Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

Time may be a flat circle. But four years is a long time for any show to be off the air.

True Detective returned for its third season Sunday night to solid-ish yet lower numbers than its second outing.

The return of the crime anthology series, this time starring Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, racked up 2.3 million viewers across three telecasts for its first episode. The show then held onto 1.6 million viewers for its second episode (across two telecasts), which aired immediately afterward on the same night.

Back when season 2 debuted in 2015, True Detective had 3.2 million viewers for its first episode. Sunday’s performance is more in line with the 2.3 million viewers the show had for its series debut back in 2014 before the title became a pop culture sensation.

The new episodes are actually getting far better reviews than the second season, and social media reactions were generally positive. The show perhaps needs a bit more time to shake off the buzz of season 2 and for word to spread that the series is back.

Also, HBO shows often climb gradually in the ratings as a season continues on thanks to streaming and on-demand viewing (which were far less of a factor four years ago) and these numbers are not a terrible launch platform. Plus True Detective still outperformed the openings of some other HBO debuts in recent years like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies.

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True Detective
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