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True Detective: Night Country

Updated: Mar 28

After a long hiatus, TRUE DETECTIVE just wrapped up it's fourth season with a new showrunner, two great lead actors and so many allusions to John Carpenter's "The Thing", I felt like I was watching a spinoff.

Since "The Thing" is an all-time favorite, that's meant as the highest form of compliment from this corner.

It would be hard to argue the fact that the original season of True Detective will always be the best. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson delivered one of the best crime thrillers ever, mixing hints of the unexplained and the supernatural into their tale.

New showrunner Issa Lopez takes those elements to another level in this six episode chapter called NIGHT COUNTRY.

We meet small town sheriff Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) a hardened, bitter cop stuck in the tiny town of Ennis, Alaska. The only major industry nearby is a massive research station of the Tsalal Corporation. As the series opens, we see the lives of the scientists that work there unfold, casually, everything seems fine. But something we don't get a glimpse of arrives and terrifies them.

When a delivery man shows up with a package a short time later, they are all missing.

Danvers teams up with officer Evangeline Navarro to investigate. Former world champion boxer Kali Reis stars as Navarro and she is terrific. Jodie Foster is stellar as Danvers, pissed off at the world and ready for anything.

From the start, Navarro and Danvers clearly have bad blood between them, something from a case six years before that sets them up as the unlikeliest of partners.

For a small town, Ennis is full of rich characters. John Hawkes (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is Hank Prior, the policeman who thinks he should have Danvers job, running the all-male squad like an old fashioned boy's club.

Newcomer Finn Bennett plays Hank's son Peter, the only cop on the squad that shows any true investigative skills. Peter's loyalty is to Liz, but it will be tested.

Isabella LaBlanc (Pet Semetary:Bloodlines) is excellent as Liz's adopted teenage daughter, rebelling against Liz's support of the large corporation that's ruining the water supply and affecting her native tribe.

Fiona Shaw is intriguing as Rose, a fascinating woman of many talents who serves as the sounding board for many in the town.

The men at the complex have all disappeared at the start of nightfall, a darkness that lasts many, many nights as snowstorms blow in and visibility and temperatures plummet.

Lopez creates an immersive world for this mystery. You can feel the darkness, the cold and the creepiness factor tangibly as something unseen appears to be in play.

When the men are found, and the state they are found in, spirals the story in fascinating directions. As Danvers and Navarro pull back layer after layer of secrets within the town, you watch their grasp on everything they know start to loosen.

Each of the six episodes pulls you deeper into the darkness of the night country, leaving your head spinning at what you're watching. I loved it.

Social media complainers derided Lopez for some of her artistic choices. Hell, even Nick Pizzolatto, who created True Detective and ran the first three seasons, disowned this season in his online comments, saying he's "not responsible" for what he suggests is a mess.

Zero class, Nick.

Is it different? Yes. But it follows the anthology format and series devotees will find plenty of ties back to Season One and some of character Rust Cohle's powerful musings about life and the afterlife. Physical Symbology from the first season is up front and intimidating throughout, with massive black swirls haunting key scenes.

Vince Pope's moody music score is very good, as is the perfect use of Billie Eilish's "bury a friend" over the visually arresting main titles.

As all these characters converge, conspiracies unfold and vengeance of every nature is unleashed, Lopez keeps the tension on high and his key characters in peril. Danvers and Navarro are strong women and I loved their relationships with the men in their lives. They are a fascinating mix of hilarious and sad, but always real. Foster hasn't lost a step, she is fantastic, creating a character I've never seen before. She's jaw dropping from start to climax. Foster has been delivering killer lines of dialogue for decades and she nails everything here.

There were at least four scenes that shocked me and some that still haunt.

The emotion and sense of loss within is palpable.

As I write this, the last episode has aired, the season reached the highest ratings ever for any True Detective season and HBO just announced that there will be a season five under the sure creative hands of Lopez.

Take that, Nick.

Will Lopez revisit Ennis? Will she create something unconnected and new? Whatever she does with it, I'll be watching.

For me, NIGHT COUNTRY ranks right behind the original season as the second best chapter in the series. It gets a snow-blown, bloody appreciative A.

(All you fellow John Carpenter's "The Thing" fans, did you love all the references? From the obvious copy of the movie on the shelf in the Tsalal Complex movie room to the found men and that shot in the final episode that exactly replicates the film's poster art, Lopez clearly is a fan! Maybe she's brilliantly lobbying to do a remake?)

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