True Detective turns up the drama and the scares in "Part 4," its best episode yet

The more I spend time with the characters on True Detective: Night Country, the more I like them, and the more scared I get that they'll meet a grisly, icy end.
Navarro /

True Detective: Night Country is two shows. In one, a group of characters I'm really coming to like deal with family drama, try to balance life and work, and grapple with lingering trauma. In another, those same characters investigate the deaths of a bunch of scientists, and the mystery behind why everyone is leaving creepy spirals all over town. I think the first show is stronger than the second, but the better that show gets, the more I'm willing to go along with the rest.

Night Country is great at giving us little moments where the characters snap into focus. I liked tough-as-nails Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) needing to call in a tall dude to help get the coffee creamer off the top shelf, cause she's too short. I liked the ambitious Captain Ted Connelly (Christopher Eccleston) getting caught watching Elf and whitening his teeth on Christmas Eve. I liked the whole subplot with the sour Captain Hank Prior (John Hawkes) getting stood up on the tarmac by his mail order Russian bride. I mean, he put roses all over the mattress, how do you not feel a little bad him?

Some of these moments risk making Night Country feel a bit too cozy and comfortable, but I think they're dished out in just the right quantities; they enhance rather than detract from the more dramatic bits. How do you not feel some sympathy for Danvers as her daughter Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc) runs out on her on Christmas Eve, and especially for Tooper Navarro (Kali Reis) as her sister Julia (Aka Niviâna) sinks deeper into mental illness?

In this episode, Navarro drops Julie off at a live-in care facility. They both hope it'll be a good fit for her, but it doesn't last. Later, we see Julie say a loving goodbye to her sister over the phone, take off her clothes and walk into the cold darkness, never to return. It's a chillingly beautiful moment, ruined only slightly by the Billie Eilish soundtrack. The song is good, but with a moment this grim, I'd prefer not to be told how to feel.

After finding out about her sister, Navarro progresses quickly through the stages of grief: shell-shocked denial as she sits in the car with Officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), anger as she attacks a trio of dudes (mostly) minding their own business on the street, and finally crying in the arms of her f**k-buddy Eddie Qavvik (Joel D. Montgrand), who got her a thing of Spongebob toothpaste for Christmas, by the way, because love. I liked the bit where he faked like he was gonna propose to her so she would be distracted long enough for him to snap her dislocated finger back into place.

I giggled at that bit, despite how seriousness of the situation. Night Country gets lot of little laughs out of me. I find the characters endearing, which is important, because it means I'll fear for them when they're put in mortal danger. And now that we're in the back half of the season, mortal danger is coming.

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Navarro Danvers /

True Detective: Night Country review, "Part 4"

Up to this point, I've thought the horror mystery part of True Detective: Night Country has been a little on the cheesy side, what with the jump-cuts to water-logged ghouls pointing and shrieking. I still think that, but it's growing on me. The ghouls got to me a bit in this episode, and "Part 4" gets on a nice creepy roll at the end when Danvers and Navarro track down a suspect hiding out in a dredging facility on the frozen sea.

If you'll recall, Danvers and Navarro are on the hunt for Raymond Clark (Owen McDonnell), the scientist who not only survived the massacre at Tsalal Research Station, but may have been behind it. He was also seeing Annie Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen), who died under mysterious circumstances some time before. They don't find Raymond Clark, but they do come across Otis Heis, a wandering junkie who survived some sort of incident similar to what happened at Tsalal. When Danvers asks him where Clark went, Otis says, "He's hiding in the night country. We're all in the night country now."

Okay, now that's how you do creepy. What is the night country? I don't know, and the less I know, the more scared I am. I also enjoyed Navarro coming across a fully lit Christmas tree in the depths of this abandoned facility. Why is it here? I thought it might be one of Navarro's hallucinations at first. Now the walls are getting thin, now the mist is falling thick, now we're in the night country.

The show is teasing the eerie unknown, which I've always thought was scarier than monsters, ghosts and goblins. Hopefully it keeps that going as we head into the final two episodes.

True Detective: Night Bullet Points

  • I'm not sure what to make of the bit where Navarro visits the home of Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw), who has dressed up to the nines and made a Christmas feast for one. I have a feeling she'll come out of left field towards the end of the series and reveal she plays an important part in the grand mystery.
  • The scene at Rose's house was lit beautifully by candlelight, I'll say that. The whole show continues to look drop-dead gorgeous. I loved the shots of frosty roads at night, the piles of cars covered in snow, children ice-skating in the morning dark, and Prior's pulsing Christmas tree lights.
  • I liked the moment where Danvers hits a polar bear with her car, but the bear looked pretty fake mugging her in the window.
  • Peter Prior's marriage to wife Kayla (Anna Lambe) is once again on the rocks this week. Maybe he does want a Mrs. Robinson moment with Danvers...? Anyway, Peter is bringing a lot to the season. With so many grizzled detectives around, it's great to have a fresh young face for contrast.
  • Night Country showrunner has said she took inspiration from David Lynch's series Twin Peaks, which is obvious. I just now put together that Annie Kowtok shares a name with Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham), a tragic character from Lynch's show. I doubt it's a coincidence.

Episode Grade: B+

True Detective: Night Country is trying too hard to scare you. dark. Next. true detective night country 3

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