TV Review: True Detective: Night Country – 8/10

‘We’re just not asking the right questions…’

Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto seemingly emerged fully formed as an exciting and distinctive new voice in television with the stunning first season of True Detective in 2014. Two middling seasons followed, however, with Pizzolatto eventually replaced for season four by Mexican writer-director Issa Lopez. This seems to have caused some consternation in certain dark corners of the internet, probably because Lopez has the temerity to be both Mexican and a woman. It is also safe to presume that diverse casting and a female-centred storyline haven’t helped matters with some people either. This is all nonsense, of course. As ever, the only relevant question is whether or not True Detective season four (subheaded Night Country) is actually any good or not…

We open with eight men going missing in the town of Ennis, Alaska and spend six episodes discovering what happened to these men. Police Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) attempt to unfold this mystery whilst also considering an unsolved murder case from years before. As the audience, it is clear from the off that we are entering a complex and nuanced world in which each relationship comes pre-packaged with years of baggage and history. One of Night Country’s main strengths is how it gradually peels back the layers of mystery that make up the inter-character relationships whilst still ensuring that all the various narrative threads hang together in a way that makes sense. Lopez herself said that she was influenced by John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Shining and Alien when writing this fourth season and the result is a TV show that is darker and more indebted to horror than any of the previous entries. More recent influences include Nordic noir and Mare of Easttown with that show’s protagonist Mare Sheehan the closest comparison we have to Foster’s hard-boiled Danvers. It’s a wonderful performance from Foster. World-weary, complex and frequently hilarious despite the darkness that is always bubbling just under the surface. 

Although Pizzolatto has petulantly described season four as “stupid” on social media, this is undoubtedly the best entry into the True Detective canon since that stunning debut season, and the fact that Night Country overtly references season one on numerous occasions feels earned rather than forced. This is a season of television that features numerous memorable moments (one scream of anguish, in particular, will stay with me for a long time) as well as a finale to rival anything in the True Detective oeuvre. 

Night Country is dark, memorable and unique – television as cinema.