The following recap contains spoilers for True Detective: Night Country Part 4 (written by Namsi Khan, Chris Mundy, and Issa López and directed by Issa López).
If there is any single redeeming quality Chief Liz Danvers has in True Detective: Night Country, it’s that she is consistently, almost annoyingly, asking all those involved in the various cases to “ask the right question.”
“What’s the right question?”
“We aren’t asking the right questions.”
“Let’s start asking the right questions.”
We have heard it so much through the first four parts of the series, it’s almost as if she is desperate to break the fourth wall and ask the audience if we are asking the right questions about the mysteries of the show.
Season 1 of True Detective, perhaps this season’s closest in theme, mysteriousness, and character complexity, tied up just about every one of its lingering questions with a terrestrial answer. Some of the ethereal themes were left open to interpretation, but the who-done-it aspect of the show was largely answered.
As we pass the two-thirds mark of True Detective: Night Country, it’s time we ask ourselves, “What’s the right question?” More specifically, which questions will be answered in this season, and which will remain unexplored? Will we understand what the spiral means and its effect on the residents of Ennis? Maybe. Will we learn definitely who killed Annie and the Tsalal researchers? Probably. Is there some reason Rose and the Navarro girls see hallucinations and ghosts but others don’t? Who knows?
Knowing that we have about two hours of this season remaining, there is one more question that’s been introduced now that Part 4 has come to a close. When Danvers corners Otis Heiss at the end of the episode, she wants to know where Raymond Clark is. His response:
“He’s hiding in the Night Country. We’re all in the Night Country now.”
With that statement, the most important question is—all of a sudden—what is the “Night Country?” Issa López gave it to us right there in the title of the season, so there must be some significance we are meant to draw. Where we might have once thought the Night Country was where the darkness always wins over the light for a period of time, there clearly is much more at play.
Is the Night Country the evil dread that permeated citizens of Ennis? Is it something brought upon by the combination of the mining and biological work being done in the same area? Is it an actual place, or an embodiment of some evil force, brought upon by the spiral? Is it a supernatural plane that has been created near Ennis since it is located at a place where the border between alive and dead shrinks? It’s clearly what keeps this town up at night, which is all the more horrific because this is the place where night never ends.
Chief Danvers also is up all night, as she can’t shake the case, even on Christmas Eve, even when she sleeps, and even when she disrupts the Christmas plans for a whole host of Ennis police and residents to follow the path to finding the Tsalal killer. Danvers has become (or always was) the person who will stop at nothing to find the answers to the right questions. She will visit ex-lovers in their homes on Christmas Eve. She will force a young Pete Prior to work throughout the night while knowing his marriage and family hang by a thread. And she even has the gall to interrupt Captain Connelly’s viewing of Elf for some drunken philandering.
Her focus in Part 4 seems to center on three pieces of evidence: the videos of Annie and Clark that both show what appears to be electricity shutting off, a man named Otis Heiss that Pete found who had similar injuries to the Tsalal deceased, and marking in the ice caves in Annie’s video.
Each of these items are seemingly related. Otis Heiss, who suffered his injuries in 1998, mapped the ice caves where Annie takes the video. Electricity in the middle of an ice cave must point back to Oliver Tabaq, whom Danvers and Evangelina Navarro visited in Part 3. He is a former equipment manager in the Tsalal station who would have had easy access to generators that could help light up ice caves. Presumably half of Ennis has access to generators in an environment that is dark for weeks on end, but we’ll go with it.
Those leads generate a series of dead ends. Tabaq disappeared right after the police showed up in the last episode, but not before leaving behind a giant spiral on his floor and a spiral-carved rock in his house. Heiss is nowhere to be found and has fallen completely off the grid in the years since his accident.
A lack of updates causes Danvers to, forgive me, spiral. She drinks herself to a state where she kicks out her step-daughter after she was caught in a vandalism incident, she visits Connelly looking for a last-minute Christmas “gift” only to be rebuffed, and she throws her deceased son’s polar bear in the night snow after Navarro confronts on her why she still has it.
Meanwhile, Danvers and Navarro notice that Julia’s hallucinations are getting much worse, so Detective Navarro checks her into a facility they believe can help her. But, when Julia is still seeing ghosts (and creepy rolling oranges), she escapes and commits suicide, forcing Navarro into a blind rage, which gets her beaten up by some miners. The rage is both justified and explainable after pulling back the layers. The same haunting visions and hallucinations have now claimed both Julia and their mom by suicide, and Navarro believes she is next. She has been seeing visions since at least the Wheeler case that was flashed back in Part 3, and it’s getting worse.
After some tender loving care and a readjusted finger at the hands of Eddie Qavvik, Navarro is ready to join Danvers again and they head out together on Christmas morning to look for Clark. As daytime begins to emerge after a week of night, a lead comes in about a man fitting Raymond Clark’s description in the trenches outside of Ennis.
Navarro’s hallucinations continue during the search, seeing ghostly women at every turn, and eventually being found by Danvers sitting next to a Christmas tree, bleeding out of her ear. This is the same place and time where Danvers found Heiss, wearing the pink parka Raymond Clark was spotted in. Heiss may not know the exact location of Raymond Clark, only that he, like all of Ennis, is in the Night Country now. What that means, exactly, might be the right question we should ask ourselves over the next two weeks.
For so much of the show’s first four weeks, the discourse has been centered around what could have caused the deaths of the Tsalal men. What could be causing Navarro’s hallucinations? What or who took Annie’s life? It’s interesting to me that Otis Heiss says that “we’re all in the night country now” on a day when light seems to be creeping back into Ennis. He says it on Christmas Day, which is generally celebrated for a birth day. In the Christian tradition, darkness gave way to the light with the birth of Christ, and he was the “Light of the World.” Why now, when the darkness retreats, would they all be in Night Country? Unless, perhaps there is something about the dark that permeates the residents when it is around. Maybe the dark itself, with its disorientation, its confusion, and its inability to give light to anything else is the culprit here.
What does the night bring when it comes to Ennis? Chaos, death, and shittiness, that’s for sure. But what if it brings something else more sinister. What if it brings evil and horror, and then it’s gone as fast as it came, leaving the people of Ennis to sort out the damage. Is that right question? I suspect we will see over the next two weeks.
Before closing, Hank Prior deserves a special shout-out. We all knew you were getting catfished, Hank, and your son seems pretty shocked that you would have given her money. He even feels badly enough to invite you over for Christmas Eve. Considering the way Hank treats his son and the cavalier attitude he has towards Danvers and his work, I am firmly in the “You had that one coming” camp for Hank. But I have to admit, there was a minute when he is holding the gift in the snow, when he remembers about the champagne in the refrigerator, and he is picking up rose petals one by one off of his bed, that I felt a little sorry for the guy.
I’m sure this rejection won’t cause him to do anything off the cuff or outside protocol in the episodes to come.