Home » ‘True Detective: Night Country’ Gets Closer to the Truth, With Help From Ariana Grande

‘True Detective: Night Country’ Gets Closer to the Truth, With Help From Ariana Grande

by Terrye
‘True Detective: Night Country’ Gets Closer to the Truth, With Help From Ariana Grande

Last week’s episode of True Detective: Night Country concluded with a major twist, despite this season only being two episodes into its run. The corpsicle that Detective Danvers and Trooper Navarro uncovered—with eight scientists frozen in terror in the Alaskan tundra—was missing a member: Raymond Clark. Clark had also just so happened to become a person of interest in the cold case murder of Anne Masu Kowtok throughout that episode’s run. It was a revelation that spelled bad news for the investigation into what happened to the men who were researching ancient ice at the Tsalal Station outside of Ennis. In Episode 3, things only continue to devolve, with a larger element of the supernatural creeping into Navarro and Danvers’ search for the truth.

Complicating things further are the theories from True Detective fans, who have been stitching together connections between Season 4 and Season 1 on Reddit, X, and Discord. They’ve speculated that Travis Cohle, the spirit who led Rose Aguineau out onto the ice to find the corpsicle, is the father of Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, as well as identified a connection between spiral imagery from Night Country and the first season. While I’m foggy on Season 1 lore (it was, after all, a decade ago), there’s a larger portrait of something evil being painted by showrunner Issa López, one whose disturbing allure welcomes fans old and new. The iniquity is dialed up once again by the end of Episode 3, with a horrifying sight that won’t soon be forgotten, making Night Country a gripping feat all on its own—with or without a larger connection to past seasons.

This episode begins with a flashback to around six years ago, with Navarro attempting to arrest Annie for her role in the destruction of mining property during a protest. Annie, a midwife, is in the process of helping a pregnant woman give birth, and refuses to comply until after she’s done her job. The baby almost doesn’t make it, but Annie manages to save them. A stunned Navarro watches the entire tense process, a rare smile appearing on her stony face when the baby takes their first breaths. “Now we can go,” Annie says, holding out her wrists to be cuffed. As the season continues to explore the death rates among Native peoples, this scene will likely become integral to the larger message by the season’s end.

Back in the present, Detective Hank Prior has assembled a rag-tag task force to find Clark, who they believe to be on the lam. Only half of Hank’s team are police. The other half are civilian Alaskans: mine workers looking for a way to blow off steam. When Navarro insists that they want to find Clark alive, Hank questions her authority, despite Danvers asking Navarro to work directly on the case at the end of Episode 2. Hank’s carelessness spells trouble. In a town like Ennis, the criminals’ motivations are second to the selfishness of a police force that couldn’t care less about crime.

Danvers and Peter Prior regroup back at the station, where Peter tells her that Lund—the sole surviving scientist in the coripsicle—is still comatose. The doctors amputated both of his legs, and his chance of survival is dwindling. But first, they’ll need to dig deeper into the scientist who might still be out there, starting with an evidence room full of Clark’s possessions pulled from his secret trailer. But before Pete digs in, he requests one little bit of information from Danvers about Navarro, now that they’ll all be working together: “What happened in the last case you worked with Navarro, the Wheeler case?”

“It was a murder-suicide,” Danvers begins. “William Wheeler, he was a bad, bad motherfucker. The last time he came out of prison, he took up with an 18-year-old girl. He beat her, hard. He sent her to the hospital twice … She wouldn’t report him. We knew how that was going to end, but there was nothing we could do. Then we got the call.”

In a brief flashback, we watch as Danvers and Navarro enter William Wheeler’s home and find him sitting over the girl’s dead body. Wheeler looks back at the two women pointing guns at him, staring at them while whistling. The flashback cuts short without telling us what happened next, but Danvers lies to Pete, telling him that both Wheeler and the girl were already dead when they arrived. “Navarro was convinced that there was something we should’ve done. She blamed me and it got nasty.”

