True Detective: How Did the Tsalal Scientists Die?

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country’ begins with a baffling mystery. A group of scientists living and working at Tsalal Arctic Research Station go missing. Seven of the eight are later found frozen in ice with no clothes on. Their bodies are a weird mess, entangled into each other, and each with a shaken expression on their face. A lot of questions are posed about what happened to them. What were they doing on the ice, naked? Why did they walk to their deaths? And how did they die? Did they really freeze to death, or was it something that happened before that? All of these questions are answered in the finale, where some shocking truths about the scientists come to light. SPOILERS AHEAD

The Scientists Were Punished For Their Crimes

Six years before the scientists walked onto the ice to their deaths, Annie K was brutally murdered, and the murderer was never caught. There were scarce leads, no witnesses, no suspects. All Detective Navarro had was theories that, somehow, Silver Sky mining was involved in the murder. But there was no evidence to link them to the murder, and the mine people were powerful enough to have her removed from the case and bury the case files.

For six years, no one knew what happened to Annie K, but then, one day, Bee, a cleaner at Tsalal, noticed something weird. The water bucket fell off, and the water, instead of spreading over the floor, seeped through one of the tiles, revealing a hidden bunker beneath. There, Bee discovered the evidence of Annie’s murder. She found a screwdriver with a star-shaped end and, through the pictures in Annie’s files, confirmed that this was the shape of the wounds on her body. This meant that Annie had been killed at Tsalal, and because none of the scientists came out about it and kept it a secret, it meant that all of them were complicit in her death.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

Bee and other women, who had known and loved Annie, knew that they could not go to the authorities with it. In fact, they guessed that the authorities had something to do with burying the case. The women knew that the system would never allow their friends to have justice. It would let the scientists slip through and continue their lives as if they hadn’t brutally murdered a woman. If justice were to be served, they would have to do it themselves.

On the day of the last sunset, the women, who knew all the nooks and crannies of Tsalal, marched in with weapons, cutting off the power and rounding up all the scientists. Raymond Clarke hid in the underground lab, barricading himself because he knew what would befall him. At the time, he thought it was Annie who’d come back from the dead to exact revenge on them. He’d been consumed by guilt the past years and revealed that he’d been seeing Annie’s ghost everywhere. He hid in the secret lab because he was worried Annie would get him, but he didn’t know that it was her friends, the women of Ennis, who came out to avenge her.

When Clarke locked himself in and could not be brought out, the women decided to leave him. They forced the seven scientists into a truck and drove them further into the ice, where nobody could find them. The women wanted justice, but they knew they couldn’t simply shoot the scientists. That would be an easier death, and it would also leave evidence, turning the authorities on the women. They couldn’t have it traced back to them, which is why they thought it best just to send the men to their deaths.

In doing so, the women were also giving the men up to a higher power, to Sedna, specifically. Like Annie, she too had been killed and left for dead. It made sense then that she should be the one to decide what happens to Annie’s murderers. In some sense, Annie was Sedna, and she would claim her own. So, the women made the men strip; they left their clothes behind in case someone was spared and found his way back. They watched the men go into the ice, leaving them there to meet their fate.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

The official report from Anchorage following the autopsy of the seven dead bodies revealed that they’d died in an avalanche. It was the cold that killed them. Danvers initially refused to accept this theory because she thought it was the mining company trying to cover up the case due to their connection with Tsalal. But it turns out that the report was right, partially at least. There may or may not have been an avalanche, but the men did die of cold. All their symptoms suggested that.

What bothered Danvers was that the local vet had suggested that they died before being frozen. This is where perhaps Sedna, or Annie’s ghost, factors in. In the final episode, we see Annie’s ghost lingering in the background, so perhaps she had been there the night her friends decided to avenge her. Perhaps she came back to avenge herself and killed the scientists, leaving them frozen and to be found three days later.

Read More: Who Cut Out Annie’s Tongue in True Detective? Theories