You are currently viewing The Right Questions, Answered (Some): “True Detective” Season 4, Episode 6 recap

The Right Questions, Answered (Some): “True Detective” Season 4, Episode 6 recap

The series actually gives itself 75 minutes to wrap things up. It also — crucially — side-steps the show’s most searching question about what happens after we die. In the end, how gratifying you find the finale will depend on your willingness to forgo objective truth in favor of a notion more slippery and less satisfying.

“Part Six” begins on New Year’s Eve and remains narrowly focused on Danvers and Navarro for almost its entirety. It’s a quest episode, really, and it kicks off with the cops cracking a hole in the ice and recklessly throwing themselves into the labyrinth below. “It’s safe,” Navarro shouts to her reluctant partner, but nothing about this place feels safe. The caves resemble a frozen intestinal tract; it’s as though the women have been swallowed whole by an Ice Age beast. I was anxious that Danvers and Navarro weren’t leaving breadcrumbs by which to retrace their path, but it’s quickly made clear they won’t need to. There’s a presence lingering nearby. It could be the ghost of Annie K. reaching out to Navarro, or it could just be that the cops sense Raymond Clark lurking.

They chase the AWOL scientist through the caves into a subterranean ice laboratory not entirely unlike Mr. Freeze’s Snowy Cones Ice Cream Factory (Joel Schumacher’s version). There’s a spiral of prehistoric bones, same as the ones from the Annie K. video, frozen into the ice above the women’s heads. Where has Clark disappeared to (again), and where are they now? In the abandoned lab, Danvers finds a star-shaped ice-drill bit that looks more than capable of making Annie’s wounds. Behind storage shelves laden with ice tubes, Navarro finds a ladder leading up a tall chute. The cops climb it and end up back in Tsalal Station, where “Twist and Shout” is still blaring from the Ferris Bueller DVD that restarts every time the power cuts. Danvers yanks the DVD player from the outlet this time because some ghosts you can quiet. Meanwhile, Navarro follows wet footprints, the same as the ones she pursued through the dredge in Part Four. It’s been a long, cold road into the belly of the ice, and it has led them back to a place they’ve known before.

Clark makes one last stand at the station, temporarily trapping Danvers in a freezer and knocking Navarro unconscious. By the time Danvers punches her way out through the glass door, though, a recovered Navarro is beating the shit out of Clark, which is actually less barbaric than what comes next. When Clark declares he won’t talk, Navarro asks a strikingly personal first question: “Did you love Annie?” The point, it turns out, is to determine how best to torture him. He’s already taped to an office chair, so she tapes a set of headphones into his ears and attaches them to the Annie K. video — an endless loop of his lover’s screams echoing against the hard ice.

It doesn’t take long for Clark to surrender. He tells the cops that Annie’s death was his fault via negligence. She found his notes about what the scientists were really up to in the Arctic: poking around Mother Ice to find microorganisms with DNA that could cure cancer, change the world, make Nobel laureates out of these cloistered incels. And they already had the supposedly “unmineable” substance in their wicked clutches. See, run-off from Silver Sky was weakening the permafrost, meaning the DNA could be extracted intact (yada, yada, yada). Tsalal wasn’t merely falsifying the mine’s pollution data; the researchers were lobbying for more and faster rates of pollution.

“Part Six” is strewn with allusions to previous Night Country episodes. The Funyuns the delivery guy dropped off in “Part One” become Danvers’s snack as the women wait out Clark’s silence. An orange — Navarro’s mother’s favorite fruit — rolls off a fridge shelf and into Navarro’s feet, just as it did during the initial manhunt. Broken glass stuck under Danvers’s boot triggers a memory of her approaching Holden’s car accident, as it did in the season premiere; the crucifix Navarro threw from the window in “Part Two,” or one like it, ends up caught in Danvers’s hair as she naps in Clark’s bed. Where day looks identical to night, it’s impossible to tell if time is moving forward or recoiling back on itself or standing still.

So what is the significance of all these recurrences? Night Country doesn’t insist on one particular interpretation. Navarro, for example, believes in God. The world is richer than what we can see, and coincidences are clues to its concealed depths. Danvers takes the opposite position — that there’s a careless randomness to the universe. Of course, that leaves plenty of room in between. One doesn’t need to believe in ghosts or God to believe in the felt power of symbols. A one-eyed polar bear can be a chance encounter or a talisman. We inscribe objects and moments with meaning, and that meaning shapes how we see the world, which details we focus on, and which stories we tell.

