TV Review – True Detective: Night Country ‘Part 1’

For 3 seasons, Nic Pizzolatto gripped audiences with the dark, shocking and incredibly thematically existential series True Detective. The iconic first series, lead by outstanding, career best performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, took us down in to the sweaty, gross marshes of Louisiana for an epic 17-year murder investigation that became more about the purpose of existence than it did the crimes on show. And with it’s wild critical and audience success, a slew of high calibre actors lined up to succeed True Detective’s brilliant opening series, delivering intense stories and solid performances from the likes of Mahershala Ali, Colin Farrell, and Rachel McAdams.

Now, after a just over 4-year hiatus, and with a new showrunner in Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez (Tigers Are Not Afraid), the series returns for the first time with a subtitle – True Detective: Night Country. After 3 seasons showcasing America’s heat and humidity with locations such as Louisiana, California and the Ozarks, Lopez takes this new investigation to the dark, freezing landscapes of Alaska during the ‘days of night’, in which the sun does not rise for up to 60 days.

True Detective: Night Country ‘Part 1’ begins with an unsettling scene of an unexplained force that causes a herd of moose to launch themselves of a tall ice glacier to their violent, witnessed by an Indigenous Alaskan woman, who without saying a word, conveys that there is something beyond human control at play here, immediately creating an uneasy feeling of tension within the fictional town of Ennis. Simultaneously to the horrific event with the moose, a research station also experiences a strange series of events, leading to the disappearance of all eight scientists, and the only evidence left behind in the station is a cut off human tongue.

Days later, Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster), a local Ennis police officer, is the put in charge of the investigation, who immediately finds parallels with a missing persons case of an Indigenous woman from years before that was swept under the rug by the previous police department heads. With connections to the missing persons cold case is Danvers’ former partner, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), who begrudgingly reunites with Danvers to figure out the mystery behind the missing scientists, and perhaps find some validity to a curse that has haunted her family for years.

Issa Lopez has taken the core fundamentals of what makes True Detective so engaging, and given a brilliant, refreshing new spin on the aesthetic. Night Country is definitely a riveting crime drama with a mystery that always keeps the audience guessing at arm’s length. But much like the previous iterations of the show, it’s the personal complexities of the characters that serve as the most interesting and riveting aspects of the story. Danvers is a single parent with a troubled teenage daughter who has entangled herself in a sex tape scandal with another underage teenager. Navarro is haunted by a curse she believes took the lives of her mother and sister, and her disappointment in the people who have disregarded the cases of missing Indigenous women in Ennis and the surrounding areas are the source of a burning anger inside of her.

But it’s the new location of Night Country that is arguably the most interesting change for this series. Heavily inspired by the terrifying atmosphere of The Thing and The Shining, this cold, dark, and vast land creates the vibe that Night Country isn’t just a crime mystery, but it’s also a horror. The cinematography and lighting are used for an unsettling feeling that lingers throughout the show. And then on top of that, the supernatural elements that are introduced (also an element that featured heavily in the shows first season) lend to some great jump scares that will keep audiences on their toes, just as much as the investigation itself will.

Issa Lopez has done a fantastic job of taking the core fundamentals of what makes True Detective so riveting, and putting a refreshing, atmospheric twist on them to make Night Country arguable the best season of True Detective since it’s masterpiece first season. The horror inclination makes for the most entertaining version of unsettling television, and the performances from Jodie Foster and Kali Reis draw you in to the mystery by the collar, and never lets go.

The first episode of True Detective: Night Country will stream on BINGE from Monday, January 15.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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