True Detective: Why is it Called Night Country?

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

HBO’s ‘True Detective’ is known for delivering twisted and fascinating tales to the audience, with troubled characters looking for a semblance of meaning in the chaos around them. The fourth season, titled ‘Night Country,’ takes the viewers on another such journey that keeps them hooked till the end while also leaving them horrified, confused, and maybe even scared at times. All the emotions that the audience is bound to feel while watching this season are summed up in the title, which turns out to have a deeper meaning than what first appears. What does the term “night country” mean, and how is important to the plot of the show? SPOILERS AHEAD

The Title Prepares the Audience for What’s to Come

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

The fourth season of ‘True Detective’ takes place in a small town called Ennis. Situated in Alaska, it is so far up north that the sun sets for considerably longer here. It is supposed to lie somewhere 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and when the sun sets here on December 17, the residents know that they will not see the light of day until the New Year arrives. This means that almost the entirety of the show takes place under cover of the night, which seems unending and creates a sense of disquiet and discomfort on top of the horrific crimes that take place there.

The term for the days-long night in Ennis is “polar night.” It is a fairly common phenomenon in the polar regions and at night, where the night clock clocks more than 24 hours. The Earth’s tilted axis leads the polar regions in a situation where sometimes they are either too exposed to the sun or too far from it. In the scenario where they are more exposed to the sun, the daylight often extends beyond its hours and causes the phenomenon of “the midnight sun.” This means that there are times when these regions don’t have a conventional night.

A polar night flips this scenario where the Earth’s tilt leaves one of the polar completely obscured from the sun, which throws the region into a prolonged night. The length of such nights and days depends on how far the region is from the poles. For the regions far enough, these nights and days are limited to a few extra hours. But the closer a place is to the poles, the longer days and nights they experience. Some places experience as long as two months of nights uninterrupted by sunlight. In the case of the poles, the nights can extend up to 11 weeks.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

Ennis is a fictional town, but its location and the length of its polar night suggests it is one of those places that are used to living in the dark for a long period. In real life, the town of Utqiagvik is farthest to the north in Alaska, and experiences exactly what Ennis goes through in ‘True Detective.’ Rest assured, it is not the only town in Alaska to experience such a long period of nights and, in summer, equally lengthy days.

Apart from the scientific perspective, the title “Night Country” also adds a bit of mystical and metaphorical angle to the place, with Ennis often being called a dark place where, of course, an activist is murdered and where, of course, people lack the support they need. It is, in some ways, “the end of the world,” where people also feel right on the edge, primed to fall the moment something happens out of balance. It is not just the night that contributes to the darkness of the place. Ennis, itself, feels like a kind of black hole that consumes all the light and leaves only darkness. Considering all this, ‘Night Country’ is the apt title for this season.

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