'True Detective: Night Country' Episode 3 Changes the Series As We Know It

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'True Detective: Night Country' Episode 3 RecapHBO

Looking for True Detective: Night Country Season 4, Episode 2? Read our recap here.

HERE'S ANOTHER TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY RECAP, ESQUIRE READERS. I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT—what? My editor dared me to write this entire recap just like Danvers constructs her text messages: in all-caps with a slight hint of panic. Not working for you? [Ed note: Please revert to all caps like I told you to.]

So far, season 4 hasn't picked a side: it flirted with the idea of blowing up season 1's cosmic-supernatural-creepo happenings into a full-blown story arc but it also maintained a strong basis of true-crime possibilities, by way of Danvers's science and fact-based investigation. Before this week, we saw the ghost of Daddy Cohle, a big-ass polar bear in the middle of Ennis's streets, and a potentially demonic DVD copy of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But it was still unclear whether or not Night Country's otherworldly elements would take a backseat to earthly horrors (see: the very-real Tuttle family's crimes at the heart of season 1's Yellow King plot).

A Tsalal scientist erupting in a fit of demonic possession settled that one for us. Let's dive in—just make sure to set your Tinder radius to Fairbanks first.

Navarro Exposition Time

At long last, Night Country finally treats us to some extended time with Navarro. But before I get there, a moment of praise for Kali Reis. Two years ago, she was knocking opponents out and hoisting her fists in the air as a professional boxer. Now? She's holding her ground opposite freaking Clarice Starling in her first television role. It's been incredible to watch.

Back to it: in episode 3, we see exactly why Navarro is so attached to Annie K. When Navarro was still working alongside Danvers, she was tasked with arresting Annie for trespassing in Ennis's mines. We see Navarro bust down Annie's door, only to find that she's running the area's last birthing center—and she's mid-delivery. Instead of arresting Annie, Navarro helps her instead.

Why Navarro beefed with Danvers in the first place. This is key. Early on, Danvers tells Prior the bedtime story. Once, Danvers and Navarro received domestic violence reports concerning a man named William Wheeler, who "took up with an 18-year-old girl." The victim wouldn't file a report, so there's nothing they could do. Eventually, Navarro and Danvers are called to his house, where he shot the girl—and himself, according to Danvers—but we never see it. Instead, Night Country shows Wheeler at the scene, whistling a very familiar tune to Navarro and Danvers. I hate to refer you to season 1's terrible antagonist, Errol Childress, but yeah—it sure sounds like the same song.

One last Navarro tidbit: She was raised in Alaska by her mother and a "bad dad." Mom took the family to Boston to get away from the father, then returned to Alaska. When they came home, she struggled with mental health issues, ran away one day, and was mysteriously killed in the wilderness. Another Ennis resident running into the tundra to their death? Let's save that info for later.

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Giant Ennis polar bear... is that you?HBO

Danvers Says, "thank u, next"

Let's take a minute to catch up on the case, the investigation of which gives us a brilliant look into Danvers's deep knowledge of Ariana Grande's discography. Like we did last week, let's break this down in a somewhat digestible way:

Annie K. and Raymond Clark's Relationship: Thanks to the heroic efforts of Puddle the Unicorn, we know a few new things about how Annie met Raymond. Annie's hairdresser was the Tsalal lab's resident barber. Annie begged to go with her to the lab and she eventually obliged. Then! Annie and Raymond fell in love, apparently. They kept their relationship a secret from everyone except for one person—who once took a candid photo of them frolicking on the beach.

Oliver Tagaq Enters the Ring: Yet another subplot in episode 3 sends our detectives on the trail of a Tsalal member who left the lab just in time: Oliver Tagaq. Navarro and Danvers eventually find out that he's living in a nomadic hunting colony, so of course, they drive straight to it. Mr. Tagaq is (understandably) pretty pissed about his unannounced visitors, so he chases them out with a shotgun—but not before saying some creepy shit to Navarro. He asks about her name and almost seems to know her, but they drive away before we get any answers there.

Vinny Delivers the Goods: Our favorite The Graduate-ignorant detective boy calls up a veterinarian to inspect the still-thawing Tsalal crew. His verdict? They didn't freeze to death. They were attacked by someone—or something. Let's rule out the paradoxical hypothermia thing.

Voodoo ET Cosmic Coompa Loompa Bullshit: As coined by Danvers, of course. We'll discuss the latest supernatural development when we get to Night Country's big Regan MacNeil moment, but what about the dreams? At one point in episode 3, Navarro moseys around the titular night country, presumably looking for Clark. She sees a figure in the distance—is Daddy Cohle playing tour guide again?—then slips and falls. When Navarro is unconscious, a little girl puts a hand on her shoulder, similar to Danvers's dream from episode 1. She's holding a polar bear, too. If Ennis is really where dreams and reality collide, are the two planes of existence colliding into each other? Will I sound like a stoned Rust Cohle if I suggest the stuffed polar bear is the big Smokey the Bear-looking animal that Navarro almost ran over with her car? Both of them have missing eyes, but... yes. Yes I will. [Ed note: Would work better in all caps, like I freaking told you. See previous note.]

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I can’t tell you how many times an episode I press pause and make this exact face at my screen.HBO

True Detective: The Yellow King Made Me Do It

OK, here it is—the scene that'll make absolutely sure that you don't get any sleep tonight. At the end of the episode, Danvers and Navarro pay a visit to Mr. Tsalal Scientist Who Survived the Corpsicle. His list of injuries is so severe that it's pretty damn tough to believe he's still alive (wink, wink): two amputated legs, frostbitten extremities, blindness. Danvers enters his room and rather futilely asks him why his crew left the laboratory on that fateful night. His response? AGGGHGHGHGHGHGHOOWWOWOWAGHHHHHHHRAWRRRRR. [Ed note: Now we're talking.] Then: "I woke her and now she’s out their looking for us in the dark."

Before she can chase that promising line of questioning, Hank Prior's search party—which Danvers repeatedly called a group of "rednecks" throughout the episode—storms the hospital. While Danvers deals with, you know, that, Navarro peeks in on our newly thawed friend. Once again, just to scare the living shit out of you, he bolts upright in the bed, and belts, "Hello, Evangeline. Your mother says hello. She’s waiting for you." Then he flatlines.

Well, uh, shit! Before I go full Reddit on you, there is a possibility—just like a few other moments from this season—that this is a dream and/or illusion. The drinking water in this town is still the color of concrete, and I stuffed last week's recap with NIH papers about the causes and effects of cold-induced mass psychosis. This episode made an effort to tell us about the history of mental health issues in Navarro's family. But if this man really is possessed, we have a lot to talk about.

Of course, the main question is who possessed him in that moment. It has to be the she he mentioned to Danvers—the very same she we learned of in the first episode. ("She's awake," remember?) Do the Tsalal scientists worship a god in a similar way to how season 1's cult worshipped The Yellow King? With Night Country's compulsive season 1 references, are we simply dealing with The Yellow King here? And is that entity what killed Annie in that shady cellphone video?


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