True Detective season 4 has arrived on HBO and Max, and the show has once again captured our imagination with a wild mystery. In the very first episode of True Detective: Night Country, eight scientists at an Alaskan research station vanished without a trace, leaving Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) to reluctantly team up when they realize that the current case connects to a murdered woman from years before.
Although we don’t have enough information yet to fully understand who the killer is or what they are trying to accomplish, the series has dropped a handful of clues that offer some intriguing hints and potentially some full-blown supernatural elements. Some these things may be red herrings that are designed to throw us off. But as of Night Country episode 3, these are the True Detective season 4 clues that are hiding in plain sight.
The biggest clue in the first episode of Night Country was discovered in the early part of the story, just as the disappearance of the researchers was revealed to both the audience and the unsuspecting supply guy. Whoever was responsible for the mass disappearance left behind a severed tongue, which was later confirmed to belong to Annie Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen), an Indigenous woman who was murdered several years prior to the start of this series.
There are a few inherent questions about the tongue’s presence at the crime scene, particularly about who had the tongue all of this time and why did they kept it. That’s overlooking a more pressing detail. Someone left the tongue there as a message, almost like a calling card. But who is the message intended for? And what are they trying to convey?
In any murder investigation, there’s no better clue than the body or bodies that were left behind. While the victims’ bodies have not had a full examination as of episode 3, Vince (Vilhelm Neto), the veterinarian cousin of Officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), had a very astute observation about the way they perished. According to Vince, they didn’t freeze to death because the intense cold would have caused them to pass out long before they perished. Instead, the remaining bodies are frozen in the throes of terror, almost as if they were so scared that they literally died of fright.
Additionally, the self-inflicted injuries on the bodies and the fact that the men were either naked or nearly naked suggests that they were not in their right minds when they perished. Ordinarily, that would imply that the victims were drugged. But on this show, it’s too soon to say.
This may not be a clue tied to the case, but the Beatles’ Twist and Shout has recurred a few times in the initial episodes. The first two times were in the opening minutes, when one of the researchers was watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off during the parade scene where Matthew Broderick’s Ferris sings the song. That scene was stuck on repeat when Danvers arrived, and she angrily shut down the movie out of a professed hatred of the Beatles.
Yet Danvers didn’t always feel that way. During a flashback sequence, Danvers danced to the same song with her late husband, the father of Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc). And in the third episode, Navarro hears Twist and Shout when she experiences a strange vision of her own.
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t think much about Navarro finding an orange on the ground in the middle of an intense winter. But it was a bit creepy when she threw the orange away before having a supernatural vision, only for the orange to come rolling back to her.
ScreenRant had an interesting theory about that. The site notes that orange was the color associated with death in The Godfather, and its inclusion on this series may carry the same meaning. If so, the orange finding its way back to Navarro could turn out very badly for her.
One of the most effective aspects of the first season of True Detective was the way that the show floated the idea that the occult might be real without ever crossing into supernatural territory. True Detective: Night Country pushed even farther into the unknown in its very first episode, when the ghost of Travis Cohle (Erling Eliasson) silently leads his ex-lover, Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw), to the bodies of the missing researchers.
Way back in True Detective season 1, Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle mentioned that he had a father named Travis who lived in Alaska who had “strange ideas.” And Travis is clearly meant to be that character. What we don’t know is why Travis’ ghost felt the need to involve Rose, or if Travis has any connection to the currently unfolding case.
From the beginning of the series, the researchers at Tsalal station have been characterized by the town’s residents as weirdos who rarely left their compound. Few knew or understood what they were trying to accomplish there. But we now know who put up the money. As established in the most recent episode, Tsalal station was funded by Tuttle United, a company that shares the name of the Tuttle cult from season 1.
That’s too big of a coincidence to ignore. The Tuttle cult was behind a string of ritualistic murders in the first season, even though their legacy was thought to have died out. Instead, there’s a good chance that the Tuttles’ evil lived on through the station. After all, someone there likely had Anne’s tongue on ice for years. And we still don’t know the purpose of that.
In addition to Travis and the Tuttles, the most obvious link between Night Country and True Detective season 1 is the return of the spiral symbol. Or more accurately, the inverse of the spiral from season 1. So far, it’s shown up as a tattoo on Anne’s body, before her lover, Raymond Clark (Owen McDonnell), had it tattooed on his body as well. The killer apparently placed the same symbol on the body of one of the researchers as well.
What does the spiral mean? And more pressingly, what does it mean to the killer? There are only three episodes of True Detective: Night Country left, so answers may be forthcoming. But don’t be too shocked if this season asks more questions than it answers.
A few other tidbits to chew on:
- Evangeline’s name. The meaning of the name “Evangeline” is “messenger of good news.” While her experiences are spooky, it seems her true purpose is to bring light to the Night Country.
- Rust’s words. In season one of True Detective, Rust Cohle said the “only honorable thing” for humans to do would be to stop procreating and walk hand-in-hand into the darkness. This may explain why the birth rate is essentially zero in season four of True Detective.
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