True Detective has always been a show full of strange symbols and half-hidden clues, and Night Country is no exception.
Putting aside the spirals and the Lost-style polar bear sightings, though, there’s that Billie Eilish-backed opening sequence. As always with Nic Pizzolatto’s show, the opener features a jumble of imagery that’s relevant to the series, this time themed around an appropriately dark and snowy drive along a rural road as Eilish’s 2019 atmospheric hit “bury a friend” plays.
‘True Detective: Night Country’: Is Travis the father of Rust Cohle?
So, while we’re thinking over our post-ep burning questions, let’s break down those images. What glimpses do we get in those 90 seconds, and how might they be relevant to the story?
True Detective: Night Country‘s opening sequence: Possible clues
A full bathtub
This is the first thing we see at the side of that snowy road, and it’s got a dark liquid sloshing around inside it. Water or blood? Like many of the things on this list, it’s tricky to know if the tub is a sign of something to come – does someone die in a bath, for instance? – or just a metaphor for something.
There’s an orange rolling along the road! That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? The same orange pops back up in peel form later on in the sequence, floating underwater. In episode 3, Navarro picks up an orange that’s been discarded by one of the locals recruited to search for Clark. Later the orange rolls back to her and she hears a voice saying “help us”. In episode 4 the orange returns again, rolling out from under the bed in the institution where Navarro’s sister Julia (Aka Niviâna) is staying. Julia looks under the bed, sees a dead woman with a silver crucifix necklace (the same necklace Navarro has already seen in an earlier episode), and steps back in horror. Later in the episode, she dies by suicide.
A stuffed polar bear with one eye sitting on a rocking chair, and a real polar bear with one eye
One-eyed polar bears are a bit of a theme here, aren’t they? In episode 1, Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) finds a stuffed toy version in her house that she seems to connect with an unsettling memory, while Detective Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) sees a real-looking polar bear while driving through town. You can see both in the opening credits.
Dead, frozen figures emerging from the ice
These are the dead figures we glimpse at the end of the first episode, which make up the corpsicle Danvers and officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett) are tasked with excavating from the ice. Yep, it’s the team of missing scientists from the Tsalal Arctic Research Station, in a giant frozen tangle.
How ‘True Detective: Night Country’ brought the corpsicle to life
A Tsalal Arctic Research Station sign reading “operation in progress”
Tsalal is the show’s first main setting — the place where Danvers begins her investigation into the missing scientists. The series primarily takes place around the fictional Alaskan town of Ennis, but the research station’s mention in the main credits (plus the fact the station itself is shown) means it has a larger part to play.
Nothing creepier than an abandoned research station.
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
A woman sinking under the ice
Foreshadowing for something that will happen in the show, or just a metaphor? Tricky to say at this stage, but we can hazard a guess as to who the woman is — she’s wearing a coat with an APF (Alaska Police Force) patch on the shoulder, so it seems likely she’s with the police. Danvers?
A deer skull floating underwater
Could this be a reference to the poor animals that go thundering off the edge of that ice cliff in episode 1’s very first scene, seemingly driven to madness by the oncoming long night?
Bloody clothes on a washing line
It’s difficult to say exactly what this image means, but washing bloody clothes could be a reference to trying to clean up a crime scene.
A smashed car windscreen
We see a brief shot through a splintered windscreen of a house with a car beside it. There’s not much we can glean from the house, but the broken windscreen could be significant. Will one of the characters get in a car accident on the snowy roads? Or have they had an accident in the past?
Lots of tubes stacked on shelves
These are the cylindrical tubes that Danvers finds at the research station in episode 1. Geology teacher Bryce (Donnie Keshawarz) tells the police chief in episode 2 the scientists were using ice coring trying to sequence the DNA from an extinct microorganism that could potentially stop cellular decay. Bryce explains the project was extremely difficult due to myriad factors including the extraction process. Perhaps the research being undertaken by the scientists will be significant down the line?
Shortly after the evidence tubes we see multiple crucifixes with dates marked on each. These are presumably graves, but the real striking detail is the date: Each cross is marked with the year 2023. In episode 5, Danvers visits Ennis’ graveyard and looks at these same markers, which we now know represent the disturbingly high number of stillbirths in the town.
A protest sign
We see a brief glimpse of two protest signs in one shot, and the phrase “protect our water” is clear on one. Ennis is clearly in the midst of an environmental struggle. In episode 3, we see activists meeting to announce the news of another stillbirth. In episode 5, those same activists gather outside the mine in protest.
The laboratory is a key location.
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
Presumably this is part of the Tsalal Arctic Research Station.
A curved archway on the side of the road
There’s a deer with glowing eyes! Could this be the living version of the poor beast whose remains are floating underwater?
A circular hatch floating underwater
No idea, but it seems likely this is connected to the research station.
The final frame of the opening credits changes every episode
Wait, that last frame wasn’t the same ending as the first episode! We’re thinking the last image in the True Detective: Night Country opening credits changes each episode to reveal a crucial location for the coming episode. We’re tracking them all here:
Episode 1: The inside of an ice cave
One of the final shots is a quick trip through an icy, underground tunnel, shown after a quick flash of skeletons embedded in the ice. A real location in the show, or just an atmospheric tracking shot? At the end of episode 3 we see a video of Annie’s final moments, and she appears to be in an underground ice cave — so it seems like this icy tunnel from the episode 1 credits may where she was killed.
Episode 2: A creepy shrine-like wall of photos and lights
At the end of episode 2, Danvers and Navarro find their way to missing scientist Raymond Clark’s creepy trailer (which you can also spot the exterior of in the opening credits), which is filled with fabric weavings, a whole wall of red yarn and photographs, and a giant spiral on the ceiling. Pictured at the end of the episode 2 opening credits, it’s a pretty crucial finding, as Danvers and Navarro now believe Clark, who is missing from the corpsicle, to be alive and connected with Annie.
Episode 3: A fishing hut on the ice.
The guy Navarro is seeing in the show, Eddie Qavvik (Joel D Montgrand), has a fishing hut out on the ice — a blue house with red trim and a wreath. This is the location we see in the final shot of the episode 3 opening credits. Will it be significant further down the line?
Episode 4: A car on the ice.
We see a car on the ice with its headlights on. Under the ice are different objects that are hard to make out, but the final one is a clearly a winter coat. We can’t say for sure, but this looks like the coat Otis Heiss (Klaus Tang) is wearing when Danvers finds him — the same pink coat that was worn by Raymond Clark, and previously belonged to Annie.
Episode 5: An area of the mine.
This is the area where Hank Prior (John Hawkes) meets with mine and ice rink owner Kate McKittrick (Dervla Kirwan) to discuss the plan to intercept Tsalal engineer Otis Heiss (Klaus Tange), so he’s unable to show Danvers the location to the entrance of the ice cave where Annie K (Nivi Pedersen) may have been murdered.
How to watch: True Detective airs Sunday nights on HBO/Max at 9 p.m ET/PT.
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