SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses plot points in Episode 2 of “True Detective: Night Country,” titled “Part 2.”
One of Liz Danvers’ favorite sayings is “shit bowl.” And the case of the eight missing men from an Alaska research station — and how it relates to the earlier murder of Native midwife and activist Annie Kowtok — is an absolute “shit bowl.”
“True Detective: Night Country” is slowly peeling back details behind the show’s Season 4 mystery, and in Episode 2, there’s one name that rocketed to the top of the list of suspects. In last week’s premiere, viewers were introduced to Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), two law enforcement officers in the fictional mining town of Ennis, Alaska. The duo aren’t exactly pals, as Navarro believes Danvers dropped the ball in investigating the murder of Annie.
But when a group of eight men disappear from a local arctic research station, Reis thinks it is connected to Annie’s death. Danvers pooh poohs the idea at first — but in Episode 2, she can pooh pooh no more. Now, they’re uneasy partners, and just at the very beginning of trying to figure out what the hell is going on. (What they’re not questioning yet is the potential supernatural element in all of this. But we are!) Here’s some of what we learned.
What did we learn in Episode 2?
Raymond Clark. What’s this guy’s deal? According to a quick flash of his bio on the show last week, Clark is a “Royal Society Wolford Fellow in Paleomicrobiology.” We learned in episode 1 that he had some sort of connection to Annie: He is seen in photos wearing a jacket that once belonged to her. In Episode 2, we learn that they indeed knew each other. Presumably, they were dating. And yet, in all of Navarro’s investigation, Clark’s name never came up.
Nonetheless, we discover that just as Annie had a tattoo of a spiral pictogram, Clark had that same spiral tattooed on his chest — four days after Annie’s death. Furthermore, Navarro discovers that Clark had a secret trailer — and wow, is the inside of that trailer creepy, filled with animal bones. (Is that stuffed doll supposed to be an Annie replacement? What about those hanging stick figures, reminiscent of Season 1? And then that spiral painted at the top! I want to see the trailer’s Zillow listing.)
Also: The tongue found at the research station is indeed confirmed to be Annie’s. (Where was it being stored all those years? Who left it there?)
Along the way, we also see Clark’s journal, in which he seems to descend into madness. Apparently Clark had turned into a bit of an oddball inside the research station, “talking to himself, staring into nothing.” That’s when he wasn’t locked in his room, and was walking around naked. The other men ignored him; his only next of kin is apparently a mom in Dublin who hasn’t seen him in 10 years.
At the very end, we discover that a body is missing in the pile of frozen scientists: Raymond Clark is not with them. Maybe he got separated from them. Maybe he had something to do with what happened. But he could very well be alive, and out there somewhere.
Other burning questions and thoughts:
*Let’s turn this over first to Liz, Navarro and Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), all of whom are mastering the art of asking the right questions. “Why drop everything and run out [of the research facility]? Polar bear?” Keep asking. “How scared do you have to be to run out on to the ice without any shoes?” Also: Why are the bodies on top of each other like that? Was it simply hypothermia delirium, or was something chasing them? Why are their eyeballs burnt, their ears busted and are they filled with self-inflicted bite wounds? Was it irrational behavior from the hypothermia, or something more? Why are the scientists’ clothes neatly folded next to their bodies? Did the killer fold them like that? Was he taunting them, did he make them fold them? How did Clark keep the trailer a secret?
*At the top of the show, when one of the investigators accidentally tears off one of the victim’s frozen limbs, the body screams. That was haunting. And yet it’s never really explained again: How was this frozen corpsical still partly alive? How did he feel that, and manage to scream? I’m guessing he is the person they referred to as in an induced coma, with an amputated leg. How then did he survive that limb tear, and how did they get him out of there? We didn’t see what happened after the scream, and I have many questions.
*So the work of the TSALAL actually sounded pretty important: Searching ice cores for microorganisms, the kind of work that could have led to a cure for cancer. And yet, “it was never going to work,” Liz’s teacher buddy tells her. But how far along was their research, and what happens now to all of their work?
*As “Little St. Nick” by the Beach Boys played, the frozen bodies were hauled into the ice skating rink. Later, Liz attempts to start decorating the house for the holidays. It got me to thinking: We always debate whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. Well, is “True Detective: Night Country” a Christmas TV show? Gather the family around, bust out the egg nog and watch as frozen corpses are thawed out!
*Why is Liz so opposed to Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc) learning about her culture? Liz’s reaction to Leah getting the temporary face tattoo (which depending on the culture, is called Kakiniit, Tavlugun or Yidįįłtoo) was extreme. The relationship between the two — a guardian-and-teen situation — is already strained. Not sure why Liz is adding on some cultural insensitivity on top of it!
* Everyone is getting their moment of sudden flashback visions. Liz had one last week. This time, a crucifix triggers an image to Navarro that causes her to nearly drive into a big rig. It was a harrowing look back at her childhood. We know Navarro and her sister are dealing with trauma because of their mother (well, Navarro also has PTSD from her military service in the Middle East) — but what all happened to them?
*Speaking of visions, that one-eyed polar bear keeps popping up — either in town or as a stuffed animal that triggers another Liz flashback. Plus, we get more background on Liz’s relationship with Leah’s father, which appeared to be pretty sweet. What happened that Liz still doesn’t want to address?
*The town mine has something to do with all of this, but what? Annie was protesting the mine, and she was killed under suspicious circumstances — it would seem like someone who wasn’t happy with her actions was to blame. (Liz, of course, just blames the town.) Now, it seems that the mine is truly poisoning Ennis, with its black drinking water. The research station would seem to have nothing to do with the mine, however. What’s the connection?
*Still waiting for more on the supernatural front. How deep are we going to get into this, vs. Liz and Navarro ignoring it? Given her relationship with Rose (Fiona Shaw), Navarro seems more open to the spooky stuff — to a point. Rose seems to be the town’s expert on such matters: “The thing about the dead, some come because they miss you, some come because they need to tell you something you need to hear, some of them just want to take you with them. You need to know the difference.” Rose also seems to know what that spiral design is, but is frustratingly cryptic about it: “It’s old, Missy. Older than Ennis. Older than the ice, probably.” (That’s not helping, Rose!) Of course, this crazy town, no one seems weirded out by dead people hanging out. “This is Ennis, you see people who are gone sometimes. It’s a long fucking night, even the dead get bored.” Sure!
*Is Hank (John Hawkes) that clueless that he only now realized that of course his son stole the Annie K cold case box from his house? Oh yeah, Alina from Vladivostok is counting on him being that clueless.
*The nods to Season 1 of “True Detective” continue. Last week, we noticed the citizens of both TSALAL and Ennis seem to enjoy Lone Star beer — the same brew that Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson) consumed on the show a decade ago. This week, it was hard not to see the comparison between the stick figure dolls hanging from the Raymond Clark’s trailer, and the hanging stick figures from Season 1. And the spiral itself brings us back to the very beginning. Are these simply Easter eggs for fans, or something more?
*Is Qavvik just not brushing his teeth, since Evangeline still hasn’t returned his SpongeBob toothbrush? Gross.