Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Television Series that Repels and Fascinates - Night Country

I'm back, though making my appearance a little later in the unfolding of 2024 than I anticipated. A bout with a couple of illnesses and a few other energy- and time-sucking events - and I simply lost the first several weeks of this year. But, hey. Here I am.

So I'm starting this year's blogging with a few thoughts on a new television show. I guess it falls under the definition of mini-series. It's called...

True Detective: Night Country

This is a pseudo-review of the HBO Max series that, in spite of its ugliness and coarse nature, has somehow managed to completely fascinate me. This is not so much an actual review as it is a quick reflection of how this series has reached the esteemed "can't look away" status. 

The Setting

It takes place in Alaska at the start of the "days of night" in late December when the sun never rises and darkness reigns 24/7. This sets the stage perfectly for all sorts of creepiness. The story is centered in the fictional town of Ennis, and trust me, the quirky Cicely of Northern Exposure fame it is not

The Characters

The plot is driven mainly by the actions of two individuals, female police chief Liz Danvers (played by Jodie Foster) and female state trooper Evangeline Navarro (played by Kali Reis). Trooper Navarro is of native descent, but she never was told her true native name. Or so she says. Police Chief Danvers is anglo, and has developed the callousness, loneliness and hard edges that often come from years of police work and dealing with crime and corruption. 

These two edgy personalities also have a supporting cast of strange and unusual residents of Ennis and points South. They are all equally flawed and struggling with both the investigation and issues of their own. Many of them have a history. Some of them still have a present. Some exude evil vibes and others seem lost and wandering in their own nightmare of confusion. Others are just angry. Ennis is not a happy place, full of deep, dark secrets, strange goings-on and cold. Deep cold. Always.  

The Premise

These two female officers, and former peers, are at odds due to situations that arose in the past, plus good old personality clashes, but are being forced to work on the same disturbing and puzzling case because of those links in the past. The case in question? A group of scientists who disappear from their isolated research facility. And are then located -- naked and frozen together in a block of ice. And all of this somehow is linked to the murder of a native woman six years before. Or maybe "linked" isn't quite the right word. More like hopelessly tangled and intertwined.

The Ugly

This series is filled with frequent profanity, adult situations (bordering on gratuitous), culture clashes, racism, sexism, and scenes that involve both stomach-churning squalor and horrific crime scenes. At first, I didn't honestly know if I could continue watching due to some of the more disturbing elements and portrayals, but it had just enough intrigue and "gotta-know-what-happens-next" that I stuck with it in spite of the "peek between my fingers" cringing. For all their disturbing and sometimes disgusting actions, the characters eventually hooked me -- both the "good guys" and "bad guys" -- though I use both terms very loosely. Yet it's the over-arching mystery that really sunk the hook deep.

The Fascinating

What's going on here? Is it supernatural? Or is it only crafted to look that way? It's definitely rooted in the collision of cultures, but is it more? Is it embedded in legend, location, or all of the above? Or none of the above. 

From a mysterious tattoo, to a one-eyed polar bear - both the real thing and a stuffed animal mini-me, to an abandoned trailer, to the juxtaposition of good cop and bad cop, to the entire story unfolding in the perpetual night of an Alaskan winter, I am now completely on the hook after watching the first three episodes.

I'll give you a taste of Night Country in the videos below. Just don't judge it too harshly by this first glimpse into all the goings-on. If you love mysteries, this is as hooky as they get. But you'll have to decide if all the in-your-face harshness that comes with it is your cup of hot tea.   

And for anyone still with me, here's a video of Jodie Foster's and Kali Reis's 
take on filming the series.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Be back soon.