TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY (2023)
Aired On: Max.
Release Date: 01/14/24.
Crime. Drama. Mystery.
"Anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law."
The fourth season of HBO’s anthology series True Detective has been anxiously awaited by many - myself included. The 2014 inaugural series of this show, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, has been lauded as one of the best series of all time.
Unfortunately, seasons two and three didn’t quite live up to that hype. Season two was largely unmemorable - I’d have to watch it again to even tell you what it was about. Season three was much better, and certainly put Mahershala Ali on my radar as a superb actor to watch literally anytime he’s in anything, but the script and story still couldn’t hold up to the original season of True Detective.
The big question going into season four of True Detective was “Will season four live up to the excellence of that first season, ten years later?” And for me, it’s a resounding yes. In fact, True Detective: Night Country might even be better.
Season four is as creepy, at times terrifying and wholly bone-chilling as that first season of the show. It hits that same perfect balance of complex characters, compellingly human stories, morbid mysteries and scary, seemingly supernatural scenarios. It’s also superbly cast, acted and directed. In fact, I’m going to go on record as saying season four of True Detective is now my favorite season.
Not since 30 Days of Night has northern Alaska’s unique extended “polar night” been used to such a chilling effect in a movie or TV series. This is night country, alright. The show opens with a quote on screen: “For we do not know what beasts the night dreams when its hours grow too long for even God to be awake.” That sets things up pretty well.
The gorgeous, desolate winter scenery of Iceland, standing in for Alaska, also lends itself well to the chilling storyline. A remark from one of the characters, “It’s just the third day of darkness and already getting weird,” sums up how things are going to go. But weird doesn’t begin to cover the creepy goings-on in Ennis, Alaska - or the chilling, horror-movie techniques show creator, writer and director Issa Lopez uses to set an eerie, terrifying tone right from the opening credits.
And speaking of the credits, the first season of True Detective had a great opener with the perfect song. That’s why I was thrilled to hear Billie Eilish’s “Bury a Friend” as the new opening song for season four. Its eerie lyrics, tune and inherent girl power are a perfect match for the visuals and tone of this season.
Speaking of girl power… I don’t know how anyone will review True Detective: Night Country without mentioning it. Whether you hate or love that phrase, it does encapsulate a certain fierce female energy that permeates this show, from the creator/writer/director to her leading ladies and so much more.
Jodie Foster and relative newcomer Kali Reis are both formidable in their roles here. Seeing Foster jump into the lead detective role like an older and wiser Clarice Starling is such a cinematic gift to fans of Silence of the Lambs. There are definitely several moments in True Detective: Night Country that pay homage to that great film.
For me, a third stand-out acting performance was that of Fiona Shaw. I craved more screen time from her - and especially would have loved a scene between Shaw and Foster. The three Night Country queens Foster, Reis and Shaw practically eat up the screen with their ferocity and electric presence. I would kill for more episodes of this show and maybe a movie spin-off starring these three women!
Speaking of women, there is also a powerful story told here about the indigenous community of Alaska and especially the plight of indigenous women whose murders and disappearances often go unsolved.
Are detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) so haunted by their own grief and ghosts that they’ll be unable to solve the cold cases and chilling mysteries of Ennis, Alaska’s long night - or will they manage to pull it together just as Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) did all those years ago in season one?
You’ll have to watch to find out. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up watching all six episodes more than once to truly appreciate every icy, creepy, chilling moment of True Detective: Night Country. Bundle up!