It’s not uncommon for authors to repeat themes, incidents, and character types. John Irving, for instance, has a prostitute in nearly all his books. Richard Russo’s novels are the same character types all swapped around, and they’re always either in Maine or upstate New York. Aaron Sorkin is famous for repeating lines and storylines in all of his shows.
Basically, you write what you know, but when it’s a murder mystery, it helps to shake things up. Nic Pizzolatto may have added two additional lead characters in season two of True Detective, but the mystery plot itself followed a very familiar trajectory if you’ve seen season one of True Detective. In both seasons, he basically hooked his storyline on a murder that he buried under a conspiracy, and, in both cases, that dead body in the opening episode ended up something of a MacGuffin: It was fairly unimportant to the overall plot.
To really get a sense about how much Pizzolatto borrowed from himself, it helps to visualize it. Here are 10 ways in which Pizzolatto very obviously repeated himself in season two.