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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

True Detective: Night Country Final Review

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

True Detective’s fourth season is done, and man: what a disappointment. I’d say Night Country is probably the biggest disappointment after season 2 failed to live up to what made the first season so excellent. But boy did new showrunner, writer, and director Issa Lopez try. Not only did she try to capture the crushing nihilism of the first season, she went back to the bleak philosophical navel gazing that made Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle so fascinating. I can’t say she exactly succeeded, but it was an interesting attempt–even despite the original showrunner Nic Pizzolatto reveling in the bad press the fourth season has been getting.

I had high hopes for Night Country based on the first glimpses and promos we got. Jodie Foster is taking the reins in an investigator's role. And man, does the Alaskan setting have potential. I was expecting heaping spoonfuls of nihilism served up with a confounding mystery–and we got that. The Tsalal Research station is empty with only a severed tongue left behind. Something obviously strange is happening, and by the end of the first episode the frozen mass of corpses confirmed that it was going to be a confounding mystery. But the only confounding element turned out to be odd character choices, nonsensical plot developments, and a mystery that was intriguing at first. Except Issa Lopez failed to stick the landing in a catastrophic way.

Let’s make this shit into a sandwich, because while Night Country does some great stuff, it is logically unsound. The stuff I was initially excited for worked out: it had a great setting it utilized well. The cinematography was great, and the atmosphere was thick–dark and with the feeling that danger lurked in the dark. Even the supernatural elements had a bit of an ambiguity to them that I could initially look over–and when I couldn’t, I learned to accept. 

Spoilers Follow!

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

First of all, there were some great characters. 

Also, the atmosphere at times absolutely oozed dread. There were some genuinely great beats, like when the frozen bodies of the Tsalal researchers were being excavated. And while the season was uneven, episode 5 was the high water mark and I actually started to change my mind about the series after seeing it.

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

But the lack of urgency around the central mystery, and the logical lapses  were ultimately too much for me to enjoy the season. I’m sure there are explanations why the ice cave was blocked from the wrong side, or the fact that Navarro’s sister’s body was found by the coast guard, identified, and her next of kin notified all within a couple of hours. I mean, I guess her ghost could have pointed them in the right direction. 

However, the show’s lack of investigation around Tsalal Research station–you know, presumably where part of the crime took place–seemed ridiculous by the end of the show. Even the supposed remote ice caves they were investigating had to be adjacent to Tsalal research station. The lack of logic there is really mind boggling. 

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

And while I didn’t exactly hate the concept of who the killers turned out to be, there was lots around the reveal that I found to be anywhere from ridiculous to downright infuriating. I mean, as Jake from Brooklyn 99 said “cool motive, still murder.” I mean, the fucking cleaning ladies doing it could have been brilliant, but the landing was so flubbed it makes the whole concept laughable. 

I wasn’t thrilled about how it was revealed, either. With terrible acting by our murderers who were wearing a wry smile on their face the entire time. I mean, you could forgive them because they made all of these men out to be absolute monsters–again, something that I highly doubt would have happened. I mean, unless they really believed that they were sacrificing this single woman to save the entire world. Or something.

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

And despite the mine CEO seemingly having a deeper connection in episode 5, all of those threads are ignored for that silly final reveal. Absolutely wasted potential.

But it wasn’t all bad. There were some good characters, even if Issa Lopez did her best to write them like we’re not supposed to like them. But that’s okay because they’re flawed, and they were buoyed by fantastic performances by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. The people themselves were terrible, but the writing and portrayals were great.

True Detective Night Country is destined to be known as bad TV–and rightfully so. It wasn’t the worst, but it very well might be the end of True Detective. At this point, I’d be okay with that. Time is a flat circle, everything we’ve done or will do will be done over and over again–and fuck me if I’m forced to watch this show all over again someday.



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