A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

“True Detective: Night Country” review: All the right questions, some of the right answers

Photo Courtesy of HBO Max
Mysteries lurk in the darkness in HBO’s “True Detective: Night Country”, taking viewers on a chilling journey in the midst of a polar night.

On the last sunset before a long polar night, eight scientists vanish from their remote research station in Alaska. With the only clue left behind being a severed tongue tying the disappearances to an unsolved murder, police chief Liz Danvers and trooper Evangeline Navarro form an uneasy alliance to find out who, or what, is lurking out in the cold. 

Who killed Annie Kowtok? Where did the eight scientists go? How are these two mysteries linked? “True Detective: Night Country” has audiences asking all of these questions and more right until the very end.

Things are not what they seem in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska, and that becomes clearer with every clue uncovered from the snow. Each new revelation had me wondering whether the culprit was one of the many citizens of Ennis with something to hide, or if supernatural forces were at play. 

This review is spoiler-free, but the existence of the paranormal is teased from the very beginning with the unexplainable happenings in Ennis ramping up along with the mystery. While most of the town seems to believe the scientists messed with something beyond their understanding, there are just enough clues to send our main characters investigating the secrets their quiet town holds. 

Danvers (Jodi Foster) and Navarro (Kali Reis) best embody this dichotomy of science vs. supernatural. Danvers is the tough-as-nails police chief who just wants to do her job, keep her step-daughter out of trouble and occasionally slip some sarcastic humor into otherwise gruesome situations. Danvers believes the disappearances, while strange, must have a logical explanation. Navarro, however, often catches glimpses of things, and people, that aren’t there. Navarro seems to have a deeper spiritual background than she lets on, and these visions might just aid in her search for the truth… or into the dark. 

Due to the constant darkness of the polar night, I found myself very disoriented while watching. It was difficult to determine how much time had passed and what time of day it was supposed to be. I’d find myself surprised that the characters were doing so much investigating or socializing in the middle of the night, only for a character to mention it was actually lunchtime. 

Other than an occasional date there is very little differentiation between days. While this can be a little bit frustrating, the confusion can lend itself well to the uneasy atmosphere. 

Despite a bit of a lull in the middle, “Night Country” did a pretty good job of keeping me interested. The acting felt very natural and raw, which can really make or break shows with a lot of tense and emotional scenes. 

Even when not focusing on the mystery at hand, the cast of characters are compelling enough to keep me watching. Jodi Foster’s performance especially had me anxious or misty-eyed multiple times, especially in the last two episodes. 

The show can be dark and downright scary when it wants to be, even including an occasional jumpscare. Watching the story unfold feels like you’re making your way deeper and deeper into the center of a spiral — much like the symbol seen frequently in the show itself. 

That being said, I actually didn’t realize I was watching the last episode until a sudden time-skip at the end. The previous three seasons of “True Detective” each had eight episodes, while “Night Country” only had six. 

In the end, I had to rely on Google in order to clear up some unanswered questions, and most of which have stayed unanswered. Mysteries with supernatural elements like “Night Country” sometimes choose to leave things up to audience interpretation without specifying that’s the case, so I was left wondering if I missed some important scenes along the way. 

I was both relieved and frustrated to find many other viewers were in the same boat after the finale. I ultimately feel like the season could have benefitted from those extra two episodes to provide some possible directions for the loose ends. Whether this is enough to dissuade you from watching the show is up to you, but don’t go into it expecting answers to everything. 

Overall, “Night Country” is an excellent series for a mystery enjoyer who doesn’t mind suspense with a side of the supernatural. It’s intense, intriguing and, quite literally, dark. The cast delivers an amazing performance from start to finish, creating an immersive atmosphere that pulls you into each episode. Although the ending leaves something to be desired, the thrill of the mystery makes it more than worth a watch.

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About the Contributor
Natalie Emanuele
Natalie Emanuele, Reporter
Natalie Emanuele (she/her) is in her first semester on the Oak Leaf, but has attended SRJC prior to joining. She is very passionate about the arts and pop culture, and has no shortage of niche internet phenomena to share. She looks forward to sharing (or perhaps cursing) the public with this knowledge… if any of her articles see the light of day. When not writing she enjoys baking, drawing and playing cozy video games.

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    Barbara Ann EmanueleApr 3, 2024 at 4:48 pm

    Wow, great review! I would like to watch it, especially with Jodie Foster.

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    Barbara Ann EmanueleMar 1, 2024 at 4:18 pm

    Absolutely stunning report on the shows. Sounds very interesting. But with all the darkness and the ending might not be for me.