About True Detective Season 4: Night County
Season 4 of HBO’s True Detective is fast approaching, set to air the first episode on January 14th, 2024. If you are anything like us, you’ve already watched both teaser trailers for the new season multiple times and have tried to spot various clues. Nothing beats lore hunting in your favorite shows.
This new season is set in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska, and stars Jodie Foster and Kali Reis as the detective co-leads. The trailers reveal that the crux of the plot focuses on eight men who have disappeared from a research facility. This is during the last sunset before a period of perpetual night that is often experienced in far northern climates.
The evidence of the disappearance and the eventual discovery of their bodies leads Foster’s character Liz Danvers to treat the case as a murder rather than an accident (such as exposure to the elements). There is obvious tension between Foster’s Danvers and Reis’s Evangeline Navarro but there also appears to be a general dislike of Danvers by her subordinates and the local population of Ennis.
Much of the population appears to be of indigenous descent. The various shots throughout the trailers imply that the tensions might stem from not only cultural differences but also a disagreement on faith and science. Gone are the days of trailers where a sultry baritone tries to seduce you into watching a movie or show. Oftentimes it seems of late that trailers either show too much or show the best scenes of the piece. This ultimately tends to leave the viewer disappointed when they watch it in its entirety.
Season 4 doesn’t appear to have done that. Watching the trailers they released accomplished a goal – we’re intrigued and excited. True Detective has been described as perhaps the most hit-or-miss series in the modern era. There is high praise and acclaim for seasons 1 & 3, while season 2 is regarded as a clumsy disjointed, poorly-written mess. From everything we have seen so far, Night Country looks like it is going to be fantastic.
Possible Connections To Season 1
The inaugural Season of True Detective saw Rustin Cohle played by Matthew McConaughey and Marty Hart played by Woody Harrelson track down several members of a sadistic cult responsible for the deaths of dozens of women and children. Season 1 is arguably some of the greatest 8 hours of television you will ever watch. The writing, the acting, the cinematography… all of it is fantastic. Much of the success came from the dynamic between Marty and Rust which was about as love/hate as you could get. If you haven’t seen season 1, you are missing out. Like, seriously, get on that; but be forewarned, spoilers will follow.
Season 1 had a lot of occult overtones, with hints of the Satanic Panic of the late 80s and 90s. The very first murder victim discovered by Hart and Cohle sent people throughout the state of Louisiana into a panic, with many characters encountered by the detectives having some stance or struggle with faith and spirituality.
The first identified victim of the cult, Dora Lang had sought faith and structure through religion and unknowingly fell into the clutches of her would-be killers. Throughout several episodes, Hart and Cohle uncover some clues about the cult including some of the symbolism and terminology used by its members and victims. We will be focusing on three aspects: Carcosa, The Spiral, and The Yellow King.
The Spiral Symbol In True Detective
We will begin with the spiral symbol which is seen throughout Season 1 but is first encountered painted on the back of Dora Lang. Throughout 8 episodes, viewers might come to associate the symbol with some of the philosophy discussed within the season, such as the phrase “Time is a flat circle” which is said by one of the Cultists and later on by Rust in an explanation that our perception of time is linear whereas if viewed from the 4th dimension, it would all look flat and concentric.
Rust implies that we as humans are doomed to live the same lives over and over and that the victims of the cult shall suffer similar fates again and again. That scene in particular is harrowing, to say the least. Another cult member, Errol Childress states that his ‘ascension’ is near; Perhaps he believed that through his brutality he would be removed from that flat circle, that endless cycle in which we are all swept up. Throughout human history, various cultures have used the spiral symbolism to represent life, death, and rebirth.
The Yellow King In True Detective Lore
With the mention of Errol Childress, we will look at The Yellow King, which is the moniker adopted by Childress within the cult. In the altar found on the property of Childress, filmed on location at a historic Fort Macomb, there is an effigy made of wood, skulls, and pustulous yellow rags – perhaps a visual representation of Childress’s higher ‘other’ self. Fans of the Cthulhu Mythos created by author H.P. Lovecraft may recognize The Yellow King as an alias of Hastur, a Great Old One which is an outer-dimensional entity of great power.
These beings in the mythos are so strange and terrifying that the human mind often goes mad upon encountering them. Hastur however is older than Lovecraft, having been first introduced as a benevolent god to shepherds in a short story by Ambrose Bierce in 1891. Robert W. Chambers was the next to use Hastur, associating the being with stars which is important to note as the mention of “Black Stars” by the cult members occurs throughout the season. Lovecraft was the next to write of Hastur and he would be followed by numerous other authors who expanded upon the mythos for years to come; perhaps most notably August Derleth.
