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True Detective: Night Country review: A gripping investigative drama spliced with elements of horror

The fourth season of HBO’s anthology investigative drama is the perfect blend of facets from the universally acclaimed first season as well as fresh concepts, both in terms of storytelling and themes.

True Detective: Night Country review: A gripping investigative drama spliced with elements of horror

Last Updated: 02.34 AM, Feb 28, 2024


Story: Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster), the Chief of Police of the fictional Alaskan town of Ennis, is tasked with the investigation of the shocking deaths of scientists from an arctic research facility called Tsalal. She reluctantly teams up with her former police partner, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) to solve the case, only to discover that the case is inexplicably linked to the brutal murder of an environmental activist, Annie Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen). As the winter brings endless nights in the small town, Liz and Evangeline must also come to terms with the eerie, and almost supernatural, events taking a grip over the case.


Review: The first season of the anthology series, True Detective, is arguably one of the best stories ever told on television. The first season, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in lead roles, probably set the benchmark too high for the seasons that followed. While both seasons two and three are on a higher pedestal than most investigative dramas on television, they are just a few levels shy of matching the vastly superior quality of the anthology that preceded them. Show creator Nic Pizzolatto handed over the reins of the fourth season to acclaimed Mexican writer and filmmaker Issa López, possibly in the hopes of rejuvenating the series with a fresh impetus. With the conclusion of the six-part fourth season titled, Night Country, it is more than safe to establish that López has crafted a compelling and deeply thought-provoking investigative drama series.


Unlike the first season of True Detective, the eerie atmosphere of the new setting is emphasised by its musical score and a town that is plunged into eternal darkness. The score leans on Native American music to signify the influence of their culture in the fictional Alaskan town of Ennis, located in a desolate region surrounded by the ice of Arctic winter. Night Country also teases the idea of a supernatural force influencing the people of Ennis. The writers have kept this ambiguous even towards the finale, compelling the audience to comprehend the story from their own perspective. The manner in which this is achieved across the narrative is quite remarkable, considering the fact until the penultimate episode the series gives one the impression that there would be too many loose ends to tie up before the season concluded. However, the finale offers a logical and rewarding explanation of the mystery, whilst leaving a few aspects to the imagination of the audience.


Jodie Foster's evolution from the young FBI agent Clarice Starling in the iconic film The Silence of the Lambs to the veteran Chief of Police in True Detective: Night Country, speaks volumes of her incredible career. She is yet again, simply outstanding, showcasing incredible range in her performance as Liz Danvers. Foster is able to find the right balance between Liz’s inner demons and her reluctance to be too attached to those around her. Kali Reis, a professional boxer in the infancy of her acting career, deserves plaudits for matching Foster every step of the way in her depiction of Trooper Evangeline Navarro. Reis delivers a nuanced performance of a character struggling with her own personal trauma of loss just like her partner Liz. Fellow relative newcomer Finn Bennett slips into the role of the young and enthusiastic Officer Peter Prior with aplomb, as do veterans Fiona Shaw as Rose Aguineau and John Hawkes as Captain Hank Prior.


In addition to its gripping story, Night Country also shares a few direct links to season one. The evil corporation that controls the mining company which is poisoning the water in Ennis is owned by Tuttle United, which is an obvious nod to the infamous and deranged Tuttle Cult in season one. However, despite these references, they are ultimately a homage to season one rather than introducing a larger conspiracy involving the Tuttles. Of course, the biggest and most obvious callback to season one is the introduction of Travis Cohle (Erling Eliasson), the deceased father of Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle. While these references certainly add a bit of mystery or even serve as misdirect to keep the audience guessing, the narrative does not pivot on them. They are merely incorporated to enhance the eerie atmosphere of the setting. The fourth season also examines themes of trauma, existentialism, and culture, and perpetuates them through allegories and symbolism.


Verdict: True Detective has delivered its best entry since HBO released the unassailable first season. The fourth season, titled Night Country, is rich in atmosphere, with a riveting mystery, and powerful performances by its cast led by Jodie Foster. Night Country compels the audience to interpret the story from their own perspective by leaving a few aspects of the narrative ambiguous. At a time when certain films and TV shows feel entitled to shoehorn expositions into their narratives, Night Country respects the intelligence of its audience to comprehend its story’s deeper meaning.



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