TV review: Grizzled sleuths make 'True Detective' Season 4 compelling

Kali Reis (L) and Jodie Foster star in "True Detective: Night Country." Photo courtesy of HBO
1 of 5 | Kali Reis (L) and Jodie Foster star in "True Detective: Night Country." Photo courtesy of HBO

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- HBO's True Detective series returns Jan. 14, featuring two no-nonsense women investigating a compelling crime.

Season 4, Night Country, introduces Detective Navarro (Kali Reis) as she is arresting a domestic abuser as soon as he wakes up from being knocked out in self-defense. She also has graphic flashbacks to time serving in one of the desert wars -- which specific one to be revealed later.


On an average day on the job, Danvers (Jodie Foster) takes no guff from suspects, subordinate officers, bureaucrats, drunk drivers or her own stepdaughter, Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc). Danvers doesn't make friends because she doesn't need to.

She has authority and the tunnel vision to get things done. She demands a lot of Officer Prior (Finn Bennett), but it seems that's because she respects his ability to deliver.

Navarro has family members who are dealing with mental illness, and both detectives share a past case whose traumatic circumstances are revealed bit by bit in subsequent episodes.

Whether compartmentalizing their personal and public lives or using their jobs to work through personal trauma, writer-director Issa López crafted two compelling leads. Foster and Reis have the skills to convey those complexities.


The crime scene is disturbing. During weeks of constant night in Alaska, a group of scientists froze to death in the snow.

Thawing the bodies for examination is the first problem Danvers and Navarro face. The depiction of one victim on the cusp of life and death is especially chilling, no pun intended.

Then, the cops investigate symbols found on the bodies and suspects, including tattoo records that match the symbols. Danvers also has to dig through boxes of personal effects, so it's a lot of the busy work of police procedure.

Subsequent episodes explore more of the characters and communities in town. There are subcultures of which even Navarro isn't aware until she visits one to arrest someone.

Characters who are introduced as thorns in Danvers' side eventually earn some sympathy, too.

How the town deals with constant night and snow is secondary. Residents are used to it, and they have protocols, but for viewers it registers how the climate makes basic police work more challenging, let alone leads to these unique deaths.

With its anthology format, True Detective has struggled to equal its first season. We won't know for sure until the season finale, but Lopez's setup suggests great promise for the latest mystery.


True Detective: Night Country airs at 10 p.m. EST Sundays and streams on Max.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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