Why Danvers is keeping the whole truth from Pete, we don’t yet know, but it’s clear that she wants to protect the younger Prior from all of Ennis’ darkness. Jodie Foster is an expert at conveying Danvers’ nuanced, oft-concealed maternal instincts, and we see this softer side of her again later, when Danvers keeps the daughter of a local hairdresser company as Navarro questions her mother.

Danvers and Navarro determine their next steps by looking through the evidence from Clark’s trailer. Danvers suspects that Annie and Clark started their relationship around spring 2016, based on a sweatshirt Annie is wearing in one photo. Who’s on it? “Ariana Grande,” Danvers says. “That came out in May 2016. Leah played it all the time.” (I am choosing to believe both that Foster’s pronunciation of “Arry-anna Gran-day” was improvised and that Jodie Foster listened to Dangerous Woman to prepare for this role.) This leads them to the hair salon, where Annie’s hairdresser remembers Clark as loving, if quiet and a little weird. When Navarro asks why the hairdresser never told the police about Clark, she tells them that she did—she disclosed all of this info to Hank just after Annie’s murder.

Navarro surmises that Hank is in the pocket of the mine and its workers, and that he kept quiet about Annie’s case to sweep her protests of the mine under the rug. “The mine employs 50 percent of Ennis’ population,” Danvers reminds Navarro. “Half the people who live here have got a reason to silence Annie K.” When the team confronts Hank, he balks and says the hairdresser’s information is irrelevant. Danvers threatens to file a report on Hank, and Hank retorts by saying he’ll file a report for “playing Mrs. Robinson with my kid.” That comment earns Danvers’ coffee splashed in his face. Unfortunately, like everything else in Ennis, it’s iced.

At the ice rink, the corpsicle has thawed enough for Pete’s friend, a vet, to make some educated guesses about how the men died. “They died before they froze,” the vet says, telling Danvers that death by hypothermia is usually much more peaceful. Navarro interrupts by telling them that she’s located a scientist named Oliver, a Native Alaskan living in a nearby nomad camp who worked at Tsalal years before the men went missing. When Danvers and Navarro investigate his residence to find out what Oliver might know, they find a gun pointed in their faces.

Oliver tells the two women that they’re standing on Native ground, owned by him and outside of their jurisdiction. A look of recognition then forms on his face, and he asks Navarro her name. Earlier in the episode, we learn that Navarro, who goes by Evangeline, never knew her Iñupiaq name. Before her mother was able to tell her, she was killed by a murderer after fleeing her family following a psychotic break.

But there’s no time to stay and chat with Oliver. Danvers receives a call that gangrene has spread throughout Lund’s body back at the hospital. He’s lost his eyesight, but he’s briefly coherent. When they arrive, Lund is screaming in feral pain. Danvers tries to ask him what happened the night that all of the scientists disappeared. “We woke her, and now she’s out there in the ice,” Lund says. “She came for us in the dark.” It’s all Lund can manage to say before his severe pain takes control of him. A fight between the police officers and the civilians Hank has assembled suddenly breaks out in the hospital waiting room, after one of the officers arrives injured. When Danvers leaves to tend to the chaos, Lund’s body rises from the bed to speak to Navarro.

“Hello, Evangeline,” he—or maybe, rather, it says. “Your mother says hello. She’s waiting for you.” Lund points his finger past Evangeline before falling back onto his bed, seizing, and dying. In the hospital’s waiting room, Pete cracks Annie’s old phone, which they found sitting in Clark’s trailer. The last video in her camera roll is of Annie recording herself. “I found it, it’s here,” she says, walking through what looks to be a room made of ice. Shortly after, the phone falls onto the ground and the video concludes with Annie screaming into the darkness.

It’s an abrupt ending, one that leaves us with more questions than it does with even minuscule scraps of answers. But considering the quote that appears before the first episode begins (“For we do not know what beasts the night dreams when its hours grow too long for even God to be awake”), it seems Ennis turning into bedlam during the sunless season is no coincidence. And everyone who has seen The Thing knows: Nothing good can come from toying with ancient ice.

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