No one can accuse True Detective: Night Country of not being properly reverential of the True Detective seasons that came before it. Despite being the first season of the show not involving original creator Nic Pizzolatto, new showrunner Issa López has filled this fourth season with many references, callbacks, and Easter eggs to previous installments of the HBO crime drama anthology.
Night Country also has a solid grasp of what makes a True Detective story a True Detective story in the first place. Like seasons 1 through 3, True Detective season 4 features: two mismatched detectives, a unique American setting, a gruesome murder mystery, and a dash of the occult. While that covers just about everything, close watchers of True Detective throughout the years will notice one important element is missing: multiple timelines.
True Detective seasons 1 and 3 are set over the span of many years, allowing actors to investigate difficult cases as the younger and older versions of their characters. Season 2 served as a slight exception (with a plot that features only a modest time jump). Through three episodes, True Detective: Night Country appears to have let that aspect of True Detective go entirely. According to a new interview with López , however, that wasn’t always the case.
In speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, López reveals that the series initially featured a six year time jump, saying, “I did toy with that idea that we would see the old crime six years ago. But in the end, I didn’t think it would add anything to the story I was telling, except a lot of headaches with makeup.”
“The old crime” refers to the murder of indigenous woman Annie Kowtok a.k.a. Annie K (Nivi Pedersen), who detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) come to realize has a connection to missing scientist Raymond Clark. Though the show ultimately elected not to include that original investigation as part of its plot, episode 3 does carve out some time for a flashback for viewers to better understand why it’s so important to Navarro. But ultimately it’s just a sneak peek.
“There was something yummy about not knowing the past, not seeing it and then discovering it slowly, Lopez told THR. “What really happened there? What’s the real story?”
Delving deeper into the mysterious case of Annie K as it happened could have potentially enriched True Detective: Night Country‘s storytelling. At the very least it would have kept it more in line with the franchise’s established format. But as things stand, it’s hard to argue that Danvers and Navarro don’t have enough on their plate already.
New episodes of True Detective: Night Country air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, culminating with the finale on Feb. 24, 2024.