Take Raymond Clark. The cops accept his version of how and why Annie K. was murdered but reject his account of what happened to his colleagues. He believes Annie killed them while he was cowering on the ice-lab ladder, his hands desperately gripping the hatch, which he didn’t open even to let Lund inside. Clark held the door closed for hours or days or weeks, he says. He’s still down there, really, unwilling to surface and face what he’s done.

And what does it matter if he was down there for days or years? If Annie’s been haunting those caves since her death or in the centuries before it? “Time is a flat circle,” Clark calls out in a belligerent echo of Rust Cohle’s season-one philosophizing. In the mouth of this villain, it rings less like an homage than an excuse to make the same bad choices over and over — to do violence to women and nature.

Meanwhile, back in Ennis, Pete has stripped down to his skivvies to 409 the hell out of Liz’s house. He loads the bodies of Hank and Otis into his father’s truck and showers the blood from his hands and body. It’s a task best performed alone, as ritualistic as it is frantic. Even if the power of ghosts or symbols does not convince you, there’s always metaphor: a son cleaning up his own mess, cleaning up his father’s mess for a final time. Leah stops home, hoping to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop with her stepmom, and can immediately tell something is up. Pete blames his skittishness on the situation with Kayla and convinces Leah to spend one more night with his family at his house, where he’s no longer welcome. As Pete drives Hank’s truck — now a mobile morgue — toward Rose and the ice, the town’s power fails.

The power is out at Tsalal Station, too. Unable to take a minute more of Clark’s ranting, Danvers falls asleep in his room. When she wakes up so cold she can see her own breath, she’s angry to learn that Navarro has granted Clark’s wish to be allowed to kill himself. He was so tired, and, to be fair, Danvers knows how exhausting it is to be haunted — to hear your loved one’s screams ringing in your ears long after they’re gone. Danvers finds Navarro staring at their only witness in the snow, frozen to death, like his colleagues.

The cops, now at odds, resort to huddling around a campfire for warmth in the drafty and cavernous research station, hoping not to freeze before the blizzard breaks. Something has clicked for Navarro over the last few hours since she stalked Annie’s voice deeper into the caves. The ghosts she thought were haunting her have instead assured her she’s not alone. After another dust-up with Danvers — Navarro tells the grieving mother that Holden appears to her, too — Navarro ventures out onto the ice, which has been calling her for as long as we’ve known her. Except it’s not ice to Navarro. In reality, her ears are bleeding like the Tsalal victims, but in her mind, she’s warm and far, far away (in the Middle East, I think). She’s holding hands with her mother, who faintly murmurs Evangeline’s Iñupiat name.

Or is it just a hallucination brought on by the early stages of hypothermia? In the same cold, Danvers thinks she sees Holden trapped under the ice and yelling for help. She instinctively punches a hole like Hank did to save Peter’s life nearly 20 years ago, though Holden’s been dead since before Danvers ever came this far north. She falls into the numbing water where sensation and memory finally stop, and it’s Navarro who does the saving this time. Maybe the thunder of Danvers falling through the ice reawakened Navarro to the world around her. Maybe Liz is right when she tells Navarro that Julia just gave up. Maybe ghosts are real and we can choose to die with them in the same way we can let our darkest memories drag us down. Or maybe we can fight against the heavy current of both.

When Navarro gets Danvers inside and conscious again, Danvers dares ask what the ghost of Holden has to say. He says, “He sees you.” Jodie Foster has this way of crying that sounds agonizingly nasal and young to me. She cries like a child, and she’s crying for her child, and suddenly this dead-kid story line, which has hovered in the periphery, feels like it can unlock every mystery about this woman and not just the roots of her bitterness. Liz’s reticence to feel stands in tension with her capacity to care. I can’t think of any more crushing question than the one this show has cruelly posed to Liz: Did my baby call for me as he died? You can believe that Holden died instantly and peacefully or not. You can believe his screams of “Mommy” are echoes from the accident or the cries of an eager ghost or a mother’s worst fears reverberating for years. (Either way, I’m crying.) And yet it’s not hopeless. However many miles away, Leah huddles on Kayla’s sofa and leaves Liz a voicemail: “Just don’t die out there or anything, please.” It’s a teenager’s guarded version of calling out for Mommy.

Eventually, every storm passes. Back on the ice, Rose prepares Hank’s body for submersion by cutting holes into his lungs, and Pete tips him into the water himself. “Forever” is going to be “the worst fucking part,” Rose tells him, but, honestly, what does she know? He’s been someplace darker than any of us will ever go, and now here he is watching the Northern Lights jog across the unbroken sky. It may not have the cleansing symbolism of daybreak, but it is a new year.

