It’s time to clock in, fellow detectives. True Detective: Night Country debuted its fourth episode on HBO this past Sunday—and this case is a doozy. This season of the anthology series is set in Ennis, Alaska, centering around a group of research scientists who are seemingly studying the origins of life itself. When they suddenly disappear, Police Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and State Trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) try to find them. Along the way, they discover a corpsicle, Rust Cohle's daddy, a whole bunch of spirals, and much, much more.
As always in the True Detective-verse, answers aren't easy to come by. At the end of episode 4, Danvers and Navarro find Raymond Clark's (AKA the missing/suspicious/tattooed scientist) trailer, which is full of all sorts of creepy shit. Now, Danvers and Navarro have two episodes to sort out the mystery, but who says we can’t do our own detective work from home? The Internet is ablaze with theories—we’ve rounded up the best ones below.
"Twist and Shout," Baby
Our first theory comes courtesy of none other than a devoted Esquire reader. Check out what user NBridwell theorized in the comments section of one of Esquire's Night Country recaps:
There's some sort of suggestive element happening that was released within Tsalal. Whether it's supernatural, biological, etc., I'm not sure. It. could even be a collision of Tsalal research and the mining company's detrimental efforts. What I do know is that when we find the bodies, we see them literally twisting and shouting. This is immediately after most of the group was listening to Twist & Shout via their movie night screening of Ferris Bueller. As a group, those people were all, in unison, receiving a direction from the TV. When the suggestive element was released, their first impulses were to twist and shout. What drove them to the cold, what made them get naked, and why they did this in such an organized fashion, I cannot tell you. Likely, the "suggestive element" first possessed Clark. Clark then acted as a witness to the events and disappeared.
One of this season's strangest moments arrived in the first episode—when the "Twist and Shout" scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off played on the Tsalal laboratory's TV screen. We even hear "Twist and Shout" in episode 2, innocently humming along during a flashback involving Danvers. Whatever this "suggestive element" is, there's no doubting that we literally saw a frozen Tsalal member twist and shout in the ice. Creepy.
Jules Verne's An Antarctic Mystery
Some discerning viewers have researched the name of the science station, Tsalal, learning that the moniker comes from an icy island in Jules Verne's novel, An Antarctic Mystery. In Verne's book, a crew of explorers sail to the sub-Antarctic region and run into a dead sailor on an iceberg. Sound familiar? The captain decides to find out what happened to the sailor and their crew members. They find out that the island of Tsalal is deserted—and that its Indigenous population has died from a case of rabies that spread to them from the dog on the ship. In Night Country's town of Ennis, its Indigenous people play a big part in the mystery. Did some kind of new disease kill Annie? Plus, you should take a look at Raymond Clark's webpage in the first episode—his research focused on staph infections. Considering he's basically a murder suspect at this point, this feels like a big clue.
Rust Cohle, Where Art Thou?
In episode 2, we finally received explicit confirmation from Rose that the (undead) man who led her to the frozen scientist slushy is Travis Cohle. Rose revealed that she and Travis were a couple—and that she last saw him, he walked out into the ice to die before leukemia killed him. The fact that Rust Cohle’s father onced roamed the Alaskan tundra has fans wondering if Mr. Alright Alright Alright himself might make an appearance. Although it may be far-fetched, the allusions to season 1's mysteries can’t be a coincidence. After all, it seems like Danvers and Navarro might be investigating another iteration of The Yellow King mystery from the first season of True Detective, and the Tuttles might be involved, too. (If we believe Officer Prior’s search into Tsalal’s funding, of course.) If Rust is still out there, unraveling the biggest questions about existence and piecing together the explanation behind the spirals, he just might be inclined to revisit Ennis and help our new favorite detectives out.
Supernatural or Spiritual?
The tension in Ennis isn't just from its endless nights. There's clearly conflict between the Alaska Natives and the white residents of Ennis. Beyond dismissive racist remarks, people seem to be uncomfortable with any mention of the Indigenous people's traditions and values. Danvers seems to represent traditional detective tropes: logical, practical and dismissive of the unexplainable. Meanwhile, Navarro is more open to clues from more... spiritual realms. There's plenty of strange happenings in Ennis that could be linked to supernatural causes and/or spiritual guidance. Pete's son drawing a woman with star-like wounds just like Annie's? Scientists creepily moaning "she's awake?" Ghosts leading people to a trail of dead bodies? Plus, in episode 2, Rose delivers an entire scene's worth of supernatural exposition to Navarro. “Ennis is where the fabric of all things is coming apart at the seams,” she says, hyping her own ability to see the dead. Something tells us Daddy Cohle isn't the last ghost Rose spots over the course of Night Country.
Ennis Is a Portal to Another Dimension
One of our own Esquire editors read enough theories on Reddit to drive himself into a psychological spiral of his own making. In his research, he connected the big spiral to a portal to another dimension. The idea comes from Robert W. Chambers's book of short stories, The King in Yellow, which serves as the major inspiration for season 1's cult deity. The story features a hellish city named Carcosa, which the cult was trying to gain access to by performing abominations (like... murder). Apparently, evil deeds loosen the portal to this evil dimension. Ennis and Carcosa could be something like Stranger Things's "Upside Down," where reality and supernatural otherworlds start to meld into one another.
Folie à D'Ennis
This gem initially came from the viewers at home—and Night Country doubled down on it in episode 2. Imagine that you live in below-zero conditions—and you don't see the sun for days at a time. You might start to go a little batty, right? Shared psychosis—also known as folie à deux—is a disorder where people in close proximity to each other begin to share the same delusions. In episode 2, Peter Prior suggests that the Tsalal scientists may have experienced a fit of mass hysteria—but what if it's the whole town? The herd of caribou jumping off a cliff could be symbolism for what the town is experiencing. Multiple people see dead people and/or visions—and hear disembodied voices that repeat the same phrase. Even the quote at the beginning of episode 1 ("For we do not know what beasts the night dreams when its hours grow too long for even God to be awake") comes from Hildred Castaigne, a character from The King in Yellow. It's a sly connection to season 1, no doubt. But the quote suggests that when the night goes on for too long, unholy things occur that even God can't watch over. Shudder.
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