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True Detective: Night Country viewers divided over ‘lazy’ season one link

True Detective fans have been left divided over season four’s direct connection to the first ever series.

Episode two of the new series – which is the fourth season of the HBO anthology series - was broadcast on Sunday (21 January) and, while reviews have been mostly positive, there have been some complaints regarding the opening titles and also the series’s supernatural themes.

Set in Ennis, Alaska, the series follows two detectives, Liz Danvers and Evangeline Navarro, played by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, as they investigate the sudden disappearance of eight men from a research station.

Those who feel the series has a much more different DNA to previous outings, though, have been left surprised by several references to season one, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, in the opening moments of episode two – and one directly links McConaughey’s character, Rustin “Rust” Cohle, to the events of Night Country.

In season one’s debut episode, Rust tells his new partner, Marty (Harrelson), that he grew up in Alaska and that his father, Travis, lived there and had leukaemia. In Night Country episode two, we discover that the ghostly presence that led Ennis resident Rose (Fiona Shaw) to the missing bodies in the snow was her former lover, Travis Cohle. She explained that, rather than die of leukaemia, he walked out in the ice and froze to death.

Not only is Travis related to Rust, but both Travis and Rose have a link to the spiral symbol etched onto the forehead of one of the corpses ghost Travis leads Rose to. True Detective fans would have immediately recognised this symbol as the spiral that was regularly spotted in season one.

The spiral is addressed a few scenes later when Rose asks Navarro: “Did you see that thing on his forehead?” Intriguingly, Navarro tells Rose she had seen the spiral before, “years ago”, with Rose replying: “It’s old, missy. Older than Ennis. Older than the ice, probably.”

Later, it’s revealed that the missing Raymond Clark, who started acting strangely before going missing, had the spiral tattooed on his chest and, at the end of the episode, the symbol is discovered to be painted on the roof of Clark’s van.

This is the same spiral seen on the back of murder victim Dora Lange in True Detective season one – a symbol that was ultimately connected to the Yellow King, a being worshipped by an evil cult.

After McConaughey’s character, Rustin “Rust” Cohle, discovers the symbol while investigating the case, he ended up seeing the spiral everywhere he went before solving the case.

The spiral from ‘True Detective’ season one has returned in ‘Night Country’ (HBO)
The spiral from ‘True Detective’ season one has returned in ‘Night Country’ (HBO)

So could Rust be showing up in True Detective: Night Country? It’s very possible – and making it even more likely is the fact that McConaughey is listed as an executive producer of True Detective: Night Country.

However, not all fans are happy about the link to season one. While some are praising the direction of Night Country, many feel the show’s insistence on referring to season one is a “lazy” tactic to win over viewers.

“It’s an active attempt to cash in on season one’s cultural resurgence,” one person wrote, with another viewer adding: “I thought the whole point of True Detective is that the seasons are their own self contained narratives. Serializing it back to the first season just seems lazy.”

Others are saying that the new season would have been good in its own right without the direct connection to season one, describing Night Country as “fanfic”.

Further linking this series of the anthology to season one is another cryptic reference to the Yellow King that, after being detected by fans, was praised by Night Country creator, writer and director Issa López.

‘True Detective’s season one link has been called ‘lazy’ by ‘Night Country’ viewers (HBO)
‘True Detective’s season one link has been called ‘lazy’ by ‘Night Country’ viewers (HBO)

She wrote: “Someone is paying some serious attention.”

True Detective: Night Country is available to watch on Max in the US and on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK