It’s February—it’s dark, it’s cold. Oh, and it’s rainy and snowy. Ugh, did someone say something about an election? Well, let’s forget all our worries and watch a slow-moving horror drama series set in the Arctic circle. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to True Detective: Night Country, which is currently airing weekly on Max on Sundays at 9 pm ET.
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Feminism: 10/10 points, Entertainment: 5/10
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Arctic horror may not sound appealing from the get-go, but did we mention there is Academy Award-level talent involved? That’s right, double Oscar winner Jodie Foster plays chief of police Liz Danvers, a layered, 50-something white woman with a gun and a crime to solve, along with Kali Reis, who plays her sidekick Evangeline Navarro. Navarro is a thirtyish highway patrol officer of Iñupiaq and Dominican descent who sees visions and has some cool face piercings. Foster’s primary antagonist is Academy Award nominee John Hawkes, who spends his time gnashing his teeth at Foster’s detective work and painting his living room a regrettable shade of blue in anticipation for the Russian fiancée he’s never met, but has sent money to.
Look. We’re four episodes in on this Sunday night prestige drama, and as much as we appreciate the show's soaring score on the Bechdel Test every episode and laud its WTF twists and gross-out moments, we’re just not hooked or intrigued enough to continue. It’s not that we don’t love the acting talent—Kali Reis as Navarro is nuanced yet compelling, and as her hottie love interest, Joel D. Montgrand ably plays her not-too-demanding and secretly smitten lover-bar owner, Eddie Quavaak. And Jodie Foster—we’d be lying if we said we didn’t just want to watch her do anything, including shout at Annette Benning for two hours from a small boat in Nyad. (Another narrative notable for its focus on prickly females with strong success drives—good luck at the 2024 Oscars!)
However, a master class in acting isn’t enough here. Every week during Night Country, we’re checking our phone to see how much of the episode is left. The mind wanders…would our time be better spent getting started on taxes? That’s the problem with this show, which takes off on the eve of the 65-day polar night which happens within the Arctic Circle. It’s a mishmash of spooky occurrences involving a missing set of scientists that seems linked to a native woman’s killing years before. The plot is overstuffed with details, clues and ancillary characters that (so far) have little rhyme or reason.
The powerhouse actors have anchored the main characters with charisma, so we tried watching this like a hangout film—a meandering story of this person and that person’s movements and interactions with other townsfolk that makes no discernable progress toward even a shadowy resolution. We got some emotional traction, for sure: There are past tragedies alluded to, like a small boy that we never see grown to manhood and a troubled mom who didn’t live to raise her children. There are current frictions: a mine is said to be poisoning the land, cookies cost $10 due to inflated prices, a mom tries to keep her child from being jailed for vandalism. Trouble is, for a hangout show, none of this is a scene where we actually want to hang out. Even showrunner Issa López confessed in an interview that when she was shooting the series in well-below-freezing temperatures, she mused: “Who wrote this? What is wrong with this person?”
Well, our thoughts exactly. Even though there are only two episodes left, we’ll be taking back our Sunday night since practically anything seems funner than spending time in the fugue state of Night Country. Will we discover there’s an evil spirit or Big Mining responsible for the deaths? Will officer Navarro succumb to her family legacy of mental illness? What happened to that polar bear’s other eye? These are the answers large and small we won’t be tuning in to see. Besides, we’re counting on Ryan Murphy to satisfy us in the Badass Ladies of a Certain Age category.
For those still willing to brave the cold with Foster and bop to the theme song by Billie Eilish, episode five hits Max two days early on Friday, February 9 at 9 pm ET, a reschedule from its usual Sunday night time slot when presumably, we’ll all be watching the Super Bowl.