The disappearance of six scientists in Ennis, Alaska shakes the community as Jodie Foster’s detective investigates. Here’s our review of True Detective: Night Country episode 1.
True Detective was all anyone could talk about back in 2014. The combined powers of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, playing two detectives wrapped up in a tricky murder investigation, was a phenomenon and True Detective quickly established itself as a prestige anthology show.
Except its consequent seasons were somewhat belly flops. Despite attracting top talent, season two and three failed to make a splash so now, season four, subtitled Night Country acts as a bit of a palate cleanser and a reboot for the series once spearheaded by Nic Pizzolatto. Pizzolatto, McConaughey and Harrelson, alongside Barry Jenkins, are still on executive producing duties here, but that’s no promise that Night Country will be any good.
Thankfully, True Detective: Night Country is phenomenal.
The season is set in Ennis, Alaska, which experiences weeks of complete darkness. Sheriff Danvers (Jodie Foster) is alerted to a bizarre case; six men have gone missing from a remote research station. There’s no sign of struggle. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is still blaring on the TV with a bowl of untouched popcorn on the table. It’s like the men just vanished.
Kali Reis plays trooper Evangeline Navarro who has a thorny past with Danvers. The two are connected by an old case that hasn’t stopped haunting either of them. Episode one of Night Country implies that the two might be linked and that perhaps something supernatural is at work here.
The reins have been handed to Mexican filmmaker Issa López this time around. If you’re familiar with her 2017 fantasy horror films Tigers Are Not Afraid, you already know you’re in good hands. Not that viewers unfamiliar with López’s work will need much convincing; from its opening moments, Night Country is dripping with atmosphere and the narrative is undeniably gripping.
The first episode of any series is always a difficult one. You have to establish setting, characters, dynamics, a whole bunch of stuff that then ensures people will keep watching. In that respect, Night Country succeeds flawlessly. The first episode mostly just sets up the central mystery of what happened to the men at the research station.
The episode doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it is a shocking ending. You won’t find any spoilers here, but the ending of episode one made me immediately want to watch more, to know more. I was itching to know what could have happened to these men. López directs the series with a steely cold calm and a great understanding of how to get under her audience’s skin. I felt strangely rattled by the series, even after just one episode, which is a promising start.
If the rest of the series keeps up with the momentum created in episode one, we’ve got a potential masterpiece on our hands here. Foster is reliably good, but it’s Kali Reis as Navarro who is a real revelation here. A former boxer, Reis is a dynamic force of nature on screen and Navarro and Danvers’ strained dynamic feels very True Detective.
In short, we can’t wait to watch more. Come back next week for more True Detective: Night Country as we delve deeper into the mystery of Tsalal station.
True Detective airs on Sundays on HBO in the US and Mondays at Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.