Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for True Detective: Night Country Episode 4.


The Big Picture

  • New information and developments make the characters of True Detective: Night Country more developed.
  • Some of the elements included in the fourth episode should have been brought up earlier.
  • The excessive needle drops take away some of the show’s impact.

There’s something strange about the fourth episode of True Detective’s fourth season, True Detective: Night Country. Previous recaps have criticized the show’s lack of success in making us care for its main characters’ personal lives, even though they play an important role in the overarching story. This problem stems from a few things. The many personal matters just don’t seem to be of any consequence when there’s something as showy and creepy as the Tsalal case going on. Furthermore, Elizabeth Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), the series’ pair of hardened detectives, are just so deprived of any charm or redeeming characteristics that it makes it hard to care about them. But, perhaps most importantly, the show fails to establish the relevance of its private dramas in its hurry to create a mystery that not only confounds but scares audiences. For three episodes now, the ties linking stories such as the mental health issues of Navarro’s sister and Danvers’ lost son to the bigger horrors going on at Ennis seemed to be way too loose, if not nonexistent. Now, as we venture into the night country, they start to become a little stronger.

And that’s what feels so weird about True Detective: Night Country Episode 4: its pacing is off. To make us fully understand what’s at stake in the lives of Detective Danvers and Navarro, at least parts of the plot should have been included in some of the first three episodes. Instead, it is only now, in the second half of the season, that we are allowed to fully glimpse at — though not quite yet comprehend — what actually moves our two protagonists, apart from their obsession with the job or with an unsolved case. We’re talking about moments such as the one in which Danvers asks Pete Prior (Finn Bennett) to pick up Navarro to follow a lead on Christmas Eve right after being dumped by Leah (Isabella LaBlanc), showing us that her broken family is what motivates her to ruin his life, forcing him to become just as lonely as she is. We’re also talking about Navarro’s certainty that she’s the next victim in a line of cursed women, about to fall prey to the same thing that has taken her mother and, now, her sister.

Episode 4 of True Detective: Night Country is a conclusion of sorts. It is the culmination of a lot of what we have seen before: Navarro’s relationship with Julia (Aka Niviâna), Danvers’ relationship with Leah, Hank’s (John Hawkes) relationship with his Russian bride, who is definitely scamming him… Still, some of its elements feel like they could have been offered to the audience a little earlier, just to keep us tuned to both sides of a story that is slowly revealing itself to be not just about a mystery, but also about the people trying to solve it.

True Detective

Anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law.

Release Date
January 12, 2014

Creator
Nic Pizzolatto

Main Genre
Crime

Seasons
4

Studio
HBO

Streaming Service(s)
Max


‘True Detective: Night Country’ Episode 4 Gives Insight Into Navarro’s Fears

Let’s focus on Navarro’s alleged curse. Episode 4 of True Detective: Night Country has the disgraced detective committing her sister to a mental health facility, only to lose her on the same night to suicide. It all begins when Danvers runs into Julia running around half-naked in the streets of Ennis. She immediately calls Navarro, who takes Julia to the Lighthouse and promises her that things will be better this time. This, however, is a promise that she can’t keep, and after being tormented by a vision of her dead mother under her bed, Julia escapes the Lighthouse and marches into the freezing sea, her clothes left behind neatly folded like those of the Tsalal men.

This tragic incident, accompanied by one of the show’s many needle drops that kind of take away its impact, serves as a window into Navarro’s true feelings. Upon learning of her sister’s death, the officer unleashes all of her rage, first on one of the Lighthouse’s orderlies, then on a man whom she arrested in Episode 1 for violently assaulting a female coworker. The man, however, is backed up by a couple of friends, and Navarro ends up having to run to Qavvik (Joel Montgrand) to get her face and her knee fixed. After a good cry, she drops by Danvers’ place where she reveals her fears of becoming ill — or cursed — just like her mother and Julia. Her tough exterior is slightly cracked, allowing us a view of the person beneath it, and the character that has graced our screens for the past three episodes sure needed something like that.

Likewise, Danvers needed her ultimate fight with Leah to let us into what makes her tick in her relationship with her fellow police officers, particularly her subordinates. Upon learning that Leah has defaced the mines’ headquarters with graffiti that spells “murderers,” Danvers is left all alone on Christmas Eve as her daughter takes off to spend the night with Pete’s wife and mother. It is, then, clearly out of bitterness and revenge that she orders Pete to go with Navarro to Oliver Tagaq’s (Lance Karmer) to follow a lead about the power being cut off both in Annie’s (Nivi Pedersen) death video and on Molina’s (Pablo Anibal Frana) final livestream. For three episodes, we have understood her solely as a grumpy boss, but we now know that there is more to her hostile personality. This impression is confirmed by Connelly (Christopher Eccleston) when he says that the death of her husband and child has turned her into an even more disagreeable person to work with.

