‘True Detective’ Season 4: All the References and Easter Eggs You May Have Missed in ‘Night Country’

There are two historical enigmas that overtly inspired True Detective season four, subtitled Night Country: that of the Mary Celeste, a 19th-century American ship whose entire crew seemed to evaporate into thin air while the vessel was on a voyage to Italy; and the 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident, a case involving nine Soviet hikers who inexplicably abandoned their campsite, then froze to death in the nearby wilderness. But even beyond those, showrunner Issa López has stocked her chilly saga with references to culture, history, and true crime that both reinforce the themes of Night Country and draw a straight line between it and True Detective’s rich past, particularly the show’s zeitgeist-grabbing 2014 first season.

Below, you’ll find some of the most tantalizing allusions and Easter eggs we could tease out of the season’s first two episodes, titled simply “Part 1” and “Part 2.” We’ll update the list as subsequent episodes are released each Sunday.


Travis Cohle

Yes, you heard right: Fiona Shaw’s Rose was in fact romantically involved with Travis Cohle, father of Rust Cohle, who died sometime before our story began. We should have seen this coming. In True Detective season one, Rust claimed that his enigmatic dad raised him in Alaska. According to Rust, the elder Cohle knocked up Rust’s mother while on leave from the Army, went back to Vietnam, and returned when little Rust was two years old. “Then she hauled ass, and he and I moved to Alaska,” he continued. “He was a survivalist, I guess you’d call it. Had some very fucking strange ideas.” You’re telling us, pal.

Rust went on to explain that because he couldn’t handle the cold, as an adult, he headed back to his home state of Texas. “My old man always made like I let him down that way,” he said. “Said I had no loyalty.” And now we can see that Travis apparently loved Alaska so much that his ghost still resides there, even years after the elder Cohle’s death from leukemia.

“We Should Send This Thing Back to Anchorage”

Intentionally or not, when she floats the idea of bringing the corpsicle to a bigger city with more resources—before again claiming ownership over the Tsalal case—Danvers echoes one of the more memorable lines from Jodie Foster’s most intensely quotable movie: “Take this thing back to Baltimore!”

Follow the Money

After teasing the answer last week, Peter Prior revealed in episode two who’s really funding Tsalal: an NGO, run by a shell company called NC Global Strategies, which in turn belongs to a company called Tuttle United. What do they do, asks Danvers? Everything, says Peter: “Glass, tech, video games, shipments, palm oil, cruise lines…”

Danvers doesn’t think this information is helpful, but that must be because she didn’t watch True Detective season one. There, we learned that the powerful Tuttle family was also behind the pedophilic, Yellow King–worshiping sex cult that fueled the assault and murder of Dora Lange and countless others. So if you weren’t yet convinced that there’s something fishy about Tsalal, consider this name-drop to be a big red flag. (Incidentally—did you know that an actual pedophilic sex scandal involving a Louisiana church may have inspired season one’s storyline? You can read more about the Hosanna Church scandal here.)

Language Lesson

Navarro and her sister, Julia, go shopping at a convenience store called Ukalliq Market. “Ukalliq” means “snowshoe hare” in Iñupiaq, the language which most of the show’s Native characters speak—maybe not a clue, but a fun fact nonetheless. Qavvik, by the way—the name of Navarro’s sort-of boyfriend, played by Joel Montgrandmeans “wolverine.”

Spirals on Spirals on Spirals

Remember the spirals we spotted last week? They’re back in episode two, in a big way: drawn on one corpse’s forehead, and tattooed on both Annie K. and Raymond Clark. “What is that, a cult sign?” asks the Tsalal station’s cleaning woman—a reference to the way the spiral was used in True Detective season one. But Rose thinks it’s something a lot more ancient than that. “It’s old, missy,” she tells Navarro. “Older than Ennis. Older than the ice, probably.” We’ll see just how key it winds up being to Night Country’s mystery in the coming weeks.


The Yellow King

The show’s first episode begins with a stark epigraph: “…For we do not know what beasts the night dreams when its hours grow too long for even God to be awake.” The text is attributed to Hildred Castaigne, a name that might be familiar to True Detective season one die-hards. Hildred is the protagonist of a short story found in Robert W. Chambers’s 1895 collection The King in Yellow, a key influence on Nic Pizzolatto’s original True Detective.

More specifically, Hildred is the unreliable narrator of a story called “The Repairer of Reputations.” He’s a delusional figure who believes himself to be the heir to a royal dynasty that descends from the stars and is driven mad, in part, by reading a fictional play also titled The King in Yellow. The story ends with him confessing to two murders, followed by an “editor’s note” that simply reads, “Mr. Castaigne died yesterday in the Asylum for the Criminally Insane.”

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