- Film And TV
- 11 Feb 24
In Night Country, the highly anticipated comeback series of True Detective, Jodie Foster and Kali Reis investigate a fresh case of sanity-threatening cosmic horror – and it ain’t Man City winning another treble.
Like all great works of art, the more time goes by, the more extraordinary the first season of True Detective seems, not less. In an era when Hollywood’s IP obsession has gone into overdrive, that a spec pilot by an unknown writer, Louisiana native Nic Pizzolatto, could not only get made but legitimately take over the cultural zeitgeist seems scarcely believable.
Adding to the lightning-in-a-bottle feel of that first series – in which two hard-bitten cops, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), investigate a series of occult murders in the Louisiana backwoods – is the subsequent arc of a series that, at the time, was the hottest property on TV.
Set in Los Angeles and featuring Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughan as the leads, 2015’s second series had an incomprehensible plot that resulted in a debacle for the ages. Though Pizzolatto steadied the ship with 2018’s third season, which returned to the more familiar occult themes and boasted a bravura lead performance from Mahershala Ali, it had nowhere near the stylistic and narrative pyrotechnics of season one.
Again, while True Detective season one – the fourth instalment of which famously climaxed with an astonishing one-take shot of a police raid on a drug compound, in probably the best television episode of the last decade – positioned Pizzolatto as arguably the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood, it’s fair to say his career since has followed an idiosyncratic path.
In 2021, he scripted Netflix’s remake of Danish drama The Guilty, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which was a solid place-holder. His two upcoming major projects, however – his feature directorial debut, Easy’s Waltz, about a Vegas crooner attempting a comeback, and scriptwriting duties on Marvel’s superhero effort Blade – have a lot of fans scratching their heads.
Still, Pizzolatto has taken a back seat on HBO’s new True Detective reboot, Night Country, getting a simple executive producer credit. Instead, the chief creative responsibility has fallen to Mexican writer-director Issa Lopez, who was persuaded to adapt an original story she had drafted – about a pair of detectives investigating the disappearance of an all-male crew in an Arctic research station – for the True Detective franchise.
What sealed Night Country’s status as appointment viewing was the casting of Jodie Foster as one of the leads, Detective Liz Danvers. Returning to the crime genre she made such a seismic impact on in The Silence Of The Lambs – where she as Clarice Starling, and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, gave two of the greatest and most iconic performances in American movies – Foster excels as the sharply intelligent Danvers, who has to contend with a troubled home life and haunted past as she tries to solve the men’s disappearances.
Equally impressive as Danvers’ younger colleague, Evangeline Navarro, is sometime boxer Kali Reis, who brings a compelling intensity to the role. The two female leads notably gender flip season one, with Lopez having hit on the inspired idea of making Night Country a “dark mirror” of the first series. “Where True Detective is male and sweaty,” she says, “Night Country is cold and it’s dark and it’s female.”
As as is now customary on major Hollywood productions, there’s a considerable Irish influence. One of the missing scientists is a Dubliner and Trinity College alumnus called Raymond Clark – who has some murky links to a cutthroat, exploitative mining business in the local town, Ennis – while there are also roles for Irish actresses Fiona Shaw and Dervla Kirwan.
Though it remains to be seen if Night Country can hit the rare heights of season one, it’s certainly off to a promising start, with Lopez making clever allusions to cult horror classics like The Thing, The Shining and Alien, while maintaining the show’s trademark Lovecraftian touches. The first episode ended intriguingly, with the men’s bodies discovered in the snow, their faces frozen masks of petrified horror.
What did they see? An evil killer on the rampage? Some unspeakably grotesque creature? Or maybe Clark just showed them Ireland’s Euro qualifier performances under Stephen Kenny? Whatever the answer, buckle up for another unnerving walk on the wild side.
• True Detective: Night Country is on Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.
- Film And TV
- 29 Feb 24