Fan theorists, start your engines
True investigator has returned. Wait. What is True investigator?
It’s been almost 10 years since HBO introduced it to audiences True investigator on Jan. 2014. A TV show with a name that’s really silly had to be good for anyone to take it seriously, the first season of creator Nic Pizzolatto’s anthology drama is notable for its pairing of a revived Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in a murder mystery with a creepy Weird Fiction subtext and a all-timer title sequence.
The successive seasons of True investigator failed to become a sensation like its first award-winning. After a much-delayed third season arrived in 2019, the series was effectively put on ice, and Pizzolatto’s engagement with HBO ended (while another with FX failed to even take off).
However, HBO still believes in the magic of that first season enough to put some juice behind a new installment. While it was probably meant to be alone like the others True investigator times, Night Country — starring Jodie Foster as Detective Liz Danvers and Kali Reis as her reluctant partner Detective Evangeline Navarro in search of missing men at an Arctic research station — is really trying to woo fans.
The trailer for True Detective: Night Country is full of callbacks to season 1, in ways that are structural (a cop being interviewed about a gruesome case), stylistic (dark and moody wide shots with hints of the supernatural) and textual (the eerie spiral from in the first season returned ).
The trailer goes to great lengths to make those connections quite obvious — the spiral is somewhat Lovecraftian symbolism that became part of the crime ring put together by season 1 protagonists Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson). The spiral was also invoked in season 3, which itself was an attempt to return the show to its roots after a wildly unpopular second season.
But online, trailer viewers also noticed which may have more Night CountryThe season 1 relationship rather than creepy symbolism: The story is set in Alaska, and in the fourth episode of season 1, “Who’s Going There?,” Rust Cohle said he went there to visit a dying father who no one could confirm was there.
Little tidbits like this are made True investigator a hit: On the face of it, this is a bad crime drama, but it is too one built for the age of fan theory, sprinkled with ominous references to works of Weird Fiction such as Robert W. Chambers’s 1895 The King in Yellow, which, depending on your point of view, either enriched the series or ultimately proved to be a waste of time.
That’s what everyone, from HBO to everyday fans, is hoping for True Detective: Night Country delivers: An entertaining mystery to ponder, and analyze every frame of. Hopefully showrunner Issa López and producer Barry Jenkins can find that magic again. Yellowjackets can’t do it alone.
True Detective: Night Country will premiere on HBO and stream on Max “later this year.”