TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY Episode 2 Review – Too Many Questions and No Answers

Episode 2 of True Detective: Night is already out. Jodie Foster returns as Chief Danvers as the investigation begins with plenty of questions and no answers.
True Detective: Night Country

If we see the new season of True Detective through a three-arc lens, we’re now at the end of act one, the introduction. Seeing it from the point of view of the structure helps when trying to contextualize the first episode, which was more focused on setting up the characters than the actual crime investigation. That is not the case this week, though, with Chief Danvers’ efforts being at the forefront, even if the town’s life is not forgotten by a long shot.

The Investigation Begins in True Detective: Night Country Episode 2

Issa López, who is back as writer-director of Episode 2, does not waste any time before she pays off the massive cliffhanger from last week. The police are now trying to remove as much ice from the bodies as possible without jeopardizing the state in which they were found (to varying degrees of success). During that process, they encounter two hard truths: Ennis lacks a proper forensics team that can take proper care of the crime scene, and one of them is actually still alive (as confirmed by the horrifying scream that was thankfully cut away by Billie Eilish’s opening credits song, and by Danvers’ phone call with the hospital after Eilish stops singing).

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But in that cold open, there are already several questions that seem scary enough to freeze the officers’ blood even more than it already is. Why are their clothes meticulously folded not too far away from the bodies? Why are they in that position? And what is that symbol tattooed on one of their heads? That last one will linger in all of their minds for a while, as the symbol will reappear several times throughout the episode.

Fiona Shaw’s character returns for two brief scenes at the beginning, to remind us that this new season will have ties to the supernatural. Another character also tells Prior later on that it’s normal for everyone in Ennis to see the dead during the long night. Previous seasons have already touched on the philosophical and metaphysical questions, but how far will Night Country go there?

Jodie Foster in HBO’s True Detective: Night Country.

In Episode 2, we get to see Danvers’ approach to police investigation on full display, but what’s smart about López’s writing is that she first introduces it in a scene at the hockey field where the bodies are relocated to thaw slowly, and pays it off at the very end. To Jodie Foster’s character, it’s all about asking the right questions — not those that will get the case closed, but rather those you can answer with the information you have at hand so far in a way in which you will be able to move forward with the investigation.

Prior asks a couple of good ones, but besides making some oral arguments for some possible scenarios that could have happened right before the seven scientists froze on the ice, it’s not like they couldn’t conclude anything from them. It was a good start. But Kali Reis’ Navarro uses the same tactic to find the trailer in which Annie and one of the scientists were able to hide their secret relationship — the link between the two cases that was missing up until that point.

Ennis, Alaska, Is the Main Character of True Detective: Night Country

One more week, the main attraction of Night Country continues to be the in-town dynamics between the characters, where race plays a pivotal role. Danvers is not too happy about her stepdaughter Leah (Isabella Star LeBlanc) getting a Sharpie version of a traditional Indigenous face tattoo, which prompts a visceral reaction from Kayla and her grandmother. (Once again, Kayla comes out as one of the best characters in the season and one I wish we had more time to spend with.)

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Jodie Foster is far and above the best actress here, we knew that going in. But one of my biggest surprises from the fourth season of True Detective is that everyone around her is leveling up to her. Her character doesn’t have the most dramatic arc so far, and her range is not very wide (which is why it’s all the more impressive how Foster can sell us on every second of her character and make us care for a troubled woman who still has a lot of life in her but doesn’t want to admit it to herself or anyone). But Reis is keeping up with her, and Navarro continues to be a character I’m fascinated with.

The same goes for Leah. Isabella Star LeBlanc manages to make her character feel like so many other teenagers we know from TV and our own lives, yet still come across as unique and so interesting. Two small moments stood out from her in this episode, both at the ice rink: when she (slightly excited) asks her stepmom if she was there to see her play, tries to hide her disappointment when she dismisses the thought, and immediately forgets all about it when her girlfriend passes by. The second one is her conversation with Prior later on.

(L-R) Jodie Foster, Kali Reis, and Finn Bennett in HBO’s True Detective: Night Country.

The mystery had a bigger role to play in Episode 2 than it did last week, even if López is aware that the strength of the season lies in the cast of characters. But, much like last week, she brought it all home and left us hanging with the final moments. Besides whatever is going on inside that trailer, which could have been enough of a cliffhanger for any other crime series, the writer-director-creator still had one more ace up her sleeve. There is still one more scientist who hasn’t been found. Where is he? Or, I guess the right question would be: When did he get separated from the group?

The new episode has already aired on HBO and is currently available to stream on Max.

About True Detective: Night Country

True Detective

Release Date: Jan. 14, 2024
Director and showrunner: Issa López
Writers: Issa López, Alan Page Arriaga, Namsi Khan, Chris Mundy, Katrina Albright, and Wenonah Wilms
Produced By: Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Cathy Tagnak Rexford, Sam Breckman
Executive Produced By: Issa López, Mari Jo Winkler, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, and Mark Ceryak for PASTEL, Chris Mundy; Alan Page Arriaga, Steve Golin, Richard Brown, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Nic Pizzolatto
Production: Anonymous Content, HBO Entertainment
Distributed by: HBO
Cast: Jodie Foster, Kali Reis, Fiona Shaw, Finn Bennett, Isabella Star Lablanc, Aka Niviâna, Anna Lambe, and Joel D. Montgrand with Christopher Eccleston, and John Hawkes

Synopsis: When eight researchers at Tsalal Station suddenly disappear, Danvers (Jodie Foster) orders a search but tempers expectations of finding the men. After handling a workplace dispute and checking in on her sister Julia (Aka Niviâna), Navarro (Kali Reis) tries to convince a skeptical Danvers (Foster) that the men’s disappearance is connected to the murder of local activist Annie Kowtok, a case that has long gone cold. 

What did you think of Episode 2 of True Detective: Night Country? Are you enjoying the series overall? What has been your favorite season of the show thus far? Who is your favorite character from season 4? Let us know your thoughts on our social media channels on Discord and X, and stay tuned for next week’s episode review.

KEEP READING: TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY Review – Issa López’s Season Is a Worthy Addition to the Saga