A star rating of 4 out of 5.

True Detective: Night Country episode 1 ends on a chilling note (no pun intended), as a group of missing scientists are discovered frozen, deep in the snowy outskirts of the northern Alaskan town of Ennis.


The fictional locale proves a perfect setting to this drama series, which was at its most popular when delving into the macabre, surreal and possibly supernatural crimes of its first season.

This latest outing – coming after a much-needed five-year hiatus – leans back into those elements, while adopting a more conventional storytelling style courtesy of incoming showrunner Issa López (who takes the reins from creator Nic Pizzolatto).

Some purists might find it disappointing that the plodding, contemplative and rather experimental style of the acclaimed debut has been abandoned, but it feels necessary for a show that had arguably lost its way in later seasons.

Although it adopts a more tried-and-tested mystery-thriller format, Night Country can serve as the crowd-pleasing soft reboot that restores viewer faith in the brand - and perhaps allows for more esoteric tales in the future.

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That isn't to say that Night Country doesn't have its own distinct merits to bring to the table. The central story draws attention to the often overlooked issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, with the barbaric killing of midwife and climate activist Annie thought to be connected in some way to a perplexing new case - that being the researchers-turned-ice-sculptures discovered in a cluster after an unexplained exodus from the Tsalal facility they called home (a gloriously grim piece of production design, it must be said).

Local police chief Liz Danvers is on the case, with Jodie Foster inhabiting the character brilliantly. It is not exactly an off-type role for the Hollywood icon, but she does it so well that, frankly, who cares? I could watch a playfully cranky Danvers roast her colleagues all day long.

But darker colours start to appear in uncomfortable scenes with her adoptive daughter, Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc). Their relationship is clearly established as fraught with tension over Leah's underage LGBTQ+ relationship and – as we'll see later – a strong desire to embrace her own Indigenous heritage.

Leah attends a protest against a local mine
Isabella Star LaBlanc in True Detective: Night Country. HBO

Star LaBlanc is not the only 'Gen Z' co-star that Foster has in Night Country (one can't help but wonder who exactly inspired her recent comments about the age group, which provoked a mixed reaction online).

She also shares a lot of screen time with relative unknown Finn Bennett (playing fresh-faced cop Peter Prior). Both up-and-comers are superb in their respective roles, so whatever generational dissonance may or may not have occurred on set certainly doesn't show on screen.

The sibling-esque bond between Leah and Peter is well-realised and wholly endearing, with the latter also gifted complex dynamics with his grumpy father, Hank (John Hawkes), and frustrated wife, Kayla (Anna Lambe), not to mention his highly demanding boss.

He has an arduous journey ahead of him, tackling the material with aplomb as decisions loom on which – if any – of these relationships can be saved.

Truly, the casting behind Night Country must be applauded, with its influx of new talent extending beyond the supporting turns of Star LaBlanc and Bennett to the co-lead herself, Kali Reis.

Putting one of Hollywood's most formidable talents alongside a professional boxer with only a couple of screen credits to her name is an unexpected stroke of genius. Not all sports stars can make the jump – many have tried and failed – but if there's any justice in the world, this will be a star-making turn for Reis.

Kali Reis wears winter gear and leans against a snow-covered police car in True Detective: Night Country
Kali Reis stars in True Detective: Night Country. HBO

She plays state trooper Evangeline Navarro, a tortured soul plagued by traumatic memories of her mother, a pressing crisis surrounding her younger sister and an unsolved murder that weighs heavily on her conscience.

All this to say, it's a role that would be challenging for even a seasoned veteran – but Reis simply excels, giving a profoundly moving turn.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, Fiona Shaw carries the weathered, enigmatic energy she recently displayed in Andor to the role of Ennis loner Rose Aguineau; a character used sparingly, but effectively, throughout the series.

A master of subtlety and monologuing, Shaw locks in your attention every time she's on screen. Each momentary glance or micro-expression seems to point to a past that we may never fully understand, but could easily spend hours theorising over.

True Detective: Night Country episode 1 is an excellent hour of television, giving HBO's ailing detective franchise a whole new lease of life. We can't say much about the remaining five episodes, but let us assure you that there's no dip in quality – this bold reinvention continues to stun right up until the final scene.

True Detective: Night Country premieres on Sky Atlantic and NOW on Monday 15th January 2024. Check out Sky deals here. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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