Alaska Life Is Grim And The Light Is Dim In 'True Detective'

You know what I wish? I wish for a TV show to come along that depicts residents of Alaska thoroughly enjoying their lives in the state nicknamed The Last Frontier.

Instead, the Alaska-based TV shows that pass before my mind's eye when considering this subject are almost invariably woebegone. Alaska is a big and sparsely populated state -- by far the largest -- and due to its size, many of its small towns and villages are located in the proverbial middle of nowhere.

One of these locales -- a fictional one called Ennis, Alaska -- is the setting for the fourth incarnation of the HBO mystery series “True Detective,” premiering Sunday on HBO and Max.

Subtitled “Night Country,” this one involves the sudden disappearance of the entire staff of a research station some miles away from Ennis in a location even more remote than the town.



That happens to be very remote indeed, since Ennis itself is located well inside the Arctic Circle.

There is also at least one unsolved murder mystery in the town that may or may not have a connection to the mystery of the missing researchers.

The case is a big one for Ennis' small police force, which is much more accustomed to dealing with drunk drivers and spousal abusers. Two such cases are depicted in Episode One of this six-episode series.

What the Ennis investigators lack in numbers they do not seem to lack for experience, especially one of them -- Det. Liz Danvers, played by Jodie Foster (above photo).

Foster, 61, has been acting in movies and TV shows since the age of 5 (her first credit was a guest role on “Mayberry RFD” in 1968).

In the profession of acting onscreen, she is as savvy as they come. In “True Detective,” she rivets your attention in every scene she is in.

Not to slight the other fine actors in the show, but Foster's scenes are the ones you hope for, and the ones that stand out from all the others.

The story starts in December at the onset of Alaska's “long night” when the sun doesn't rise for as many as 60 days, particularly in the remote reaches of the Arctic Circle. Hence the subtitle “Night Country.”

Since this is a show about murder, darkness and cold temperatures in a tiny town where there is nothing to do, “True Detective: Night Country” is understandably grim. Having said that, it is a very well-made show that is easy to become engrossed in.

But what of the Alaska it depicts? Just about the only show I have ever seen in which Alaskans are seen having a bit of fun are the occasional episodes of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in which Guy Fieri visits some pleasant restaurants and compliments their chefs.

In so many other Alaska-based shows -- most of which are unscripted reality-type shows -- people live in the woods or in plywood shacks or aging trailer homes.

In one of my favorite Alaska-based shows -- “Alaska State Troopers” -- the action consists mainly of troopers pulling over drunk drivers, ticketing argumentative unlicensed hunters and fishermen, and occasionally breaking up fracases between housemates.

And that's not to mention the many other situations on the show in which moose are involved.

No moose made an appearance in the first episode of “True Detective: Night Country,” but there is a polar bear that did not pose much of a threat. Besides, says the old joke, it’s the bi-polar bears you really have to look out for!

“True Detective: Night Country” premieres Sunday, January 14, at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO and Max.

3 comments about "Alaska Life Is Grim And The Light Is Dim In 'True Detective'".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), January 12, 2024 at 10:03 a.m.

    One other Alaska based show, that sadly died after one season, and that did not depict just (albeit a lot) of woebegone, was "Alaska Daily" with the excellent Hillary Swank and a great cast of character actors. Can be binged on Hulu.

  2. Neil Ascher from The Midas Exchange, January 12, 2024 at 2:32 p.m.

    Nothern Exposure is now streaming too!

  3. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development replied, January 12, 2024 at 6:34 p.m.

    Spot on when it came to "Alaska Daily" and a shame it was not renewed as everything about the show--writing, acting, directing, etc.--was first class.

Next story loading loading..