True Detective: Night Country is worth watching

Published 10:21 am Sunday, January 21, 2024

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TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY, the fourth season in the series, is my favorite yet. I know that is a big statement, especially with the popularity of season one, but I find this batch of episodes engrossing, engaging, and I love that it has such wonderful, diverse female representation behind and in front of the camera. More than anything, NIGHT COUNTRY is original and will constantly leave you guessing, which is a hard thing to do with crime thrillers. Show-runner/writer/director Issa López masterfully builds an atmosphere that will make you feel as isolated as the main characters, with your senses heightened as the Alaskan wilderness swirls around you. More than that, the six episode series never lingers or overstays its welcome… even if you won’t ever be able to watch FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF or hear The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” the same way again. 

In addition to having robust female representation, the plot of the season is a powerful reminder about the issue of native women going missing or murdered without the proper media or police attention paid to investigating what happened. And in NIGHT COUNTRY, a native woman’s murder case is the backdrop of the season, even if it is not the central mystery. 

Set in the secluded community of Ennis, Alaska as the days turn completely to darkness, the series focuses on Detective Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) as she investigates the strange deaths of scientists, who had been working at a nearby Arctic research station. When their frozen, naked bodies are found outside in the elements, it’s unclear how they got there… and who the potential murderer may be. The fact that the murdered native woman’s missing tongue is found at the research center, years after her death, only increases the speculation surrounding the case. With a history of clashes between the local indigenous community and a sketchy mining corporation, the suspect list is long, making Danvers and her estranged former partner Evangeline Navarro’s (Kali Reis) job that much more difficult. 

So much of the previous seasons have been male-driven, focused on the predominantly the detectives’ instability and self-doubt. But NIGHT COUNTRY is a female story through and through, with women dominating every aspect of the filmmaking process, to include encompassing supporting character roles. López is not afraid to show complicated female characters with a lot of baggage — women who aren’t always likable and their motivations aren’t entirely clear. 

The character development in the season is top-notch, skillfully using flashbacks throughout each episode to slowly reveal the backstories of the lead characters, including their complicated relationship with one another. Both Danvers and Navarro are haunted by their pasts, both in the case they were unable to solve and in their own personal tragedies. These ghosts permeate every scene, as chilling as the bleak and inhospitable Alaskan tundra. 

NIGHT COUNTRY is a lot more accessible than its predecessors in terms of keeping track of the plot. That does NOT mean it is a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Much like real-life, the series puts you in the mindset of its detective leads, having to keep track of dozens of people (many of whom are red herrings), multiple locations of interest, and several potential theories of what could be going on… all while contextualizing every interaction within the simmering culture clash. To put it simply, this isn’t the type of series you can turn your brain off and enjoy; you need to be firing on all cylinders. But when you get to the season’s final moments, believe me it’s worth the wait. 

True Detective Night Country will air weekly on HBO and will be available to stream on Max starting Jan. 14 at 9 p.m.