Sleuths for Truth: A TRUE DETECTIVE Roundtable – Season 4, Episode 1

With a new season of HBO’s acclaimed anthology crime thriller out, Justin drops in weekly with a rotating cast of friends from Cinapse and beyond to discuss what the detectives find in the NIGHT COUNTRY

Before we dive into the show, this week’s episode, our thoughts, Jodie Foster, or anything else, let me first be clear so I don’t ruin anyone’s fun… there will be spoilers. So let this serve as a SPOILER WARNING and if you’re caught up with the show, we hope you’ll stay, share your theories, and let us know what you think about True Detective: Night Country. We’ll be posting every week on Wednesday or Thursday with our latest thoughts on what happened and what we think is going to happen. If you’d like to join in next week’s post, you can submit your thoughts to me at [email protected] by 11:59 PM EST Tuesday.

Now that the spoiler warning is out of the way, let me introduce this weekly column in the form of my experience with the HBO anthology series and why I wanted to take the time to explore the new season on a weekly basis here on Cinapse. Season 3 was my introduction to the series and one hell of an introduction it was. With Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff in the lead roles, a great supporting cast featuring Carmen Ejogo, Scoot McNairy, and Ray Fisher, and the stellar direction of Jeremy Saulnier and Daniel Sackheim – the third season had a strong story, a ton of thrills, and served as a veritable acting clinic.

Only recently did I have the chance to dive into the previous seasons – the top notch inaugural season and the proceeding season that shall not be further mentioned due to massive disappointment. With the cast of this new season and a story that seems like it will follow the powerful format and concepts of the first and third, I was extremely excited for the launch of Night Country.

And – in my opinion – the premiere, thankfully, lived up to my expectations… and seemingly the expectations of this week’s guests. We’ll begin with their thoughts…

Sarah Jane

True Detective and I go way back. When the original series began airing back in the Winter of 2014, I was there with everyone else waiting for the next episode to air, impatient to get back to Detectives Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Hart (Woody Harrelson) and the unravelling of the unsolved crimes they were investigating. I was hooked from the get-go. Stellar work all around. I mean, people are still talking about that one shot. You know the one. When the newest season was announced, my husband and I were excited to know we were going to get a new story. While we did really enjoy seasons 2 and 3 (and don’t let anyone tell you those other seasons aren’t worth watching…they are), they haven’t been able to hit the heights of the original series yet. 

The first episode of True Detective: Night Country definitely gave off a heavy Carpenter vibe. The show starts out with introducing us to a several men at the Tsalal Research Station in Alaska. Think The Thing but with nicer digs. Just as quickly as we meet the men, they just as quickly vanish. Danvers (Jodie Foster) is brought in to investigate. When word gets out of a tongue being found on the floor of the research station, former investigator turned regular trooper, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), inserts herself into the case. She’s been haunted by an unsolved murder of an Iñupiat woman six years earlier. In that case, the woman’s tongue had been cut out. Was the tongue found on the floor of the Tsalal station the tongue from murder victim? I dunno but I sure as shit wanna find out. 

I enjoyed this first episode. Happy to see Foster front and center, she’s always terrific. Whenever I see Fiona Shaw’s name in the credits, I know I’m going to see some great work. Reis is new to me but I thought she held her own with Foster and the rest of the case. Absolutely looking forward to seeing Christopher Eccleston soon, as well. I dig the setting of this series, for sure. I’m always fascinated with Alaska and its extended periods of darkness. I know those “chuds” out there are absolutely going to hate this show because 1) it’s helmed by a woman. 2) the two lead characters are women. 3) the show is featuring a culture that isn’t white. And 4) the show isn’t Season 1. Seriously, they’ve been big mad about seasons 2 and 3 of the show so giving them a new season where there are women and featuring a culture not their own? Forget it. They’re already over there trying to downvote the show. I am absolutely looking forward to watching what Issa López, the writers, and cast of the show are going to bring me each week. I hope you are, too.

(@FookThis on X)

Brad Milne

[As noted by Sarah], the fourth season of True Detective opens with an Inuit hunter sighting in on a lone bull elk, which while obviously CGI, is leaps and bounds better than previous CGI facsimiles of indigenous animals.

The story is concerned with the investigation of the death of a research team in Ennis, Alaska 117 miles north of the Arctic circle. The cops charged with answering the whodunnits, are played adeptly by Jodie Foster as Chief Liz Danvers, John Hawkes as Hank Prior, his son Peter played by Finn Bennett, and Alaska state Trooper Evangeline Navarro played with quiet intensity by Kali Reis. Of course the murder of the scientists is not of paramount importance to Navarro, who can’t help reopening the old wounds of a six year old cold case, that Danvers claims was murdered by the town of Ennis itself.

Of course, as this is only the first episode the investigation hasn’t gotten very far along, but it has done an excellent job of building the rapport among the characters. This season very much feels the most feminine of the four seasons. Reis and Foster are the engine that drives the action of the first episode. Issa Lopez is in control of this season, and like the singular director of Season One, Lopez seems possessed by a singular vision which I think is extremely helpful.

The fourth season’s opening episode also does an excellent job of grounding the series in a sense of place. You feel the Alaskan cold in your bones, the chill on the hoof falls of the elk heard charging away from the hunters scope, as the final sunset of the year descends. The snow a constant throughout the first episode, nothing in the location indicating a life of ease or comfort. You also feel the closeness of the community, of Ennis a place where everyone knows each other’s business. A place very clearly tied to one industry, in this case mining like lots of rural communities of the North.

I am excited to see where the dark path this season has started the viewer down ends up.

(@BradMilne79 on X)

Thanks to Brad and Sarah, most of my initial thoughts on this first episode of the new season are covered. A distinct Carpenter feel? Check. Excitement about getting to see the vision of Issa Lopez? Check. Seemingly more diversity than in previous seasons? Check. I am excited about all of the same things and my excitement that Jodie Foster is one of the leads cannot be overstated. She immediately commands the screen front he moment she steps in the frame, but she allows others to get their stuff in without her chewing up too much of the scenery or stepping on their toes. We all know how good she can be in a role like this, so it’s hard not to be at least a little jazzed for that.

The setting, the snowy town in Alaska, feels like a character itself. Not only does The Thing come to mind, but theres a distinct feel of a darker version of Northern Exposure’s Cicely or Fargo’s Fargo. The setting feels like it’s going to play a major role in this story as it unravels. Then there’s the tongue… finding a tongue feels awfully Lynchian – much like the ear in Blue Velvet. So many influences evident, but the story is clearly its own.

It’s too early to make too many predictions yet, but there’s certainly something going on with the Captain Prior (Hawkes). Perhaps he’s just a run-of-the-mill sexist who struggle taking orders from a woman, but there really seems to be something more sinister – or, at least, “shady” – going on with him. I’m also genuinely intrigued to see if there’s any real connection to other seasons, notably the first. Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle spent some time in a small Alaska town and at least one character in town was drinking “his” beer. Perhaps this is nothing more than a simple “Easter Egg”, but I’d love to see the show tie past seasons in with unique circumstances or worthwhile tie-ins. As far as everything else, I’m ready to just watch it play out.

Next Week’s Episode

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