True Detective: Night Country TV Review

Jodie Foster and Kali Reis lead the best season of the anthology series since the first with one problem: it is not long enough.

Last Updated on January 12, 2024

PLOT: When the long winter night falls in Ennis, Alaska, the eight men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish without a trace. To solve the case, Detectives Liz Danvers (Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Reis) will have to confront the darkness they carry in themselves, and dig into the haunted truths that lie buried under the eternal ice.

REVIEW: Few shows have made an impression the way the first season of True Detective did. While I enjoyed the second and third seasons of Nic Pizzolatto’s anthology thriller, neither could hold a candle to the Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey-led debut. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, True Detective was a philosophical and existential masterpiece full of quotable lines that had audiences brainstorming multiple timelines for ten weeks straight. A decade after the series premiered, the fourth season of True Detective arrives with the first subtitle in the series, Night Country, along with a new showrunner in Issa Lopez, a new producer in Barry Jenkins, and new stars in Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. Disturbing, intricate, and impossible to look away from, the result is a six-episode mystery that is the closest we have gotten to the first season with one glaring problem: True Detective: Night Country is too short.

True Detective: Night Country TV Review

The first season without writing credits for Pizzolatto, True Detective: Night Country comes predominantly from Tigers Are Not Afraid writer/director Issa Lopez, who directs all six episodes and wrote or co-wrote the entire season. Eliminating the multiple timelines of prior seasons, Night Country does feature flashbacks but mostly tells a linear story set in Ennis, Alaska. The inverse of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, Night Country occurs during a period of perpetual night in the small town close to the Arctic Circle. The trailers showcase the horrifying sight of a group of scientists frozen together in the ice, an event that pits police chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) on a bizarre journey to discover why. Along the way, Danvers teams up with her former protege, Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), with whom she had a falling out on a case they worked together. Navarro has been passionately investigating a cold case involving the death of an Indigenous woman, which may or may not have a connection to the frozen scientists.

Every season of True Detective has relied on the chemistry between the leads, a precedent set by Harrelson and McConaughey, and both Foster and Reis are excellent here. The trade from the testosterone-heavy prior seasons for a female-led series has drawn comparisons with HBO’s Mare of Easttown. Still, a darker and creepier bend to this mystery borders on the supernatural. Issa Lopez’s experience with horror imbues Night Country with an aura of dread that makes every scene a potential scare. At least three moments have stuck with me after finishing the series and are amongst the scariest in recent memory. The acting here helps make Night Country work with Foster in her first television role in fifty years, giving one of her best performances. Foster plays Danvers as a reluctant leader who has slept with most of the men in town while serving as stepmother to Leah (Isabella Star LeBlanc). She also has a mentor relationship with Officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), the son of Officer Hank Prior (John Hawkes), with whom Danvers has an adversarial relationship. There is also Danvers’ boss, Ted Connelly (Christopher Eccleston), whom she blames for sending her to Ennis. We also have the great Fiona Shaw in a vital role as Rose Aguineau.

While the mystery of the dead scientists is at the forefront, multiple subplots and elements are at play in this series that fill each hour-long episode with teases heading toward resolving this intricate mystery. In addition to the darkness-shrouded community, there is a focus on the plight of the indigenous population of Ennis, including a local mine that is poisoning the water supply. Kali Reis, who has Native ancestry, shares a connection with her character, who struggles to align with her heritage and role as a police trooper. We see these themes throughout the series as every relationship is either cross-cultural or features culture as a driving point in bringing characters together or pushing them apart. It is an intriguing approach to the story, unique for True Detective. Nevertheless, the shift from male to female protagonists does not change these from being broken characters; it just alters the perspective. Most of the male characters, except Peter Prior, are underdeveloped compared to their female counterparts, which is one of the few issues I had with Night Country.

True Detective: Night Country TV Review

The other issue I had with this season is the length. All three prior seasons of True Detective ran for eight episodes. An argument could be made that each season had one or two throwaway chapters that detracted from the main narrative, but Night Country has the opposite issue. The first four episodes are damn near perfect, with a balance of character development and plot details dropped in just the right way to make them important without giving us too many red herrings. But, by the fifth episode, Night Country begins to pick up the pace as it rushes towards the resolution of the mystery. Issa Lopez is only the second filmmaker to helm every episode of a True Detective season since Cary Fukunaga. She mostly nails the complex balance between visual clues and the soundscape of the barren Arctic tundra. By the end of the sixth episode, I was a little disappointed that there were no more episodes. The season does not feel like something was missed or overlooked, and my questions about things were answered; they were done too quickly. So often, I complain that a series overstays its welcome by an hour or two, but this time, I feel that True Detective: Night Country needed a couple more chapters.

True Detective: Night Country is the best season of this series since the first. The shift in the creative team behind the camera has given this anthology new life while keeping it aligned with Nic Pizzolatto’s original vision. Despite the stories being separated by a decade and thousands of miles, there are several connections between the first season and this one. Jodie Foster is excellent in her best role since The Silence of the Lambs, and Kali Reis holds her own as a solid new talent. The blend of mystery and a good sense of humor makes True Detective: Night Country the first great series of 2024, and is bound to be in the top ten by the end of the year. As much as I have enjoyed every season of this series so far, Night Country is the first entry that I feel audiences will embrace as much as the first.

True Detective: Night Country premieres on January 14th on HBO.

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.