True Detective season 1 teased the supernatural - season 4 finally delivers

With a new director and showrunner at the helm, the HBO hit finally becomes the show internet theorists imagined it to be

True Detective: Night Country premieres exclusively on OSN January 15. Photo: HBO / OSN
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True Detective’s first season is about obsession. In the premiere instalment Nic Pizzolatto’s groundbreaking anthology series, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) can’t seem to shake the horrors of a decades-spanning case – a sensation that transcended the screen and imprinted itself on the audience. By nature, television allows viewers to welcome stories into their homes, so it’s no wonder trying to solve the first season’s narrative turned everyone into armchair detectives.

A decade later, the show's fourth and latest season – True Detective: Night Country, which premieres on January 15 on OSN+ in the Middle East – is poised to repeat that phenomenon.

Looking back at the stellar first season's big tease

If you can think back to 2014 (a simpler time in so many regards), the primary driver of online chatter regarding the final stretch of the debut season was dominated by amateur sleuths each trying to connect the dots between the story’s more extensive spiritual connections, even verging into the supernatural.

Ideas around the true meaning of "Carcosa" and "the King in Yellow", both references the show made to a then-obscure 1895 book by Robert W. Chambers, filled Reddit threads, message boards, Twitter posts and YouTube essays that predicted Cole and Hart would run into some sort of cosmic and/or Eldritch horror, a subgenre pioneered by famed early 20th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, only for the conclusion to play out in a more grounded and human form.

In subsequent instalments of True Detective, Pizzolatto largely abandoned the hints to a spiritual side, but it’s back in full force across the six episodes of Night Country by embracing the indigenous heritage of its setting.

Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez moves forward

Night Country is the first instalment not to feature Pizzolatto at the helm (he still serves as executive producer, however) but rather is shepherded by Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez, who wrote and directed the whole season, with an explicit desire to bring back those elements.

“One of the things that I adored about that first season of True Detective is how it tapped very subtlety into that mythology,” Lopez said at a press conference for the show last month. ”And so there was Carcosa, there was a Yellow King ... this is insane that a very real deeply rooted who-done-it has this tiny, tiny whiff of cosmic horror. And I want more of it.”

She went on to say part of her pitch to HBO involved bringing “back the horror element”. Having seen the whole season, and as evidenced by the trailers, she delivers accordingly.

Without giving things away, the horror element is an essential part of the narrative this time. While the terrors of the Louisiana Bayou felt like fancy set-dressing back in season one, the supernatural side is present from the get-go here.

How Night Country embraces indigenous horror

Night Country opens in mid-December with the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska, plunging into winter, which there means a constant state of darkness. Things already go bump in the night, especially when there’s a grizzly murder case at the centre for the detective duo of Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) to ponder. Stare at the void long enough, and it’ll begin to drive you mad.

“There is a little bit of things that are older than the stars and then the ice that are hiding and waiting in the dark,” Lopez says.

Night Country further succeeds in blending these spiritual elements alongside its look at how ghost stories shape the indigenous culture.

Navarro’s views are often juxtaposed by Danvers’ inherent scepticism, similar to the friction between Rust and Marty. While the first season used that as a fun tension between the two partners, Night Country broadens and expands what it might mean if Navarro is actually right, resulting in a decidedly ethereal vibe that makes the show stand out from its predecessors.

It’ll make you wonder what’s really out there in the snow and the dark – and might drive a revived interest for an obsessive fandom that made the show such a hit in the first place.

After all, time is a flat circle.

Updated: January 05, 2024, 6:59 AM