Asking the Right Question in True Detective: Night Country

We’re four episodes into True Detective: Night Country and my only complaint is that we only have two more episodes to go. The fourth entry into this iconic anthology series is the first helmed by someone other than Nic Pizzalotto and new boss Issa López is making her first season both new and familiar all at once.

The obvious observation here is that True Detective: Night Country is horror, no question about it. We are staring at the literal end of the world and asking what’s beyond the horizon. Or if we should even look beyond the horizon. We’ve been visited by ghosts, seen (to the best of my knowledge) the first ever corpsicle, and questioned what was real or what was madness induced by the never-ending night.

The spiral painted on a wall in True Detective: Night Country

The other obvious observation is that there are a lot of Season 1 callbacks. From the Tuttles, to being in Alaska, to Rust’s dead dad, and then obviously the spiral, Season 1 is embedded into the DNA of True Detective: Night Country. But how far will that go? How many of these callbacks are Easter Eggs and how many of these callbacks are relevant to the story we’re watching unfold?

As Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) asks, are we asking the right question? What should we be focused on here? Who killed the scientists? What exactly is Night Country? What does this story have to do with Season 1? Is this a supernatural story or are they losing their minds due to 24 hours a day of darkness? Let’s dive in.

The Spiral

I firmly believe that one of the “right questions” we should be asking is why are we seeing the same spiral from season 1? Why are we seeing it all over the place? The spiral has appeared on victims, on stones, on roofs, on walls, and in vortex form in the sky. We twice saw Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) in Season 1 witness the spiral in the sky—once during the day and once at night. In True Detective: Night Country, the spiral is showing up a lot more frequently and in a variety of places. It’s also worth noting that Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw), who appears to be a medium, said the spiral is “older than the ice”.

Rust Cohle staring at the spiral in the sky in True Detective

Given everything discussed, the spiral is of obvious importance and is one of the questions we should we asking. Is it an entrance to what lies beyond? Could the reason Rust Cohle wanted to leave Alaska so badly be because the spiral was calling to him even before it continued to follow him outside of the Arctic?

One can’t help but think of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and its infamous Red Room/Black Lodge. A place in between worlds where time has no meaning. While I don’t think True Detective would go as far as Lynch and Frost did, the series has alluded to, and spoken of, life and places beyond what we know. Could the spiral be the entry point? Maybe even a symbol of death? It might sound out there, but let’s not rule it out.

Could the spiral be a sign of madness? Rust Cohle was teetering on madness when he was seeing it. The incestuous Tuttle family behind the killings in Season 1 were mad. The 60-plus days of darkness in Alaska is enough to drive people to madness. Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) has a history of mental illness in her family and Liz Danvers isn’t exactly the poster child for sane behavior. We can’t rule out that the spiral is a symbol that someone who was losing their mind many years ago used and that symbol was discovered by others impacted by the darkness, who in turn used it.

One last possibility to look at is the origins of the Tuttle family. Perhaps there is a long-running connection between the family and this area. Maybe they have been inflicting the same type of violence in Alaska that they have in Louisiana and the symbol is prevalent in both locations because of them? It’s the easiest connection to make, although there is part of me that wants to see True Detective: Night Country embrace the paranormal and get really trippy and weird.

What Exactly is Night Country?

This is the mystery we know the least about but is without a doubt one of the questions we should be asking. We have next to no narrative evidence to go off of here, but given the context it was used in this week, this is a question to leave on the list.

As tempting as it would be to let the imagination run wild here, we must await more narrative evidence before attempting to draw conclusions about what it means to be in night country. The small sample size of evidence we do have indicates that night country isn’t a good thing and possibly could lend itself to the supernatural as alluded to by Rose.

What Answers Do We Need?

I can’t help but think that Danvers continuing to ask us what the right question is will wind up being a message to the audience more than anything. True Detective has always been at its best when it’s making us ponder our own mortality, what else is out there, and if any part of our existence actually means a thing. That’s what True Detective: Night Country is doing right now. What lies beyond the veil? What is life after death like? Is there true evil in this world?

Issa López isn’t going to give us every little detail laid out neat and clean. We might learn how those six scientists died. We probably will learn who killed them and that will likely lead to new questions. Or maybe that isn’t the right question? Maybe we should be looking deeper into the parallels between Louisiana and Alaska. With two hours of story left, the possibilities are endless. But a series like this is going to pick which questions are important and which questions we should hold onto. Which questions we should dream about long after this show is over? After all, that’s what art is supposed to do, right?


Written by Andrew Grevas

Andrew is the Founder / Editor in Chief of 25YL. He’s engaged with 2 sons, a staunch defender of the series finales for both Lost & The Sopranos and watched Twin Peaks at the age of 5 during its original run, which explains a lot about his personality.

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