It’s been 5 years since the third season of anthology series True Detective from HBO.
In that time creator Nic Pizzolatto has handed over the creative lead to Mexican writer / director Issa Lopez (Tigers Are Not Afraid), though he remains an executive producer.
True Detective: Night Country, moves to a female-driven project with Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in the lead roles, and shifts from the warmer backdrops of Louisiana, California and the Ozarks, to the colder climate of Alaska.
It’s also far more linear than previous seasons, which were heavy in flashback. Rest assured, these are all changes for the better after some uneven seasons (I could not get through S2 with Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn).
Jodie Foster plays Detective Liz Danvers in the icy outpost of Ennis, where eight men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish without a trace -there are even shades of a horror genre in this bold premise.
“It’s like they went to take a leak and never came back…”
Ennis has also entered its long winter, of days-long darkness serving as the opposite of crime dramas such as Insomnia.
But Danvers has history with Det. Evangeline Navarro (Reis), an Iñupiaq woman who navigates her ties to her indigenous community and the US law, at a time when there are protests over the loss of land and cultural connection.
Navarro also carries the unsolved death of a Native activist, Annie -whose tongue is mysteriously found at the research facility now devoid of its 8 scientists.
This will bring Danvers and Navarro uncomfortably together to try and solve both cases.
“You think I want to work with you…. take a look in the mirror Liz. No-one can stand you,” says Navarro. Ouch.
Caught in between is young cop Pete (Finn Bennett), trying to forge an honest career while his father Hank (John Hawkes) is, well, the polar opposite. Hank is getting himself a mail-order bride from Russia when he isn’t throwing out the policing rule book in his town.
Also featuring is Fiona Shaw as Ennis resident Rose, who sees ghosts and makes a startling local discovery, plus Anchorage police captain Ted (Christopher Eccleston) who has unexpected history with Liz.
It wouldn’t be True Detective without a slow-burn style, shocks and a touch of the spirit world. Issa Lopez brings all of that to play, but the changes are so stark to previous seasons that Night Country feels like its own very confident beast.
Jodie Foster, in her first series lead role since 1975, brings gravitas and excitement to her role as Danvers, raising a Native step-daughter whilst upholding the rule of law. Boxer-turned-actor Kali Reis is still new to performing but holds her own as the strong, silent Navarro. True Detective will surely put her on the map.
Season 4 is chilly, claustrophobic and sometimes terrifying, but a welcome return to form.
True Detective: Night Country 8:30pm Monday January 15 on Showcase / Binge.