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True Detective: Night Country Premiere Gives Us Two (Very) Cold Cases to Solve

You might want to put on an extra layer and crank up the heat before watching the premiere of True Detective: Night Country, because it is downright bone-chilling… in more ways than one.

Sunday’s premiere kicks off in December during the last sunset of the year in the remote northern reaches of Alaska, where the sun won’t rise again for more than a month. A hunter lines up his rifle to shoot an elk, only to watch the entire herd of elk stampede off a cliff like lemmings as the sun sets. (Yep, we’re in for a long winter.) At an arctic research station in the town of Ennis, scientists are watching Ferris Bueller and munching on popcorn when one of them suddenly starts convulsing and ominously tells the others, “She’s awake.” The lights cut out, and when a delivery truck arrives with supplies, the driver finds that all the scientists are missing, with Ferris Bueller‘s “Twist and Shout” scene playing on an eerie loop. The one thing he does find, in fact, is a severed tongue.

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True Detective Night Country Kali Reis
True Detective Night Country Kali Reis

So who’s going to look for these missing scientists? We meet Alaska trooper Navarro (Kali Reis) as she investigates an assault at a seafood processing plant. A worker’s abusive boyfriend showed up at the plant, so a co-worker knocked him out cold with a metal bucket. The boyfriend wakes up angry, but Navarro easily takes him down and hauls him away. Meanwhile, the local police chief Danvers (Jodie Foster) and her deputy Hank (John Hawkes) search the research station for clues, with Danvers smashing the DVD player until it stops playing “Twist and Shout.” (She’s “not a Beatles fan.”) The scientists came from all around the world to live there year-round, studying biology, climate change and “the origin of life.” But Danvers finds a message scrawled on a whiteboard: “WE ARE ALL DEAD.”

Hank’s son Peter (Finn Bennett) is a cop, too, and he helps them scour for clues, but it’s Danvers who theorizes that the scientists have been missing for two days at least, based on how congealed the mayo left out in the kitchen is. She also takes a close look at the severed tongue and determines it must be a Native woman’s tongue, judging by the unusual marks on it. When Danvers returns to the police station, Navarro is waiting for her. She thinks the tongue is connected to the unsolved murder of a Native woman six years ago — a case that got Navarro demoted down to trooper. Danvers brushes her off, making a crack about her “spirit animal,” but then she’s called away when her stepdaughter Leah (Isabella LaBlanc) gets in trouble for a sexually explicit video she made with a female teen classmate. Danvers tries to scold her, but Leah just scoffs: “Stop pretending like you give a s–t now.”

True Detective Night Country Jodie Foster
True Detective Night Country Jodie Foster

While Danvers arrests a drunk driver, Navarro heads to the local mine to talk to the brother of the murdered Native woman Annie. He doesn’t know what connection Annie had to the research station, but we learn she was an environmental activist who protested against the mine. Navarro is interrupted, though, by a call about her sister Jules, who’s crying and hopeless at a run-down motel. She admits she freaked out again, but she doesn’t want to go to another hospital, and she promises Navarro: “I got this.” Danvers is curious about the Annie connection, too, and asks Peter to get the files from that case out of his dad Hank’s personal stash. So Peter leaves his wife and kid at home and goes over to his dad’s, sneaking a box of files out the window while he’s not looking. Oh, and a loner named Rose (Fiona Shaw) is seeing visions of a man named Travis outside in the snow, following him into the icy darkness.

Danvers looks through the Annie files with Peter, explaining that she was a Native woman found stabbed 32 times. The murder weapon was never found, but she made a lot of enemies with her protests. Navarro was the one who found her body and became obsessed with the case, which led to her getting demoted. Speaking of Navarro, she visits a bearded guy named Qavvik for an aggressive tryst and uses his SpongeBob toothbrush before ditching him. While she’s picking up beer, she overhears the abusive boyfriend bragging to his friend — so she pours Baileys into his gas tank. When she’s driving back, though, she hears a voice saying, “She’s awake” before hitting the brakes when a one-eyed polar bear (!) wanders into the street. Danvers, too, hears a voice saying, “She’s awake” while she’s trying to sleep, along with another voice calling her “Mommy,” and finds a stuffed polar bear on the ground. Hmmm.

True Detective Night Country Kali Reis Jodie Foster
True Detective Night Country Kali Reis Jodie Foster

Rose follows the vision of Travis out into the darkness, where he dances in the snow before pointing her to a new location. Danvers combs through the scientists’ files looking for a connection — she really needs some red thread and some push-pins to make a proper murder board — and she finds a photo of Annie with a hole ripped in her jacket… and one of a scientist wearing the same jacket with a patch on it. She goes back to the research station and finds Navarro already there, and they search the room of the scientist in the photo, Raymond Clark, but they don’t find the jacket. Danvers tells Navarro to let the Annie case go, but she says she can’t, after seeing how brutally Annie was murdered. If Annie were white, the whole police force would still be looking for her killer, she adds, which sets Danvers off, but they stop bickering when they receive an urgent call.

They head out into the frigid wilderness, where Rose is waiting. She says, “Travis showed me”… even though she knows Travis is dead. Then they see what she found: a gruesome pile of bodies frozen in the ice.

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