The Messy-but-Satisfying True Detective: Night Country Ending, Explained

The Messy-but-Satisfying True Detective: Night Country Ending, Explained

The following story contains spoilers for the ending of True Detective: Night Country.


IN SOME WAYS, True Detective: Night Country felt directly connected to the franchise’s original, groundbreaking first season; the direct reference to Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) father, the spiral symbol, and even direct quotes (“Time is a flat circle”). But in other ways, showrunner Issa López’s first full season of the franchise felt like the antithesis of what original creator Nic Pizzolatto liked to do. Pizzolatto’s storytelling style largely kept away from supernatural happenings and major twists (despite the material itself frequently hinting toward both) and veered toward more philosophical, even metaphorical conclusions. López’s season, on the other hand, embraced twists, the supernatural (depending on how you look at it), and gave fairly rock-solid answers to most of the lingering questions.

But that doesn’t mean True Detective: Night Country tied everything up with a neat little bow. By the end of the show’s finale, yes, we learn the answers to the season-long questions of who killed Ennis, Alaska activist Annie K six years earlier—vividly seeing how it all played out—and also what went down with the season’s inciting incident, the deaths of the men who worked at the Tsalal station. But the show isn’t satisfied there. In what essentially serves as an epilogue to the events of the show, we learn about what happened to our principals characters in the six months that follow the main story’s conclusion.

In service to the characters we’ve gotten to know through the six episodes of Night Country, though, López shares a time jump sequence as an opportunity to see where they all are with the benefit of a little bit of time after the cas was closed. Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster), Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), and even Peter Prior (Finn Bennett) have all seen their lives drastically changed as a result of this endeavor, and there’s a lot more to be unpacked even after learning the truth.

Here are some of the answers to the questions True Detective: Night Country put out there.

Who really killed Annie K?

true detective night country annie k truth

HBO

While Episode 5 made it clear that the Silver Sky mine and Hank Prior were both involved with the aftermath of Annie K’s death, Episode 6 gave the real answer. When Danvers and Navarro finally found Raymond Clark—who had been hiding out in Tsalal’s interconnected, underground lab—they got him to explain everything (after a minor struggle and a bit of questionable duct tape-involved torture).

It turns out that Clark (who was in a relationship with Annie K) was sleeping six years earlier, when he awoke to Annie’s screams in the very same underground lab. She had found it and was destroying it—keep in mind, she was strongly opposed to the Silver Sky mine and all of the experimenting and messing with Ennis’s land—and Anders Lund, the scientist who was the lone (brief) survivor of the “corpsicle,” lunged at her, stabbing her repeatedly on the ground with a star-pointed stick that would later stump Danvers and Navarro.

While all the other Tsalal men were initially shocked by his aggression and willingness to do anything to save their research, they all then joined in holding her down, as Annie was stabbed a total of 32 times. As she laid on the ground, still barely alive and bleeding out, Clark got directly involved, and we see him smothering her. This could be viewed in two ways: he mercy killed the woman he loved, or he was directly lying; his involvement was directly intercut with his telling Navarro and Danvers that he would never hurt Annie. Perhaps this was meant to illustrate that he truly saw it as an act of kindness to put her out of her misery.

Just as Navarro later in the episode saw images of Clark after his freezing death, Clark and the others believed that Annie was, in essence, haunting them after their heinous and brutal killing of her. That’s why Clark repeated “She’s awake” in the opening scene of the show, and why they believed that Annie was, ultimately, the one that attacked them and led them to their deaths. Speaking of…

What happened to the men at Tsalal Station?

true detective night country tsalal truth

HBO

After Clark’s death, Danvers was angry at Navarro; she thought they had lost their only lead. But, as with the theme of the whole season, she realized they were asking the wrong questions. It wasn’t “who killed Annie K,” but rather “who knew who killed Annie K.” Danvers and Navarro went down the ice tunnel to the underground lab, and, shining a UV light, saw a set of handprints.

It turns out, at some point after Annie K’s death, a group of local women, one of whom regularly cleaned Tsalal station, found out about the underground lab, and, upon going down, learned the truth about Annie K. and the cover-up. They then plotted, eventually, to take Tsalal by storm, forcing the men out into the cold at gunpoint, eventually putting them into the back of a truck and releasing them, without clothing, into the frozen tundra (Clark locked himself into the underground lab). The women don’t actually confess to anything; they offer it up to Danvers and Navarro as “just another story.” The women say that they were “releasing” the men to the Winter, and to Annie’s spirit; they folded their clothes, so to say that if Annie felt like releasing them, their clothes would be there waiting for them.

Danvers and Navarro, knowing the “righteous” nature of the truth, decide to let that story be a story; they declare the case closed, and we don’t catch up on things until Danvers is being interviewed by fellow officers six months later.

What happened to Navarro?

true detective night country ending explained navarro

HBO

Here’s where things get a little sticky. As Danvers is being interviewed in what is essentially the show’s epilogue, we learn what’s been going on in the time since the case was closed. Danvers has reconnected with her stepdaughter, Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc), Peter remains an officer—his dad, being exposed for corruption and killing Otis Heiss, remains dead under a sheet of ice—but finds more time to spend with his family (work life balance matters, people!), and it turns out that Navarro got Clark to admit, on camera, to the pollution coming from the Silver Sky mine and all of the damage it’s done to people’s health; the mine has since been shut down.

But that’s not where Navarro’s story ends; she packed up her stuff and went off the radar, leaving the one-eyed stuffed polar bear behind for Danvers and the SpongeBob toothbrush behind for Qavvik. We see Navarro with a box of stuff walking off into the wintery distance; it’s clear, though, that she’s pretty much had it with being a cop. The women asserting that nothing would’ve happened if they reported Annie K’s death to the police clearly cut deep.

The lingering question of the finale becomes whether Navarro, six months later, is dead or alive. There’s a strong case that, after dropping her friends’s belongings off, she walked off into the freezing air to join her late mother, late sister, and late fellow veterans from her time serving. She’s been a haunted character for the duration of the show, and, spiritually, there’s a reading where that’s the way she finally finds peace.

There’s also the possibility, though, that she simply got out of Ennis for good, went off the radar and started a new life somewhere.

The final shot of the season shows Danvers on her front porch, relaxing for maybe the first time we’ve seen in the entire show. Officers ask her what to make of random sightings reported around town of Navarro. “This is Ennis,” her voiceover says, as we see Navarro joining her on the porch. “Nobody ever really leaves.”

Perhaps this means that Navarro did, indeed, die by suicide, and it’s her spirit who remains back with Danvers; Danvers is seeing the deceased just like Navarro did periodically throughout the series. It’s also possible, and more literal, that Navarro is simply off the radar and wants nothing to do with whatever is going on in Ennis—but trusts Danvers forever because of what they’ve been through together.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, López called the Navarro ending “a free interpretation for each person watching the show,” explaining that at this point, all interpretations—even her own—are essentially equal. “For me as an audience member, Navarro is alive,” she said. “She went out and had her walkabout in a way in the ice, because now she can do that, and find a way back. But it is true that no one ever leaves Ennis… or anywhere.”

Reis shared her own take on it in Deadline, explaining that the only thing tethering Navarro, really, was her sister—who’s now gone. “I think she just goes off into a place where she can be herself without any responsibilities,” she says. “And if she did either walk into the ice like her sister or stay around, the only person she would ever come back to see, whether it’s in the spirit world or physical world, would be Danvers.”

Headshot of Evan Romano

Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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