July 5, 2024

TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY (SEASON 4): Murder in the Arctic Circle

2024 / 379 min (6 episodes)
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Blizzard😺

Free Kittens doesn’t spend much time reviewing TV programs. Exceptions tend to be when the show in question possesses certain cinematic qualities or prominently features actors or filmmakers typically associated with movies. In this case, that person is the great Jodie Foster, and True Detective: Night Country marks her first role in a TV series since her childhood days.

Night Country is the fourth season of HBO’s anthology series, True Detective, each season featuring a different cast and story. I have not seen the previous ones, so I don’t know if this one is similar in structure, pace or tone. But I certainly haven’t seen a mystery thriller quite like this.

Taking place in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska (way north of the Arctic Circle), a team of scientists at a research station suddenly disappear. A few days later, most of them are found dead in a twisted, naked pile, with various wounds on their bodies. Police chief Liz Danvers (Foster) is in charge of the investigation, though her immediate supervisor/casual lover, Captain Connelly (Christopher Eccleston), keeps threatening to hand the complex case to the better equipped Anchorage police.

Concurrently, Danvers’ ex-partner, now a state trooper, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) remains obsessed with an old unsolved case, in which a native Alaskan woman was stabbed to death and her tongue cut out. Since that same tongue was just found at the research station, Navarro thinks the cases are connected. The problem is Danvers & Navarro really hate each other, stemming from an incident that resulted in both of them being demoted to the positions they now have.

Liz regrets not splurging for that filing cabinet.
The case is only about half the story. There’s also an escalating conflict between Alaskan natives and a corporate mining company accused of contaminating the water. Danvers’ native teenage step-daughter gets involved, further straining an already volatile relationship. In fact, Danvers has a volatile relationship with damn near everybody. She’s blunt, mean, bossy and indifferent to how her demands affect the marriage of beleaguered young deputy, Peter Prior (Finn Bennett). Meanwhile, Navarro is tasked with looking after her emotionally unstable sister, Julia (Aka Niviăna), who’s prone to complete breakdowns. 

Other interesting characters drift in and out of these episodes, some relevant to the primary story, others who remain part of subplots related to the main characters, both of whom are loaded with emotional baggage. In a way, Night Country unfolds like a season of the Fargo TV series, only much bleaker (though Foster is often a real hoot as Danvers). Speaking of bleak, the entire show takes place during the perpetual night Ennis experiences during winter. That, coupled with the constantly shitty weather, had me repeatedly asking why anyone would choose to live there.

The mystery itself intriguing and extraordinary bizarre. In fact, certain scenes and revelations suggest a narrative turn toward the supernatural, exacerbated by sequences and imagery that would be right at home in a horror film. But the complexities of the case, scenes of teasing ambiguity and mounting tension eventually give-way to an underwhelming finale, with one or two plot details left unresolved. Until then, Night Country is dark, moody and pretty compelling, punctuated by excellent performances from Foster (as usual) and Reis (who’s sort of a revelation).


FEATURETTES - Meet the True Detectives & Inkblots Challenge feature stars Jodie Foster and Kali Reis swayed at a table asking each other questions; Exploring Indigenous Themes discusses native Alaskan culture that’s prevalent in the series; New Chapter features director/co-writer Issa Lopez discussing the fourth season.

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