True Detective

Reflecting on 2014 feels like revisiting a different era: the Obama administration, skinny jeans reigning supreme, and “True Detective” establishing itself with an unabashed emphasis on masculinity. In that landscape, Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” had revived anthologies, but it was HBO’s “True Detective” that brought prestige to the format with massive stars and a focus on crime. Fast forward to the fourth season, titled “Night Country,” and the show takes a sharp departure from its past while addressing previous shortcomings. With showrunning duties fully handed over by Nic Pizzolatto to Mexican filmmaker Issa L√≥pez, the haunting murder mystery unfolds in far northern Alaska, featuring a groundbreaking inclusion of multiple female leads, portrayed by Jodie Foster and boxer-turned-actor Kali Reis. Beyond challenging the gender dynamics, “Night Country” significantly alters the approach to the supernatural, making it a central theme rather than a mere background motif.

Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) serves as the police chief of Ennis, a town experiencing polar night, plunging into darkness around the winter solstice. When eight scientists at a secretive research station vanish just after the last sunset of the year, Danvers must collaborate with her estranged former partner, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), to solve the mystery. As the narrative unfolds, Ennis becomes a lived-in place with tensions between the Native community and a mining corporation. Interpersonally, Danvers navigates a complex web of relationships, and her prickly nature, coupled with the town’s dynamics, adds depth to the storyline.

“Night Country” begins on a fantastically creepy note, sustained by a credits sequence set to Billie Eilish’s “Bury a Friend.” The eerie atmosphere is reinforced when a deliveryman finds only a severed human tongue and a looped scene from “Ferris Bueller” at the station. The discovery of the scientists, naked and frozen, further intensifies the mystery, with signs suggesting more than exposure led to their deaths. The investigation becomes a modern take on believer-skeptic dynamics, complicated by racial dimensions as Navarro, part Native, embraces the possibility of the paranormal. The season also introduces a symbolic black spiral, contributing to the overall ambiguity that distinguishes “Night Country” from previous “True Detective” iterations.

The racial dimension adds depth, exploring cultural differences and superstitions, particularly through Navarro’s character. The contrast between Jodie Foster’s seasoned portrayal and Kali Reis’s revelatory intensity creates a compelling dynamic, making them the first evenly matched co-leads since Harrelson and McConaughey. The black spiral symbol becomes a focal point, representing a departure from pure logic and contributing to the season’s unique setting.

“Night Country” redefines “True Detective,” invigorating the archetype of a hardened female cop in a blue-collar community by placing it in a fresh context. The intentional ambiguity and specific setting make this season stand out, offering a departure from previous formulas while retaining the eerie atmosphere and mystery that define the series.

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By acinetv