True Detective Season 4 – Night Country Episode 1 Review
As a critic, encountering a range of responses from passionate fans is par for the course. The usual suspects include statements like “If you don’t like it, watch something else” (a bit challenging when you’re a professional TV critic), accusations of being a “hater,” claims that “you just don’t get it,” accusations of bias, and the classic “everyone else loves it, so you must be out of touch.” While these reactions are expected, they don’t necessarily sway my professional opinion.
In this review of the first episode of True Detective: Night Country, a series premiere set in the cold Alaskan landscape, I anticipate encountering some of these typical responses. Despite the show receiving praise from other critics, I remain unimpressed after watching the premiere. Although my opinion may evolve over the remaining six episodes, as of now, the show has failed to capture my enthusiasm.
Despite positive reviews building high expectations, especially given my fondness for Season 1 of True Detective, Night Country feels like a slow and uninspiring start. The pacing may be forgivable for a slow burn, but the messy narrative and flat characters hinder the overall experience.
While Jodie Foster and the cast deliver commendable performances, particularly Foster as the grumpy Ennis, Alaska police detective Liz Danvers, the story takes too long to become engaging. The limited six-episode season feels somewhat squandered.
Danvers and detective Evangeline Navarro have a history marked by bad blood over a cold case involving a deceased indigenous woman. Despite their apparent dislike for each other, it’s evident they will collaborate on the new case involving a group of missing male scientists. The frigid setting, with its two months of darkness, adds a bleak, film noir atmosphere, reminiscent of Season 1’s southern swamps.
However, Night Country fails to achieve the same oppressive atmosphere as Season 1. The supernatural elements are introduced abruptly, lacking the subtlety of the first season. The CGI caribou, flickering lights, and other overtly supernatural occurrences feel reminiscent of Yellowjackets, without the same suffocating dread. The show appears to blend elements from Wind River and Yellowjackets, incorporating a buddy cop dynamic with two female detectives.
This derivative approach wouldn’t be an issue if the story or characters were compelling. The first season’s success stemmed from a captivating mystery and the dynamic between two contrasting detectives. While Night Country may eventually develop this dynamic between Danvers and Navarro, currently, their shared tough and impatient traits make them feel too similar.
The music choices, including the use of Billie Eilish’s “Bury A Friend” in the opening credits, seem fitting but lack the boldness and uniqueness of Season 1’s selections. The general musical direction appears to lean toward the on-the-nose style seen in Yellowjackets’ second season.
Reflecting on The Killing, I consider that pairing Foster with a younger male detective might have provided a more interesting buddy cop dynamic, introducing a necessary contrast. The worry here is that Danvers and Navarro lack sufficient contrast with their tough, serious, and grumpy personas.
While it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions, Night Country has yet to captivate me as Season 1 and the underrated Season 3 did. Despite my reservations, I look forward to the upcoming episodes, hoping that the show will pick up its momentum.
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