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‘True Detective’ Review: Episode 4 Fends Off the Ghosts of Christmas Past — Spoilers

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “True Detective” Season 4, Episode 4, the fourth hour of “Night Country.” Read our previews review here.]

Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw), the most intriguing character among a frozen sea of eccentrics, shed a little light on a life that appears, at turns, fabulous and ravaged. After greeting Missy Navarro (Kali Reis) dressed to the nines for a Christmas Eve feast, Rose — whose sole tie to this case is that she discovered the (mostly) dead scientists, with an assist from the ghost of her former lover, Travis — took a brief respite from imparting wisdom about the afterlife to tell her guest a snippet of her past: Rose, it turns out, used to be a professor. “A very serious professor, in a very serious school, writing very serious ideas,” she says. But one day, while grading a particularly dull paper, she came to realize that her life’s work was meaningless; that all those words just contributed to the deafening noise of a cacophonous civilization. So she left her job to escape to Ennis, Alaska. Why? I imagine there are many reasons, but in Episode 4, the oracular Rose only says, “It’s a little quieter here. Mostly. Except for all the fucking dead.”

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The dead are positively roaring in “True Detective” Season 4, especially this week. Danvers (Jodie Foster) wakes up to piercing rumble of Annie K’s dying screams. Later, she remembers how her mother died when little Danvers was just seven years old — a tragedy made worse by how it mirrors the loss of her son, Holden, before he was even that old. Even if Danvers wanted to forget her past, she can’t. A polar bear runs her off the road — the same one-eyed polar bear Navarro saw in the premiere — which triggers the memory of her son’s stuffed polar bear, which keeps resurfacing in her house. By the time Navarro picks it up on Christmas morning, Danvers has had enough. “Dead people are dead,” she shouts. “There’s no heaven, there’s no hell, there’s no ghosts. […] There’s no one out there waiting for us. We’re here, alone. The dead are gone.”

Navarro takes her partner’s outburst pretty well, given that her sister just died. Danvers’ dead may be clawing their way back out of their graves, rattling the coffins she’s long tried to leave buried, but Navarro’s grief is fresh. Jules (Aka Niviâna) was supposed to be safe at The Lighthouse. Despite earlier pleas to live independently, Jules understood where she was going as soon as Danvers calmed her down and clothed her that morning. She seemed to accept it, to welcome it, to believe that it could help. But that was before she saw someone, something, under her bed. It was all too much, and despite her sister’s devotion, Jules folded up her clothes and walked out into the cold.

Another loved one lost. Another painful echo of a mother gone too soon. Danvers had no reason to fear her son would be taken from her as quickly as her mother had been, but Navarro knew Jules was walking the same dark path as her mom. She tried to stop it. “I failed her,” Navarro says. “It’s a curse. It calls us, and we follow. It’s calling me now.”

At the end of Episode 4, she listened. Called to an abandoned facility nicknamed “The Dredges” after someone spotted a man wearing Annie K’s coat out there, Navarro and Danvers immediately split upon entering the cold, dark, and wet mining plant. Danvers chases down their suspect, expecting to find Raymond Clark (Owen McDonnell) — the scientist who was dating Annie K, became obsessed with her tattoo, yet was never questioned in relation to her death — and instead sees Otis Heiss (Klaus Tange) peaking out from under Annie’s hood. Pete (Finn Bennett) dug up Otis earlier in the episode because he had injuries that matched the dead scientists’ (burns on both corneas and “self-inflicted bites”). More importantly, he once mapped the ice caves where Danvers and Navarro suspect Annie K was killed, and they hope (despite his heroin addiction and ensuing mental decline) Otis can guide them through the perilous underground “death trap.”

Fiona Shaw and Kali Reis in "True Detective: Night Country" Season 4 Episode 4
Fiona Shaw and Kali Reis in “True Detective: Night Country”Courtesy of Michele K. Short / HBO

We’ll find out if that’s plausible next week, but early indicators aren’t encouraging. Otis, scared and shaking, tells Danvers that Clark is “gone. He went back down to hide,” before clarifying, “He’s hiding in the Night Country — and we’re all in the Night Country now.” Yet Otis’ batshit proclamation isn’t even the eeriest element of Episode 4’s ending. After securing Otis, Danvers goes back downstairs to find Navarro, sitting silently next to a glowing Christmas tree. When she split from her partner, Navarro saw a floating body and followed its footprints to the out-of-place holiday decor. But just when she was ready to blow off her spirited prey, she showed herself. Another ghost, pale white, screaming in Navarro’s face. Now, there’s blood pouring from her ear, leaving Danvers (and us, the viewers) to wonder if her prophecy is true; if she was cursed, called, and caught.

Last week, Navarro threw an orange into the night, only to have it come rolling back. This week, an orange rolled out from under his sister’s bed, ushering in Jules’ demise. Now, Navarro is down. Danvers isn’t far behind. And the dead’s cries are unrelenting.

Grade: B+

Case Notes:

• Per the opening titles, we’re on the seventh day of night… but I gotta say, when Danvers chucked that stuffed polar bear out the front door, it sure looked like the dawning of a new day.

• Pete complaining about doing extra work on Christmas Eve vs. Navarro saying “Fuck Christmas Eve” exemplifies why the latter will always be Danvers’ favorite partner (and the former more of her whiny kid — even though he was right to complain!).

• “Is there anyone in this town you haven’t fucked?” There were not a lot of laughs this week, but Danvers nervously edging behind Navarro so that Adam’s wife wouldn’t see the woman he cheated on her with, well, that’s funny. Circumstances be damned.

• Jules folding her clothes before walking out to her death is a curious, unexpected tie-in to the dead scientists. They, too, folded their clothes before dying naked in the cold (or their killer did). Is this a native custom? Just good manners? Methinks we’ll soon find out.

• Qavvik (Joel D. Montgrand) gifting Navarro a SpongeBob toothbruth is such a great move. Her smile says it all. They’re in looooooooveeeee.

• I have very much enjoyed the “Night Country” soundtrack, but I gotta say: Playing Mazzy Star’s “Into Dust” is borderline illegal. “The O.C.” owns that song so wholly and completely that you can’t avoid thinking of the Fox teen sensation whenever it comes on. Not sure it hurt my viewing experience — everyone loves (or should love) remembering our greatest nighttime soap — but it’s still out of place.

• That being said, Episode 4 repeatedly, if briefly, bucked its somber tone with moments like Danvers’ visiting her ex-lover, Navarro getting an early Christmas gift, and seeing both Captain Ted (Christopher Eccleston) and Hank watching “Elf” on TV. Is that our lonely boys’ go-to holiday pick-me-up, after both were stood up by their respective bed buddies? I guess so!

• “Why don’t you just say it: That I ruined your life and you didn’t want to have the baby?” Yeeeeee-ikes, Peter! I remain very worried about your marriage.

• Of all the shots to choose from Episode 4, is there a sadder possible photo than this? In the words of another great HBO show: Hank, you’re a fucking disaster, my guy.

John Hawkes as Hank, the most pathetic man in a town named after an incomplete penis. (Ennis? Get it? The missing “P” is not a coincidence.)

“True Detective” Season 4, “Night Country,” releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max.

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Source: Iwire

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