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True Detective: Night Country, Sky Atlantic review - death in a cold climate | reviews, news & interviews

True Detective: Night Country, Sky Atlantic review - death in a cold climate

True Detective: Night Country, Sky Atlantic review - death in a cold climate

Jodie Foster investigates in supernatural below-zero murder mystery

Kali Reis as Evangeline Navarro, Jodie Foster as Liz Danvers

This fourth series of the erratic detective drama opens with an epigraph, attributed to a certain Hildred Castaigne: “For we do not know what beasts the night dreams when its hours grow too long for even God to be awake.” It sounds dark and creepy, and is a fitting prelude to a story which mixes murder and eerie Arctic landscapes with disconcerting glimpses of the supernatural.

Still, while “Hildred Castaigne” sounds like a 14th Century mystic, Wikipedia reveals that it is in fact the name of a fictional character from an 1895 short story by Robert W. Chambers, who is “a prime example of an unreliable narrator.” So what you see, or think you see, may not be what you’re going to get from screenwriter and director Issa López.

Sky Atlantic are eking out Night Country one episode at a time, which might trigger panic attacks in viewers addicted to binge-viewing, but it does allow the show’s layers of atmosphere and suggestion to ferment in the mind. The story is set in the Alaskan town of Ennis, inside the Arctic Circle. Landscapes of snow, ice and rocky crags stretch away into the distance in the sharp but freezing northern light. It’s the time of year when darkness lasts all day.

But even before we hear news of the notorious and savage murder of Annie, a local Alaskan Iñupiat woman, it’s clear that something weird is going on. A local hunter is eyeing up a herd of caribou through the telescopic sight of his rifle, but just as he lines up his target, something startles the animals. The low sun suddenly seems to set at supersonic speed, while the caribou go into a mad stampede which sends them all over a cliff-edge. Baffling.

But perhaps not quite as baffling as the unexplained disappearance of a group of scientists from a remote research centre, where they’ve apparently been working on a breakthrough in cancer treatment, among other things. Whatever it was, they’re not studying it any longer, since they’ve vanished without trace… well, except for a message scrawled on a blackboard – “we are all dead”. And a severed tongue. Urgh.

Aiming to figure all this out is local cop Liz Danvers, played by Jodie Foster with a kind of shrewd cussedness, plus a squirt of glowering misanthropy. She doesn’t do charm and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly (or, indeed, at all), and her mood is not improved by her teenage stepdaughter’s habit of making lesbian sex videos. But she goes about her work with an abrasive efficiency which we anticipate will get results. Much of the drama revolves around her bad-tempered non-rapport with state trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis, a professional boxer turned actress). Navarro, herself an Iñupiat, is obsessed with the unsolved murder of the local girl, and there’s a palpable force-field of hostility between her and Danvers.

So far so good, though similarities between a previous Sky Atlantic drama, Fortitude, are too glaring to overlook. Not to mention John Carpenter’s Arctic scare-fest, The Thing. And it’s all very well booby-trapping the drama with spooky weirdness (like a dead guy, Travis, who reappears to his widow, played by Fiona Shaw, to point to where a bunch of bodies are frozen in the ice), but knitting it all into a persuasive whole is something else. We’ll see!

  • True Detective: Night Country is also available on NOW
Eerie Arctic landscapes and disconcerting glimpses of the supernatural


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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