HBO’s anthology crime drama True Detective is back after a three year hiatus, taking viewers to the remote wilderness and frigid climate of Alaska for its long-awaited fourth season subtitled Night Country. The first two episodes premiered this past weekend to strong viewership but mixed early reviews.
Episode 2 Takes a Supernatural Turn
The second episode, titled “Bury a Friend” after its haunting opening credits song by Billie Eilish, picks up following the shocking ending of the premiere when detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) discover a cave filled with elaborately posed frozen corpses dubbed “corpsicles.”
Inspecting the bodies with scientists, the detectives rule out ritualistic serial killers as each victim died differently. The corpses also exhibit massive cellular damage as if suddenly frozen at extreme temperatures. Sinister theories spread through the isolated town, evoking imagery reminiscent of True Detective’s occult-themed first season.
“The tension ratchets up effectively,” writes IndieWire in a positive review, praising the episode’s foreboding atmosphere and stunning visuals. However others including The Guardian felt the overtly supernatural turn was at odds with the show’s typically grounded approach.
Table 1: Episode 2 Ratings
Danvers and Navarro trace the corpses to a local clan of subsistence hunters and anglers called “The Elseys” believed to be keeping sinister secrets. The detectives split up to gather intel, with Danvers cozying up to the Elseys’ leader Raymond Clark (Finn Little) at a remote trapper’s bar.
Meanwhile Navarro and her partner Dougie (Trayce Singleton) discover the anguished Deputy Paul (Forrest Goodluck) knows more than he admits after losing his brother to the so-called “Vanishing.”
Connections to the Infamous Season 1 Case
Eagle-eyed fans noted connections to True Detective’s acclaimed debut season about occult murders in Louisiana. Aside from the ominous atmospherics, the episodes directly reference the prime suspects in that unsolved case: the mysterious Tuttle family.
“The Spiral symbol appeared,” notes GamesRadar, referring to the occult insignia tattooed on victim Charlie Lange in season 1. Danvers also discovers her father Travis (James Marsden), whose apparent suicide brought her back home to Alaska, possessed hidden case files on the Tuttles.
“Theresizable overlap has fed a compelling fan theory,” writes ScreenRant, speculating Travis could be the son of Matthew McConaughey’s iconic Rust Cohle character from season 1. Travis being Rust’s son would connect the show’s settings and mythology across decades.
Table 2: Theory Likelihood
|Travis is Rust’s son
|Spiral clues lead to Tuttle family
|Same international crime syndicate
These connections have created excitement but also skepticism that showrunner Issa López may be rehashing instead of innovating. “I’m wary of it becoming a nostalgia vehicle,” critic Alan Sepinwall tweeted. “It needs to stand on its own.”
What’s Next After the Game-Changing Twist?
Episode 2 concludes with a game-changing twist altering the season’s trajectory. The detectives realize the frozen corpses are not victims but rather the killers—sinister elders of the Elsey clan who ritualistically sacrifice members attempting to escape their isolated existence.
Raymond Clark is revealed as the story’s central villain, having frozen his own parents decades ago to maintain the Elsey’s way of life. Navarro is abducted by the Elders, leaving Danvers alone to discover the terrifying truth as she delves deeper into the cursed clan threatening both her case and her life.
The twist shifts the season away from a dark supernatural mystery toward a tense survival thriller vibe. “The final act is deeply unsettling,” wrote Vulture in their recap. “The episode concludes as the darkness fully takes hold.”
Most critics praised the shocking pivot while some like Forbes felt it happened too quickly to land or align with initial themes.
Looking ahead, episode 3 trailers show Danvers investigating the Elsey’s abandoned traps and snowmobiles, suggesting Navarro remains captive as a sacrificial offering. With his family’s dark secrets unearthed, Raymond Clark is poised to become a riveting antagonist chasing Danvers through treacherous Alaskan wilderness.
“The territorial battle lines have been drawn,” analyzes Den of Geek. “Now we get to watch it play out.”
True Detective has cast an atmospheric, unsettling spell with Night Country’s first two episodes. Despite uneven reviews, fans remain rapt by its creepy mystery, stunning arctic vistas, and ties to the show’s acclaimed past. With detectives Danvers and Navarro facing hellish evil amidst the frostbitten frontier, episode 3’s escape thriller turn could give the season the jolt it needs to reclaim the series’ former glory.
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