'True Detective: Night Country' season finale — can it stick the landing and become 2024's first great show?

True Detective characters find evidence in season 4
(Image credit: HBO)

"True Detective" season 4 hasn't been flawless, but it's undoubtedly been a hit for HBO and the streaming service Max. Jodie Foster's performance as Liz Danvers has largely been masterful, showing a command of the script and the room. Kali Reis has also been impressive as Trooper Evangeline Navarro in what is her first TV appearance ever.

The critical reviews have largely matched this assessment. The season has received a 93% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with nearly all critics praising the performance and the hints of horror around the show's majestic, dark setting.

That's not to say things have been perfect. Audiences have largely been split on the season, with most either loving or hating the season. The cosmic horror vibes work for me and fellow Tom's Guide writer Ryan Epps but haven't landed for everyone.

Then there are the fans of the previous three seasons, which were helmed by former showrunner Nic Pizzolatto. Fans have criticized season 4, helmed by new showrunner Issa López, for not being like the previous three seasons, and Pizzolatto joined them in disparaging the show online.

Here's the thing — "True Detective" is an anthology series and I don't care that season 4 doesn't match seasons 1-3. Max didn't even need to attach the "True Detective" branding, as it's irrelevant as to whether the show is good or not. It is good.

Here's the thing — "True Detective" is an anthology series and I don't care that season 4 doesn't match seasons 1-3. I think that perhaps the show didn't even need to attach the "True Detective" branding to the show, but it's honestly irrelevant as to whether the show is good or not. And it is good. Episode 4 was admittedly a rough one, but then episode 5 bounced back with an incredible ending.

There is a problem with this show though, and if episode 6 doesn't manage it appropriately, the season finale of this show could fail to stick the landing. Simply put — we're running out of time to land the plane.

'True Detective: Night Country' could fall through the ice if it runs out of time

While I've enjoyed season 4 a lot so far, it's not flawless. And one of its biggest flaws is its pacing. At times it almost feels like this show was written to be longer than six episodes — the previous three seasons were eight episodes each — but at other times it feels like this was originally thought of as a movie.

That leaves a fair amount of loose threads that still need tying up at the end of the season finale. 

Some of these may never get tied up, and that's okay. I don't think the show needs to lay out exactly what the oranges mean or why teal/turquoise blue is important, and if the one-eyed polar bear is a mere spirit animal then that's fine.

But some questions do need to be answered before the show wraps up in episode 6. We need to know how Silver Sky Mining was involved in these killings, even if we now have an idea of how the company was involved in the killing of Annie Kowtok. We need to know more about what happened with Liz's son Holden and we need at least some level of resolution with Liz and her daughter Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc), whether for good or ill.

And most importantly, we need to know who actually killed all these people. The show almost seems intentionally in a holding pattern, drawing things out until the right time for the reveal arrives. Will the killer be human? Or something more cosmic? Have we met them already? Is it Blair, the redheaded Ennis resident who seems to be everywhere despite having little to do with the story of the gruesome murders at Tsalal Station?

I'm personally open to any direction that the show goes with the answers to these questions. But it does need to answer them in an intentionally satisfying way, and managing that in just 60 or so minutes could be a tall order.

If "True Detective: Night Country" succeeds, it'll become the clear best show of 2024 so far. Yes, it's February, but that still means something. But if it fails to stick the landing, what once showed such promise could go down as another show that came up short of greatness. One way or another, we'll know after Sunday.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.


Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.

  • jefflessenberry
    Perhaps you should take a look at @screencrush YouTube breakdown on the series. The season 4 actually wraps completely back around to season one.
    Reply
  • annisarsha
    Surely you're joking or getting HBO kickbacks. This series has been an absolute hot mess. One last episode won't be enough to redeem it.
    Reply
  • jefflessenberry
    I do find it funny that people jump to the conspiracy theory that if someone has a different opinion they must be on someone's payroll. I was not commenting on the season and how it compares. It was on the fact that the story lines wraps back around and I was educated in that fact after watching the screencrush youtube videos. Anyway ... i need to get back to my job at HBO and I should be careful since alot of my coworkers are lizard people and the drive back takes me near the edge of the flat earth. FYI ... that was me joking unless you believe all of those things.
    Reply