Even True Detective: Night Country’s answers have mysteries

Despite the name, True Detective has really never been about tying up every loose end to a mystery. Sure, the detectives at the heart do their damnedest, but if you’re here for procedural and ethical police work, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree; this tree is more about glimpsing supernatural terror, refracted through the prism of human cruelty and violence.

But if you’re really in it for the mystery, and you desperately want a few more answers to the questions that True Detective: Night Country left you with, here’s everything as best we can put it together — including a few comments about the mysteries that the show smartly leaves unsolved.

[Ed. note: As you might’ve guessed: This post spoils the ending of True Detective: Night Country!]

What exactly happened to the Tsalal scientists?

This is one of True Detective: Night Country’s best and most carefully unanswered questions. We know most of what happened to them, they killed Annie, and as revenge the women of Ennis forced them out into the snow to freeze to death. But once the women left, something else kept them there. We hear a few different people throughout the season repeat the phrase “she’s awake;” the show never clarifies who she is exactly or what that means, but it’s possible that whatever this seemingly supernatural force is also what really killed the scientists. The one thing we know for sure is that something otherworldly visited a kind of divine justice on them. And that’s so much creepier than a straight answer.

What was up with Annie’s tongue?

This is the opposite side of the coin from the fate of the scientists: the show offers us no real explanations, but it certainly strongly suggests that something supernatural and strange was up in Ennis. We don’t have a single credible suggestion at who could have planted the tongue or why, But it does center the entire Tsalal tragedy around Annie. Of course, it’s possible that the women of Ennis planted the tongue there as a reminder, but then, how would they have even gotten it in the first place — plus they deny having anything to do with it.

Alaska detectives Liz Danvers and Evangeline Navarro stand on a snowy hill in front of their squad truck in the HBO series True Detective: Night Country. Photo: Michele K. Short/HBO

What happened to Navarro?

This is where we start to get into what really matters at the end of Night Country. When Navarro walks into the ice, it stops mattering whether she really died or not. She’s made her peace with the world and her relationship to it. She felt the call that pulled her mother and her sisters and she followed it after she had gotten justice for Annie. We don’t need to know where it leads to know that it brought her storyline full-circle, feeling a similar call to the one her sister described that Navarro herself could never accept or understand.

Just as important is the fact that Danvers feels, or sees, Navarro in her final scene of the season as well. With Danvers seemingly relaxing in a cottage with no one bothering her, we see Navarro step into the frame, looking out over the balcony with her partner. This scene makes it clear that Danvers has finally made Ennis her home, and settled into its strange relationship with the dead. After years of denying the past, literally throwing sentimental items like her kid’s teddy bear in the snow, and shutting it out so that it could never do more than startle her dreams, Danvers has accepted loss.

How does all this relate to True Detective season 1?

There isn’t one, at least not really. Sure there are all kinds of references (“time is a flat circle” included), but there’s nothing explicit that connects Night Country to the first season of True Detective and until there is, I think it’s safe to assume that Issa Lopez is just having a bit of fun with fans of the series.

The best part of all these questions, from the ones that Night Country answered to the ones it seemed to ignore, is that they don’t really matter. Everything that matters to the story and its characters is perfectly wrapped up by the things the show tells us, and the loose ends that dangle are just as intentional and finely crafted as the rest of the story. Some questions don’t get answered, and the world is better off that way.