I Hate to Say It, But 'True Detective: Night Country' E5 Is a Disappointment

'True Detective: Night Country' Episode 5 RecapHBO

Looking for True Detective: Night Country Season 4, Episode 4? Read our recap here.

I guess Liz Danvers is no match for Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid's 'stache, and that nightmarish Super Bowl commercial where Patrick Stewart chucks Hey Arnold at the side of a mountain, huh? This week, True Detective: Night Country delivered episode 5 two days early, most likely to avoid falling under the avalanche that is Super Bowl LVIII. (The Last of Us did the same thing last year.)

Usually, I'd be all for it—but not this week. If you've been following along with Esquire's Night Country recaps, you'll know that I wanted a bit more from the premiere, then loved the following three episodes. The paranormal of it all isn't for everyone, sure, but at least showrunner Issa López had the guts to fully lean into Season 1's flirtation with the occult. That is... until... inexplicably... this week? Episode 5 is dialogue-heavy, doesn't really deliver anything new to hype us up about the Tsalal case, and hinges itself on a truly bizarre twist involving this season's weakest character. Let's break it down.

She's (Still) Awake

I want to focus this week's recap on the Prior-Prior standoff, so please allow me to break out my spiral bullet points to tear through some of this episode's exposition dumps:

🌀 Otis Heiss quickly walks back all of the psycho shit he said in Episode 4—blame it on the alcohol, he says! (It's heroin, but still.) Later on, we learn that locals refer to the caves as the "night country." And the spirals? Just a sign to indicate where the ice is especially dangerous. The season finale could walk back this walk-back, but both explanations feel like a letdown. Plus, Heiss gives a little bit of backstory: one day, he was in the caves, trying to save someone who was trapped by a blizzard. He suddenly blacked out—and woke up in the hospital with his injuries. Decades later, the Tsalal scientists wanted to know how he survived the whole kerfuffle. Raymond Clark, in particular, gave Heiss the whole "she's awake" lecture. Danvers gets Heiss his heroin, so he can tell her how to properly enter the caves. Then... we'll get to that shortly.

🌀 The mining protests continue. Once again, it becomes another vehicle for Danvers Family Drama. The Ennis SWAT team (or something) pushes her to the ground. Thankfully, Navarro is there to save her. When Navarro brings Leah back to the station, Danvers makes sure her step-daughter is thrown in the drunk tank. Prior Jr. gives her Cheetos!

🌀 Speaking of Prior Jr., he has another scoop. The Tuttles and Silver Sky funded the Tsalal laboratory's research, which makes for a major conflict of interest: Tsalal makes their environmental reports. Danvers suspects that Tsalal fudged the numbers to please their financial backers. (This Tuttle-Silver-Sky-money-and-power plot isn't really working for me—it's taking away from the mystery.)

🌀 Danvers is Danvers, so she storms into Silver Sky with Prior's findings. Kate McKittrick and Connelly are there. Thanks to Hank Prior—who broke into Peter's laptop—he knows that Danvers and Navarro killed William Wheeler. Plus, Anchorage's biopsy says that the scientists died in an extreme weather event, on which Danvers calls bullshit. Connelly really wants to squash Danvers's investigation once and for all, so he blackmails Danvers with the Wheeler info. Later on, McKittrick tasks Hank with killing Otis Heiss, with the promise of a promotion within Ennis PD. So, we can officially add a corrupted police force to Ennis's running list of problems. "She can't find that cave,” McKittrick says. Suspicious!

🌀 Episode 5 treats us to one last Danvers-Navarro throwdown. Defeated after the Silver Sky meeting, Danvers tells Navarro that she needs to give up the Annie K. case. (Again.) Especially because Connelly knows about Wheeler. Navarro guilt-trips Danvers and storms out of the station. "You carry her now," says Navarro. "She's yours now."

true detective
I hate to say it, but this was absolutely my face during episode 5.HBO

Look What You Made Me Do (Peter's Version)

All right. I've been holding this in for weeks now—when Night Country is firing on all cylinders, this is easy to forgive—but Peter Prior has been dragging this show down. And Finn Bennett's performance isn't totally to blame, either. (Everything and everyone looks small next to Jodie Foster.) It's more that we've never really learned much about the guy. There's some table-setting missing. We're supposed to understand that Prior Jr. is meek, sharp-witted, a decent hockey player, eager to please Danvers, and not an attentive husband. That's about it? It always feels like he's doing one of these three things: 1/ Poofing out of nowhere to tell Danvers about his latest Google search, 2/ Explaining to his wife why he kinda sucks, and 3/ Taking shit from Danvers. And his father, Hank? Yeah, they're not best buds, but we've never been told that there's something truly broken in that relationship. And what parent hasn't broken into their kids' devices?

So yeah, the dude virtually killing his father on sight didn't really work for me.

Just to recap: At the end of the episode, Hank pulls up to Danvers's house, looking for Otis. Danvers promptly makes a very plot-convenient rookie mistake, telling him that Otis is actually with her. "I gotta do this the way you did Wheeler," Hank says, just before shooting Otis in the head. (Save this note for later: Otis somehow survives the first gunshot? We know that Raymond Clark wanted to understand why Otis lived through the accident in the caves... and now he endures a bullet to the head. Something's off here.)

Prior Jr. emerges from his new digs with a gun in his hand. It's a Prior family standoff. "You should know something," Hank tells Peter. "I didn't kill Annie K. I moved her body. Blood is blood, Peter. Remember that." Then, Peter kills him. He stays behind to clean up the mess, Danvers and Navarro dash to the caves, and we hear a creepo cover of "Save Tonight" over the credits.

true detective
Bro! Overreaction, much?HBO

Night Country: Endgame

OK then! I'm a little bit at a loss here, trying to figure out what next week's season finale will look like. Is Night Country just going to leave the paranormal antics behind? Or will my batshit Carcosa theory actually come true? Speaking of Carcosa, we seem destined for a finale similar to Season 1's conclusion, which saw Rust and Marty hunt down a baddie in a labyrinthian venue. This time, the caves are likely the site of the final throwdown, with Raymond Clark in the Errol Childress role. Still, we need Night Country to tie a bow on quite a few storylines: the town's mining protests, Prior's emotional state (?!?!?), Navarro's visions, Hank's still-MIA bride, the Tuttle family's investment in the Tsalal laboratory, and of course, the real reason the Tsalal scientists went missing.

No matter what, check back here next Sunday night for my final recap. In the meantime, you clean. You clean good!

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