It’s been nine years since the first season of True Detective became a breakout hit on HBO, and so much has changed since then. Matthew McConaughey has become a self-help guru, Woody Harrelson might actually be his biological brother, and subsequent seasons have made some people wonder if those monologues creator Nic Pizzolatto wrote for Rust Cohle in season one were actually meant to be profound rather than darkly comedic.
Director Cary Fukunaga dropped out after season one, Justin Lin only did the first three episodes of season two, and Jeremy Saulnier lasted only two episodes in season three. To some, the series’ run has been characterized by diminishing returns (though true heads among us recognize Colin Farrell’s performance as Detective Ray Velcoro in season two as one of the high-water marks of premium cable acting).
HBO surely hopes that season four, True Detective: Night Country, set to premiere January 14th, will be able to recapture the magic. The first teaser just hit, and at the very least, it’s not short on compelling hooks.
This season follows a female detective duo, played by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, as they investigate the disappearances of eight men from the Tsalal Arctic Research Station in Ennis, Alaska, all taking place during 24 hours of nighttime arctic winter, where town secrets aren’t the only things shrouded in darkness. It all sounds a bit like the seasonally-flipped version of Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia with Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs mode. Yes, please?
Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk, Moonlight) is producing, and burgeoning auteur Issa Lopez (Tigers Are Not Afraid), who wrote the pilot, is serving as writer, showrunner, and director of all six episodes. Which would, at least on paper, give Night Country the consistent creative voice the previous two seasons arguably were missing. The town and research station are fictional, but most of the series was shot on location in Iceland.
The supporting cast below Foster and Reis includes Finn Bennett, Fiona Shaw, and Isabella Star LaBlanc, with Christopher Eccleston and John Hawkes getting some of the most screen time in this first look. It is hard to imagine a character actor more perfectly suited to True Detective than John Hawkes, who can play “haunted townie” in both comedy (Eastbound & Down) and drama (Winter’s Bone) alike.
This latest season was originally slated to hit streaming this year, but chairman and CEO of HBO and Max Content Casey Bloys told a code conference that it had been pushed back to January ‘24 in the hopes that the striking writers and actors would be available to promote it. The WGA writers strike ended this week, though SAG-AFTRA are still on the picket lines.
Whether that ends soon or not, some of us don’t need a full promotional tour to get excited about a Jodie Foster murder-mystery set in Alaska produced by Barry Jenkins.