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True Detective: Night Country Episode 2 Review

In True Detective: Night Country episode 2, the show references its past and crafts some genuinely shocking moments, while fleshing out its characters more.

*This review of True Detective: Night Country will discuss spoilers for episode 2*

Only two episodes into True Detective: Night Country, and it’s clear that Issa López intends to take the season into a darker, more horror-tinged focus than your typical police procedural. The murder tableau that closed last week’s episode and opens episode 2 easily feels like something ripped from the TV version of Hannibal or anything that Hannibal Lecter would’ve concocted. (The connection with Jodie Foster isn’t lost on me, either.)

The episode opens with a truly shocking moment with the aforementioned murder tableau – a tangle of naked bodies frozen in a state of shock, some with seemingly self-inflicted wounds. There’s an intriguing bit of characterization with the local force, all joking around and treating the dead disrespectfully, until Danvers (Foster) steps in. She initially wants to punt the case to Anchorage, where they have more resources and information, but she quickly changes her mind and wants to take on the case herself. And then one of the bodies actually wakes up. It’s a legitimately unexpected development, and one that changes the shape of this investigation dramatically, even if the victim is in an indefinite coma.

From there, things slow down considerably, as Danvers and Navarro (Kali Reis) take distinctly different tactics to investigate the case. Danvers takes the more traditional route, asking around about the nature of the work being done at the Tsalal research station, and the personalities of the scientists. Navarro takes a more unconventional approach, since she’s technically not part of the official investigation. (I remain curious as to what exactly happened to cause the rift between her and Danvers, and how long the show can draw this out.) She first talks to Rose (Fiona Shaw), the woman who originally found the bodies, as she sees her as someone in tune with the supernatural elements in Ennis, and someone to confide in regarding the death of her friend. 

But what unites both detectives, and turned me into Rick Dalton pointing at the TV, is the reveal of the crooked spiral on one of the victims’ foreheads. Fans of the first season of True Detective will easily remember the telltale spiral that was so symbolic in that case, a kind of calling card to the secret cabal of murderers and sex traffickers that the detectives in season one uncovered. As fate would have it, Navarro’s friend had the same spiral tattooed on her when she was murdered. Even if you don’t go into episode 2 with the same fondness for season one, the spiral is a captivating image on its own, and one that raises a host of questions

Jodie Foster and Finn Bennett in Episode 2 of True Detective: Night Country
Jodie Foster and Finn Bennett in Episode 2 of True Detective: Night Country (© Michele K. Short/HBO)

López has stated that she approached Night Country as a kind of mirror to the male-dominated first season, and it’s already clear how she’s handling that mission statement, with some thematic parallels that are unmistakable. For as captivating as the mystery within Nic Pizzolatto’s first season was, the backdrop within that was how detective work is a slowly corrupting disease, which destroys your relationships and mental state – not just in how you perceive others but in how you see the decaying fabric of the world.

Danvers is a perfect continuation of that, isolating herself from her own step-daughter Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc), clearly seeing her destructive behavior but unable to do anything about it. And it’s rubbing off on Pete (Finn Bennett) as well, who takes every opportunity to neglect his family in favor of working on the Tsalal case. Though his puppy dog loyalty pays off, in the best scene of episode 2, as Danvers schools Peter in ways to approach the case from a fresh perspective, with each new question raising disturbing possibilities.

I’m a little less hot on the rest of episode 2, as the team of police continue interviewing whoever they can about the case. With any murder investigation (small town or not), you run the risk of confusing the audience of who is who, and how concerned we should be on their involvement in the crime, and the episode veers close to the edge of this. The most interesting aspect of the case is the implied racism around the community, and how Navarro’s friend’s death would be treated differently if she was white. Leah’s exploration of her Native heritage with the facial markings could be equal parts rebellion and genuine curiosity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it lands her in danger sooner or later.

López’s dedication to the creepy atmosphere is a great sell for Night Country, and the final moments of episode 2 are effectively disturbing in a way that will stick with me at least until next week’s episode. Whether this season captures the cultural conversation in the same way that previous seasons did remains to be seen but I would say that, after two episodes, the show is already off to a solid start and measures up to the high standard set all these years ago.

Episode 2 of True Detective: Night Country is now available to watch on Max.

True Detective: Night Country Episode 3 Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
In True Detective: Night Country episode 3, the investigation slows down to explore the social unrest within the community.
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