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Did True Detective: Night Country Actually Go Full Supernatural With That Shining Callback And Freaky Final Scene?

 Peter, Danvers and Navarro looking at phone in True Detective: Night Country.
Peter, Danvers and Navarro looking at phone in True Detective: Night Country.

Spoilers are out and about for anyone who isn’t yet caught up with True Detective: Night Country’s latest episodes, so be warned and stay warm!

Across its first two episodes, True Detective: Night Country set up various direct connections to Season 1, while also building out its own currently unexplained and death-filled mystery. But “Part 3” stuck largely to the events surrounding the fourth season’s characters, and featured at least two moments that, at least when taken at full face value, stuck one foot entirely into supernatural waters. (Or ethers, I guess.) But how much are we actually meant to believe things at face value in this show? And was that actually a callback to Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining?

To clarify right up front, I know that Night Country already introduced Fiona Shaw’s Rose as someone who regularly sees the dancing-and-pointing ghost of the dude she used to bang (Rust Cohle’s dad), and that Rose claims others in the town also see ghosts. But one person’s testimony, even combined with the visuals of Spectre Travis’s interpretive footwork, isn’t verifiable proof. So now let’s shift our focus over to what happened to Navarro.

Navarro Maybe Dealt With Some Ghosts, Shining-Style

In the midst of the manhunt for missing scientist Raymond Clark, Navarro went on a brief walk out into the icy darkness, all by herself. After pulling an orange from her pocket — an ominous cinematic reference unto itself — she chucked it out into the black. I’m not exactly sure why, since she wasn’t far from a trash can, and she didn’t seem intent on hitting anything.

Navarro definitely didn’t expect for the orange to come rolling back to her feet, either, indicating that someone else was out there. It may not have been a direct callback to Danny Torrence’s red ball in The Shining, but it definitely felt like it to me, so it’s part of my head-canon either way. I’m still a bit confused over why she had a net-negative reaction to that bizarre moment, though, as I would have at least hollered asking if anyone was out there before completely losing my shit.

Step In From The Cold

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.
Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

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Later in the episode, when Navarro is once again out by herself in the snow staring into the darkness, she sees a figure running away, but slips and hits her head on the ground before she can give chase. With the sound of child’s laughter heard in the sound mix, the figure appeared to be a kid holding a stuffed animal in one hand, an assumption strengthened by Navarro's unconscious vision. Upon touching her, the child whispered, "Tell my mommy," indicating it is/was Danvers' child.

And if that’s the case, that's a big implication that the child's ghost is still hanging around Ennis, though isn't appearing to Danvers herself. Though I guess I can't say with certainty that this area's spirits ever populate city centers, as they're more prone to wandering around the snowy abyss. So maybe Danvers just needs to go out there for a while by herself to find a bit of closure, assuming the ghost is legit, and does have a message for his mom.

The Surviving Scientist Spoke To Navarro In A Possessed Voice

As weird as the aforementioned moments were, they were totally watered down compared to Navarro’s half-conversation with Dr. Lund, the Tsalal scientist who somehow managed to survive the group’s frozen tomb, only to suffer a miserable hospitalized existence. With frostbite covering his body, resulting in the loss of several limbs, Dr. Lund’s main reaction to everything was “blood-curdling screams.”

He did manage to get a few clear words out that echoed some of the other vague language we’ve seen and heard:

We woke her, and now she’s out. She’s out there. In the ice. She came for us. In the dark.

Characters keep referring to this mysterious threat as “She” and other feminine pronouns, though without any names being used that I’ve heard. It came up again at the end of the episode when the characters were watching what’s presumably the final video Annie K. made on her cell phone before she was killed.

But then when Danvers and others were called away to deal with the violent scuffle happening elsewhere in the facility, Lund and Navarro were left alone together. That’s when shit got real freaky, with Lund suddenly sitting up in bed in a pseudo-lucid state, speaking directly to Navarro in a raspy possessed-by-demons voice.

Hello, Evangeline. Your mother says hello. She’s waiting for you. [Points]

Non-coincidentally, it was just earlier in this episode when Navarro opened up to Qavvik about her past, sharing that her mom was an abused woman who escaped back to Alaska with her daughters, but suffered mental health issues after the move. Things only got worse, with the mother suddenly leaving home one day, only to be found murdered, with her killer never caught.

It’s a tragic tale, and certainly helps explain why Navarro is so dedicated to solving Annie K.’s murder, without being able to deliver justice for her mom. But are we meant to believe that the mom’s spirit is connected to whatever monstrous threat is responsible for the baffling deaths?

Why Navarro's Experiences Aren't The Best Evidence Of The Supernatural

I’m admittedly one of the many True Detective viewers who would whole-heartedly love for this series to pull a layer off of reality to reveal something truly unnatural and outside reality’s norms. (And no, not Episode 2's questionable A.I. concert poster.) But even though Night Country showrunner and director Issa López has crafted some truly chilling moments that are far more overtly horrific than the occult weirdness in Season 1, I think López already showed viewers why we shouldn’t put a ton of stock into ghosts and monsters being responsible.

For one, mental illness appears to be common enough within Evangeline Navarro’s family, even if the pool of evidence is certainly limited. But unless she was lying to Qavvik, her mom apparently suffered from having visions and hearing voices, and her sister Jules has also experienced two breakdowns just in these first three episodes. Navarro can say all she wants that Jules is nothing like their mother, but she can’t change genetics.

So it’s logical, and even probable, that Navarro’s ghostly experiences are just in her head, with one of the bigger secondary arguments being that she was completely alone each time something bizarre happened. And possibly why her reactions to impossible instances have been so strangely subdued. (Which may just be a gripe-worthy issue more than a story beat, but still.)

But the mental shenanigans may not even be the fault of the Navarro bloodline specifically, and could be more of an unpredictable side effect of whatever is happening in Ennis itself. Perhaps the city is built atop pockets of gas that causes mass hallucinations, and the Tsalal scientists tapped into one of those pockets when seeking their potentially miraculous microorganism.

That wouldn’t entirely explain why some people are affected by visions and things far more than others, since Danvers and Peter haven’t been shown to be plagued by ghostly sights. So maybe it is a bloodline thing, at least as far as families native to the area.

At the moment, I’m happily stuck between not knowing which way True Detective: Night Country is going to take its story, even if I fully suspect that the mysteries at hand will be resolved in the most secular and scientific manner possible. I’m just hoping it leaves a slightly bigger crack in the door than Season 1 did, as far as allowing for otherworldly shit to come into this world. I’ll leave some coffee on, just in case the monsters are cold and thirsty.

True Detective: Night Country airs new episodes Sunday nights on HBO (and streaming with a Max subscription) at 9:00 p.m. ET. Head to our 2024 TV premiere schedule to see what else is haunting the small screen soon.