True Detective: Night Country Review

 True Detective premiered a decade ago, with one of the greatest seasons of television ever made. It was always going to be near impossible to follow, and season two collapsed under the pressure. Season three saw a partial return to form, but still fell short of greatness. After a lengthy five year hiatus, Night Country finds the series chasing that high once again, with mixed results and a major identity crisis. 

The benefit of anthology storytelling is the ability to tell unique, separate stories that fit the style and tone of the series. Atmospherically, Night Country feels right at home under the True Detective umbrella, but  narratively it takes departures that don’t quite fit. There are spiritual and supernatural elements that play a big role this season, but they’re an out of place addition to this long established series. The show feels torn between a detective thriller, and a drama rooted firmly in native culture. There’s potential for something interesting here, but the season doesn’t explore either element in fully satisfying ways. 

The lack of actual detective work is perhaps Night Country’s biggest detriment. The season is already shortened with just six episodes instead of eight, and a huge chunk of each episode is devoted to familial drama. Looking back at the complete story, only about half the episodes are essential in advancing and solving the season long mystery. More frustrating, though, was how often the plot advanced through pure happenstance. The season is riddled with conveniently placed exposition from secondary characters and dream/vision sequences. Oh, and a few spooky pointing ghosts too! 

While the story was a letdown, the production design and cinematography were exceptional. The remote town of Ennis, surrounded by the frigid Alaskan tundra and bathed in constant darkness created an effectively creepy atmosphere. Being set during Christmas time, and having the glow of multicoloured lights against the pitch black sky made for a stunning backdrop. Jodie Foster was expectedly great, and Kali Reis gave a surprisingly solid performance, given she doesn’t have an acting background. 

Night Country is a True Detective season that lacks detective work, and at times, logic. It’s gorgeous to look at and well acted, but never truly feels like it belongs as a part of this series. It would’ve been better suited as a separate show, where it might’ve found its own a creative voice, instead of having to shape itself around an existing property. 


Review by: Benjamin Garrett

Popular Posts