‘True Detective: Night Country’ Creator Answers Burning Finale Questions

Issa López breaks down the conclusion of the Alaska-set mystery — including that final shot

Jodie-Foster-True-Detective
Jodie Foster in the "True Detective: Night Country" finale (HBO)

Note: The following story discusses spoilers for the “True Detective: Night Country” finale.

“True Detective: Night Country” wrapped up plenty of loose ends with its finale on Sunday, but unlike its preceding seasons, the Alaska-set mystery didn’t culminate with a clear-cut ending that answered all the mystery’s questions, nor with the perpetrator of the inciting violence going to jail.

While the finale built on the season’s intensity with a dramatic foot chase and fight, creator and showrunner Issa López opted for a more subtle conclusion that gave detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) enough satisfaction to “walk away quietly.”

“I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes, which is part of why I’m doing this job now, and the best stories of Sherlock Holmes, the ones I love the most, are the ones where he finds the killer, and decides to simply walk away quietly, because justice had been made,” López told TheWrap. “That stayed for me with me forever.”

To briefly recap the “True Detective: Night Country” ending: Leaving Pete (Finn Bennett) to clean up his father and Otis’ dead bodies, Danvers and Navarro departed to the underground caves connected to the Tsalal Arctic Research Station where they came face-to-face with Raymond Clark. After a heated struggle, the detectives lured a confession out of Clark as he admitted the Tsalal workers were behind Annie K’s brutal murder, and they called the mine for help following her death, who then sent a cop — Hank (John Hawkes) — to move her body.

Under Navarro’s watch, Clark then died in the storm before Danvers could bring him to the station for an official confession for Annie K.’s murder, and the duo was left to guess how the seven workers died in the snow. A clue then brought them to the doorsteps of Blue King Crab factory workers Bee (Diane E. Benson) and Blair Hartman (Kathryn Wilder).

Joined by a dozen indigenous women, Bee told Danvers and Navarro that the women figured out the men were responsible for Annie K.’s death, and, in vigilante-like fashion, busted into the research center and forced the men to get in a truck before dropping them off in the middle of the Arctic snow. The group of women left them there, undressed, giving “her” — likely referring to Annie or a greater spiritual being — the opportunity to “take them” if she wanted. Which she did.

Why didn’t Danvers and Navarro arrest the women?

“The traditional organisms that impart justice are not fixing the problem, they’re not part of the solution, not so far, so it felt silly to make a show where the police comes and finds the killer, and everything is OK, because that’s not how this world works,” López said.

Instead, López aimed to give agency to the indigenous women — many of whom were suffered stillbirths caused by the growing pollutant from the mines — as well as the “wisdom of solving the crime before anybody else does.” From there, the women took the “steps necessary to let the universe fix itself” after being thrown out of balance with the injustice of Annie K.’s death, according to López.

“They simply put back the universe in the place it should be — They didn’t kill anybody, they just let it happen,” López said. “So the world can go back to this righteous place, and our detectives, in the end, when they figure out what happened, they can just say, ‘good evening and Happy New Year.’”

Where did that tongue come from?

While the mens’ deaths remain in the supernatural territory, some more tangible aspects surrounding Annie K.’s murder remain a mystery — including who placed her tongue in Tsalal, which ultimately led to the connection between the cases. Clark claimed the men had nothing to do with removing her tongue, and blamed it on the mine and the police officer, and Bee said she didn’t know anything about it.

“That’s a question for the ages,” López said of Annie K.’s tongue. “I have my theories, but there are several explanations that could work. I can’t wait for the theories to start coming.”

Is Navarro dead or alive?

In the finale’s closing moments, viewers learn Pete has been questioned about his father’s disappearance, and that a video of Clark’s confession circulated around the town thanks to a recording made by Navarro prior to his death. The video was likely leaked by Danvers.

A police testimony with Danvers revealed that Navarro left town, but the footage is intercut with that of Navarro walking out into the vast unknown by herself, leaving the viewer to wonder whether she died or was simply taking a short trek. It’s noted that some Ennis residents have reported sightings of her.

Given Navarro’s past connection to the spiritual realm, a side-by-side shot of Danvers and Navarro in Danvers’ home leaves Navarro’s whereabouts ambiguous — it could be read as Navarro literally visiting Danvers on her balcony, or Navarro’s spirit hanging around.

“Believe what you want to believe,” López said of whether she likes to believe Navarro is alive or dead. “If you look carefully at the whole series, you will find the truth, but I don’t want to give simple answers. In the end, I think what makes a really good story is when you complete it in a way that works and makes sense for you.”

All seasons of “True Detective” are available to stream on Max.

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