Under the same glimmering sky, Danvers and Navarro toast to their own survival from coffee mugs filled with liquor found in the Tsalal stash. If you decide to walk out on the ice, Danvers tells Navarro, try to come back. It’s what Qaavik asked of Evangeline last week, what Leah wants from her stepmom, and what Kayla begs of Peter: Just come back. Like Clark, Navarro tells Danvers she’s been holding her own hatch against the ghosts only to realize there’s been another option all along: to let them in.

Now, despite her near-death experience, Danvers still doesn’t really fuck with metaphor. But Navarro’s soul-searching declaration does make Danvers realize they’ve been asking the wrong question. Not: How long did Raymond Clark hold the door closed? But: Who was tugging on it from the other side? The cops throw a UV light on the hatch to reveal numerous sets of handprints, one of which has the distinction of missing two full fingers, just like the prints pulled from the piles of the Tsalal men’s clothes in “Part Two.” Not: Who killed Annie K? But: Who else knows about it?

True Detective: Night Country has, from its earliest moments, begged us to listen to the local women who keep Ennis running. The women who cut hair, clean offices, and run the laundromat. The women, like Wheeler’s girlfriend, who die at the hands of a known abuser. The women, like Blair, who aren’t safe from their violent husbands even at work. The women who are burying their babies. No, worse than that. The women who are still waiting to bury their babies, stuck in a suspended state of mourning until spring. Women like Annie K., who protest the mines and lose their tongues for it.

Navarro and Danvers drive out to the villages and knock on Beatrice’s door. Blair is already there and listening when Beatrice asks their names. “Siqiññaatchiaq,” Navarro tells them, an answer lifted from her mother’s spectral whispers.

In the end, the version of the story these women tell of what happened to the Tsalal scientists isn’t so different from Clark’s version: She did it. The cleaners learned about the underground ice lab when the contents of a spilled bucket dripped between the tiles of the floor. They found the same star-shaped drill bits that the cops did, but until that moment, they, too, assumed the mine was responsible for Annie’s death. The mines own the town and the police, so rather than report their discovery, they stormed Tsalal themselves. These women knew every nook and cranny of that place; they’d cleaned every nook and cranny of that place.

And I do mean “storm.” Rifles loaded, the women weren’t worried about being recognized by the men who hardly spared them attention in normal life. It was Blair, who we’re told in “Part One” lost her fingers at the crab plant, who couldn’t get the hatch to open. They loaded the other scientists into a truck and delivered them naked onto the ice. But they didn’t kill the men, Beatrice is careful to distinguish.

And Annie didn’t kill them either. No, the men killed themselves when they killed Annie, and the women rectified the situation by offering them to Her for justice. It was up to Her whether she wanted to take them or not. Night Country comes for those who deserve it. You can believe, as these women claim to, that the scientists could have survived the storm if it’s what She wanted or not. You can believe that in a city as broken as Ennis, doling out justice falls under the purview of Mother Nature or not. It just so happens to be the same story Kate and Connelly are pushing. Call it a storm or a slab avalanche. Call it Alaska itself. Something bigger and stronger killed these men.

Everyone in Beatrice’s cabin has what they want. Navarro and Danvers can stop carrying Annie K. now. Not: Who left Annie’s tongue on the lab floor? But: What good can come of asking any more questions?

Weeks later, when the sun creeps back up over the horizon, there will be more interrogations. The Feds aren’t sold on the story they’ve been peddled about Hank’s disappearance, nor can they think of a better one. We learn that Navarro is missing, too, though she leaves parting gifts before she splits. The SpongeBob SquarePants toothbrush she took in “Part One” for Qaavik. For Danvers, Holden’s polar bear, which she must have rescued from the snow after Danvers threw it away in “Part Four.” She pairs it with a confession from Raymond Clark about the pollution up at Silver Sky, which she must have videotaped before granting him compassionate release.

Danvers answers the Feds’ questions as she sips coffee from the same Hawaii mug she toasted with at Tsalal on New Year’s Day. She must have snagged it. While Danvers plays coy with the authorities, we learn that she and Danvers are actually still in touch. The world can take everything from you, and then a place as small and inconsequential as Ennis can tether you back. Because even this close to the North Pole, there’s no such thing as an endless, inescapable night, even if it feels that way. Eventually, light will find its way back into the darkest places and, sometimes, the darkest people. Evangeline’s mother knew that, too. That’s why she named her eldest daughter, the one restless for justice, Siqiññaatchiaq — “the return of the sun.”