In HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country,’ nothing is as it seems. The story begins on the last sunset of the year in Ennis, Alaska, which is also when eight scientists mysteriously disappear from their post in the Tsalal Arctic Research Station. Detective Liz Danvers investigates the case, and despite her initial hesitation to accept it, she soon realizes that this case is related to another cold case from years ago, which was handled by Detective Navarro, now in the Trooper department. It brings back the attention to the victim, Annie Masu Kowtok, also known as Annie K, especially when it becomes clear that what happened to her has a clear connection to what happened to the scientists. SPOILERS AHEAD
Anne Masu Kowtok was Killed by the Town She Fought For
When Peter Prior asks Danvers about her thoughts on Annie K’s case, she says that the case was never going to be solved. They were never going to catch the culprit because it wasn’t just some person that killed her; it was the town itself. Ennis killed Annie, she says. Still, someone carried out the deed, and finding that person might also bring answers to the baffling case of the eight scientists who seemingly disappeared into thin air.
The details of Annie’s murder are heart-wrenching. According to her file, she was stabbed 32 times with an unidentified murder weapon, which left a star-shaped wound. She had a missing tongue, but that wasn’t the only thing the killer[s] did to her after dumping her body. They kicked her repeatedly, leading to broken ribs and broken teeth.
The manner of death and the violence involved point to several things. The 32 stab wounds show that the person[s] who attacked Annie had a personal vendetta against her. As Navarro later says, it is the display of the hate the killer[s] had against Annie, and it could have had something to do with the mine in Ennis. Apart from being a midwife, Annie was also an activist. She protested against the mines in Ennis, raising ethical, cultural, and environmental concerns. But while she and others like her wanted to shut down the mines, there was a horde of people who were completely against it.
The local workers in the mines would have lost their jobs if the mines were closed, and with Annie voicing her dissent, any of them could have harbored anger against her. More likely, someone close to her felt betrayed because she was trying to shut down the one thing that helped them pay the bills or served some other purpose in their plan. More than the workers, it was the mine owners who had the most to lose. Someone with more to lose would have more hatred towards the person trying to bring them down, and that’s motive enough to have a person killed. But they didn’t stop there.
They cut off her tongue, too, like they were shutting her up once and for all. (Makes one wonder, what did she know? What was she going to tell?) Killing her would have done that, but cutting off her tongue makes things more sinister and points towards the possibility of a psychopath killer on the loose. The act of kicking her post-mortem also shows that their hate against Annie didn’t dissipate just by her death. Even when they’d killed her, it wasn’t enough. It’s almost as if they were trying to insult her, showing her they won when it was all but clear.
The brutal killing of Annie K was never solved, and while her case was declared cold, Navarro refused to accept it. Digging into the case led her to put some important people in town on the stand, and they didn’t like that. The name of a certain Kate McKittrick, who is clearly a big fish and someone not to be trifled with, is dropped. Perhaps her boss felt that Navarro was going down the same path Annie did before her death, which is why maybe she was taken off the case and later transferred, now serving as a Trooper. Still, that doesn’t stop her from thinking about Annie and her case all the time, and she finally gets another lead when one of the missing scientists from Tsalal— the paleomicrobiologist Raymond Clark— is revealed to have a connection with Annie. Maybe she found something that connected the mine with the research station, some conspiracy involving some powerful people, and maybe that’s why she was shut up.
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