smack dab in the middle of the thing right now.
The HBO anthology crime series returns tonight after more than a year off the air, featuring a new cast, setting and story than the ones that made season one such a water-cooler event. But even without many of the show's most familiar ingredients in place, there's one central holdover: Nic Pizzolatto, the writer of the series, and the man responsible for all the darkness that ensues. If it was the story and themes of "True Detective" that drew you to the show in the first place, then season two is in comfortable hands.
Here's everything else you need to know about season two before it premieres:
The McConaissance is over.HBO
At least as far as "True Detective" goes. Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, the detectives played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively, closed the case of the Yellow King by the end of season one, and won't be back here for another adventure. The last image of them as older men, wounded but healing as they gaze up at the stars, is the last we'll ever see of them — for now, at least.
Two becomes four.HBO
Before season two began production, and even before season one finished, fans tossed out their picks for who should replace McConaughey and Harrelson, thanks to the #TrueDetectiveSeason2 meme. But every rumor and suggestion for twosomes flew out the window in favor of a foursome: Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch are your new true detectives.
Four becomes three.HBO
Subtract Vaughn from the equation, because he's not a detective at all. He's Frank Semyon, a career criminal looking to go legit. Those plans are flipped upside down when the story's central murder has direct ties to Frank.
Threes becomes a cop.HBO
Taylor Kitsch, the erstwhile Tim Riggins, trades in his signature Dillon Panthers "33" jersey for a badge and a gun as Paul Woodrugh, a motorcycle cop working for the California Highway Patrol. He's a war veteran dealing with his fair share of personal issues when the story begins.
"True Detective" becomes a "Wedding Crashers" reunion.HBO
Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams didn't have too much screen time together in the 2005 comedy, but here they are together again all the same. McAdams joins season two of "True Detective" as Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff's detective with methods all her own.
Farrell becomes McConaughey.HBO
Only in the sense that he's got the long hair and mustache to show for it — and potentially the outside-the-box worldview, too. Farrell stars in "True Detective" as Ray Velcoro, a crooked California cop who deals with the law in his own way. Not exactly a by-the-books kind of guy.
Season two gets "Furious."Getty Images
Justin Lin, director of every "Fast and Furious" movie from "Tokyo Drift" through part six, directed two of the new "True Detective" episodes. He's not overseeing everything, ala Cary Fukunaga during season one, but critics say Lin's work sets the tone for season two. If that tone means "family first" and "all of the explosions," then season two should be an interesting ride, if a bit of a bumpy one.
It's not season one…HBO
The story is different, the setting is different, the faces in front of the camera are different, the man behind the camera is different. There's simply no way it can capture the same lightning-in-a-bottle feel of the first season of "True Detective," plain and simple.
...but it's still "True Detective."HBO
Expect brooding protagonists, an even moodier mystery, murderous mayhem and a pervasive sense of dread to wash all over your television screens over the next eight weeks. Even if "True Detective" can never be what it was before, that doesn't mean it can't be something great all on its own. Buckle up and get ready for the ride.