As a reviewer, I expect a host of the usual suspects when it comes to angry fans passionately disagreeing with my opinion. These include, but are not limited to:
- If you don’t like it, watch something else (sure, but I’m a professional TV critic…)
- You’re just a hater! (I’m being generous with the spelling).
- You just don’t get it. (It can!)
- Your opinion is biased. (Mmmm)
- You shouldn’t go out much. All says this show/movie/game is great! (Reviewing is not a popularity contest, thank goodness!)
I’m sure I’ll come across some of them after writing this review of his first episode True Detective: Night Country, a series/season premiere that left me as cold as the dark Alaskan landscape in which the story takes place. It might be the last. Besides, many critics are singing the praises of this show. Again, appeals to popularity never impressed me.
As of now, I’ve only watched the premiere, so I can’t say for sure what the rest of the six-part season has in store, and I could very well change my mind in the coming weeks, but for now . . . I’m not particularly impressed.
After all those glowing reviews-“Night Country it’s not a return to form” Slate emerges. “It’s better.” “Night Country it’s so good, it might be better than season 1″ usa today rave— My expectations were quite high. Finally, its 1st season True detective it remains one of my favorite seasons of TV. I was immediately hooked—not after the first episode, but after the first ten minutes of the first episode.
I’m sad to report that I feel no such excitement Night Country, which already feels like a slog in just one episode. The pacing may be forgivable – I enjoy a slow burn – but the premiere is a mess and its characters are flat and uninteresting.
The cast, led by Jodie Foster as the feisty Ennis, Alaskan police detective Liz Danvers, for the most part does a fine job. Danvers is as grumpy as they come, but clearly smart and capable, and it’s fun to see Foster return to a law enforcement role. (If anything, I now realize it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it Silence of the Lambs).
The story, on the other hand, takes a long time to get interesting – this is a shorter season than usual, and many of the limited six episodes feel a bit wasted here.
Danvers and Detective Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) have history and some bad blood on a cold case involving a dead native, but it’s clear they’ll work together to solve this new—and almost certainly connected—case of a group of missing persons. scientists, all of whom are men.
Frozen scenery is probably my favorite character at this point. The story begins at the last sunset of the year. Ennis is far enough north that it’s dark there for two months straight and it changes. It’s a grim spin film noir and, like the gothic southern swamps and ruins of Season 1, it sets a distinct mood.
Unlike Season 1, this mood isn’t as oppressive or as skillful. While the darkness and cold create a fairly haunting atmosphere, nothing feels as real or alive as the sticky bayous that Marty Hart and Rust Cohle wandered into in their hunt for the Yellow King in Season 1.
Speaking of the Yellow King, Season 1 was filled with hints of the supernatural. The stench of black magic hung over everything. It wasn’t real, of course. The evil they faced was terrifying, but entirely man-made. Whatever ghosts shadowed Marty and Rust in their search for the truth, they were never tangible, visible beings. It was enough that their past—and the many bodies that broke it—haunted them.
In Night Country, the supernatural is thrown at us with all the subtlety of a brick in the face. The opening scene features a herd of very obviously CGI caribou screaming and running headlong over a cliff. The lights flicker. People are starting to go crazy. Water spoils at the same time as the sun disappears. An old woman follows the ghost of her dead husband to find the corpses on the ice, all frozen in some kind of ghoulish horror. We see some sort of creature (probably human, but creature-like) running around the science facility when the delivery driver appears.
Honestly, it looks like it Yellowjacket but without the same suffocating dread. Even the score and its haunting female vocals seem lifted straight from Yellowjacket. Add the frozen landscape and the supernatural and it’s like True Detective’s the last season took some pieces from Wind River and some pieces from Yellowjacket and then threw it all together with season one’s cop buddy structure, only this time with two female detectives instead of two dudes. (Even the bear scene looks like it was ripped right off Yellowjacket).
This makes the whole thing feel more than derivative, which in itself wouldn’t bother me if I found the actual story particularly compelling or its characters interesting enough to follow. Those were the two things that made the first season work so well. There was a really compelling mystery with all kinds of weird and scary twists, and there were two cops with wildly different personalities whose tumultuous relationship elevated the show beyond a typical murder mystery.
Maybe we’ll get closer to that with Danvers and Navarro, but so far they just seem to dislike each other over some past disagreement over an old case. They both strike me as tough, impatient, capable women who, more than anything else, have similar personalities. Then again, we’re only one episode into this, so anything is possible. Maybe its horror elements Night Country will make up for his shortcomings.
While it’s too early to tell, for now at least I’m not that caught up in the mystery or the characters. It’s not bad – and it’s not Season 2, thank goodness – but the early episodes of Season 1 and the underrated Season 3 had me hooked and excited for more. Night Country It just makes me wonder what all the fuss is about. Let’s hope things pick up in the second episode.
- The opening credits include Billie Eilish’s wildly popular song “Bury A Friend”, which I suppose is appropriate, but not particularly daring or interesting. Compare the opening credits to Season 1, which uses much darker ones “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family. Sorry, it’s just not even close — that’s how I feel about this season in general compared to the first. Early days, I know.
- The same goes for music in general. Like his first season yellow jackets, his first season True detective he didn’t lean too much into needle drops to get the point (or the mood). YellowjacketThe second season filled every episode to the hilt with 90s songs. This season of True detective is moving in that direction. We’ll see.
- I was thinking about the show The murder while watching this, and how great the two detectives were in it. I know I complained about this show feeling derivative, but I really think pairing Foster with a younger male detective would have made for a more interesting buddy dynamic. I think I just worry that there isn’t enough contrast between the two tough, serious, grumpy female detectives in this show. Contrast is key. While Rust and Marty were both white guys, they felt more different than Danvers and Navarro because they had such wildly different personalities. Same with Linden and Holder in The murder.
I may add more scattered thoughts after a second viewing. For now, enough ink has been spilled. I’m still looking forward to next week’s episode, but I can’t say I’m hooked yet.