Set in Louisiana, the first season of True Detective, back in 2014, was too hot to handle in so many ways. Now, as the anthology series reaches its fourth season, an Arctic chill blows through and we join Jodie Foster as an Alaska cop investigating the disappearance of eight researchers. The show will premiere on HBO Max in the United States on Sunday 14 January 2024 and will be available on Sky Atlantic the following day.
While season two (set in California) and three (in the Ozarks) were good, they didn’t live up to the promise of the first season. The word on the street is that with the six episodes dubbed Night Country, True Detective will be getting back to its tense, obsessive and terrifying best. Watch the trailer and you might agree:
Jodie Foster stars in the role of Liz Danvers, a cold and stern police chief in the town of Ennis, Alaska. At her side, but not necessarily on her wavelength, is former detective Evangeline Navarro, now a state trooper, played by Kali Reis. These two have history, which is unspoken at first, and it could be to do with the unsolved murder of an Inupiat woman six years prior. Navarro has native heritage and has never let the case go.
With a dearth of clues, the disappearance without trace of the eight scientists gains quasi-religious, folkloric and supernatural angles, reminiscent of season one, in which a ritual murder was front and centre. Add in the endless night of the Arctic winter as a backdrop, ice tunnels and the severed tongue of the victim of the murder mentioned above, and you can see how writer and director Issa López is steering us into deeply creepy territory. The whole town fears a dark spirit is at work, and the term ‘cold case’ takes on new meanings.
Directed by a woman and with women in the lead roles, True Detective: Night Country reverses the male dominance seen in series one, which was created by Nic Pizzolatto and starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. However, like the original series the two lead detectives are very different, there is friction between them, and yet they share an obsession with solving crimes of this nature. Pizzolatto, Harrelson and McConaughey are all listed as executive producers.
That tension filters down into the Ennis police department, with Peter Prior (Finn Bennett) jumping at Danvers’ every beck and call, and his father Hank (John Hawkes), also a cop, doing the opposite. He’s not happy working for her.
So what really went on out there in the snow? Who or what removed all human life from the research station? There are weird symbols and beliefs, a circle of frozen bodies, footprints in the frost and something hideous in the hockey arena. There’s also a mining company that has polluted the local water supply. Could it be involved, or those who protest against it? Can Danvers and Navarro sort out their differences and solve the case by sunrise? They have six episodes in which to do so.
Interestingly, although the setting is Alaska, the show was shot in Iceland. This is the first time Silence of the Lambs star Jodie Foster has acted in a TV series since 1975. In spite of it being an anthology series, with a new story and new characters in each season, this is the first time a season of True Detective has had a subtitle – Night Country. If you’re in the UK, you can catch up on seasons one to three of True Detective if you have Sky Atlantic.
Also see our article about True Detective season three, which aired in 2019.