These small pieces prove to be essential for putting together the puzzles that are Navarro and Danvers — puzzles that we didn’t even know existed as showrunner Issa López insisted on presenting her characters as unidimensional. But there are still some personal side plots that feel completely pointless in the grand scheme of things. The constant nods to Danvers’ sex life, which involves multiple affairs with married men, from Connelly to high school science teacher Bryce (Donnie Keshawarz), lead to nothing in particular. Neither Danvers’ characterization nor the plot is altered by this info. At the same time, Hank’s drama with his Russian bride, who, in this episode, leaves him waiting for her at the airport, does nothing but fill up screen time.

The Spiral Returns in ‘True Detective: Night Country’ Episode 4

While these personal dramas take center stage once more, this time with a little more significance, the Tsalal case and Annie’s murder aren’t completely abandoned. In her drunken Christmas solitude, Danvers becomes obsessed with the video found on Annie’s phone and notices that there is a change in the lighting at the end of the footage. It’s a kind of change that reminds her of the sudden power cut on Molina’s video, which indicates that there was some sort of electrical lighting in the ice cave — not a mine! — that Annie was exploring when she was killed. Pete and Navarro are tasked with having a chat with Tagaq, Tsalal’s former engineer, about it. Alas, they reach his cabin only to find it completely abandoned in the freezing cold. On the floor, they bump into the spiral that Annie and Clark (Owen McDonnell) had tattooed on their bodies drawn on a piece of cardboard and a rock. Before being ushered out of the cabin by Tagaq’s neighbors, Navarro picks up the rock, which she then loses in her uncontrolled grief.

Now, this spiral is an element that has been present on nearly all the clues pertaining to the Tsalal case and calls all the way back to Season 1 of True Detective. This is dangerous territory for López, particularly considering that we are talking about an anthology series. The ideal thing for True Detective: Night Country would be for it to be a story closed in and of itself, with previous seasons of the show brought back as nothing but Easter eggs. With the Tuttle family having been brought up in previous episodes as connected to the Tsalal research station, this overreliance on the past is a bit concerning. Still, for now, let’s just wait and see where all this spiraling will take us in the upcoming two episodes.

Thankfully, not everything is swirly in the new developments of the Tsalal case. Having asked Pete to look into other instances of people with injuries similar to the ones presented by the dead researchers, Danvers learns of a 1998 unsolved case in which a man named Otis Heiss (Klaus Tange) was found with his eyes scratched out and ruptured eardrums. After a conversation with Bryce, Danvers finds out that Heiss was the one responsible for mapping out the cave system in which Annie was seemingly killed before being transported to the mine. There is only one problem: Heiss has gone completely off the grid, and as a German national, there is absolutely no record of him anywhere in the U.S.

‘True Detective: Night Country’ Episode 4 Wraps up With a Chilling Conclusion

Fiona Shaw Rose Guineau and Kali Reis as Evangeline Navarro sharing a candelight dinner in True Detective: Night Country.
Image via HBO

This all changes, though, when some local fishermen catch a glimpse of someone walking on the ice near the deactivated dredges. Believing the person to be Clark — after all, the picture the fishermen took shows someone wearing his coat — Navarro and Danvers get ready to apprehend the suspect of killing the Tsalal scientists. What they don’t know is that they are in for one of the scariest moments of the series so far, losing only to the discovery of the corpsicle. Inside one of the vessels, Danvers follows the man she believes to be Clark only to come face to face with an elderly Heiss, one of his eyes completely gone. It’s a nice parallel to the polar bear with just one eye that pops up twice in this episode, once as a plushie and once as the real deal.

As Heiss has a cryptic conversation with Danvers, in which he claims that Clark is “hiding in the night country,” Navarro follows a vision of her naked sister. It’s the second vision we see her have in this episode: in a flashback, we learn that she also saw the ghost of a woman upon arriving at the scene of that alleged murder-suicide that soured her relationship with Danvers. Alone in the dark, she comes across a Christmas tree, near which she sees her sister, her mouth completely agape, just like the woman from all those years ago. When Danvers is reunited with her, Navarro is no longer the same. Sitting on the floor, she looks completely lost, bleeding from her ears as Heiss declares that “we are all in the night country now.” It’s a chilling ending, one that reminds us that, even though True Detective: Night Country can lose steam from time to time, it remains a pretty scary show.

A poster for True Detective: Night Country.

True Detective

REVIEW

Despite packing plot details that should have been included earlier in the story, Episode 4 ends on a chilling note.

Pros

  • A terrifying final scene reminds us what ‘True Detective: Night Country’ is all about.
  • New information and developments make the show’s protagonists more relatable.
Cons

  • Some of the elements included in the episode should have been brought up earlier.
  • Some of the personal drama still doesn’t amount to anything.
  • The excessive needle drops take away some of the show’s impact.

True Detective: Night Country Episode 4 is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max

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