It is unclear whether or not Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos exist in the True Detective universe – however, we feel it is highly unlikely that it does, because why else wouldn’t that have been explored or at least mentioned in the series? The Mythos not existing in the world also make the cult and their symbolism all the more strange and foreign to the characters of the show. Childress’s ‘Ascension’ mentioned by the killer himself could perhaps elude to his transformation into the great and terrible Yellow King although it should be mentioned that several characters throughout the show refer to Childress as The Yellow King already.
Carcosa In True Detective Lore
Carcosa is the name given to the historic fortress that was transformed into a ritualistic killing charnel house by Childress and his cult. Childress taunts Cohle with the name of the macabre altar during the chase sequence of the final episode. In literature, Carcosa is associated with The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers as well as Ambrose Bierce’s “An Inhabitant of Carcosa”. Chambers describes Carcosa as having twin suns, black stars, strange moons, and growing shadows. He goes on to describe a dim Carcosa as being enveloped in fog with waves of clouds that roll and break upon Lake Hali.
Hastur, The Yellow King is also known as The Sleeper Beneath The Lake, Thing In The Lake and Him That Slept Beneath, but we will cover more on that later. In literature, Carcosa is also described as a cursed or haunted place with ominous black towers. It is old, and often referenced as being Primordial. Carcosa is also listed as being within proximity to the star Aldebaran and the Hyades Star Cluster, which actually exist within our galaxy and are recognizable in the Taurus constellation.
In the final showdown between the detectives and Childress, there is a scene in which Rust experiences a hallucination of a cosmic void and it gives Rust such pause that he exposes himself to Errol’s ambush; perhaps this is a visual representation of Carcosa itself? This scene is perhaps the most supernatural of the entire season and we feel that season 4 will perhaps delve deeper into the unexplainable.
The cult, Childress, and his family are connected to a much more well-known and influential family – the Tuttles, who are involved with ministry, education, law enforcement, and politics. During season 1, the cult members are identified as Errol and Ted Childress, Dewall and Reggie Ledoux, Billy Lee, Edwin and Sam Tuttle. Through the connections and powerful positions held by members of the cult, they can commit heinous acts with impunity.
The ministry run by Billy Lee Tuttle initiated the Wellspring Program which sought to offer tuition reimbursement for education in rural areas that fell in line with their beliefs – so religious schools in impoverished areas. It is not specified as to the extent of the reach of the Wellspring Initiative, whether it was confined to Louisiana or beyond. Essentially what this did was create ample hunting grounds for the cult members. Throughout season one, it is inferred that the cult members had some level of interaction with these schools.
Errol Childress worked for a parish, maintaining some of these institutions and it is shown in the show that he stares uncomfortably at children while painting a building at a school. Many of the victims of the cult would be uncovered as former students of the Wellspring schools and some who managed to escape the cult’s clutches did not do so unharmed. This will be important later on.
An Important Connection In Season 3
The essential structure of True Detective is to focus on the lives of two leading actors as they navigate the plot of the season. Each season typically follows a new pair of detectives and until Season 3, the viewer is uncertain if all of the seasons exist within the same universe.
In a scene in Season 3, the viewers witness an Easter egg of a laptop screen showing the hero detectives of Season 1 after they defeated Childress. The documentarian in the scene, Elisa Montgomery (played by Sarah Gadon) explains she believes there is a connection to the Crooked Spiral cult or similar groups and the most prominent case in Season 3. Montgomery questions Detective Wayne Hays (played by Mahershala Ali) on whether he believes in the possibility of a greater connection to the Purcell Case he investigated.
Montgomery states that the case in Louisiana never went beyond the efforts of Hart and Cohle despite evidence of a larger conspiracy. Detective Hays seems to dismiss it and the connection is never explored further. This perhaps was done as a bit of fan service or maybe there is a connection beyond the Satanic Panic overtones. Show creator Nic Pizzolatto also played down a direct connection and favored the idea of simply connecting the seasons to the same universe. However, if you have seen the trailers released for Season 4, you might begin to wonder just how ingrained within America the nefarious Crooked Spiral cult is. Let’s dive down the rabbit hole together.
Takeaways From The True Detective Season 4 Trailers
HBO MAX has released two trailers for Season 4 and each of them have some connections that jump right out of the screen. Namely the symbol of the Crooked Spiral as well as what appears to be totemic dolls suspended from a ceiling, similar to both the Devil Traps of Season 1 and the dolls found in the woods and crime scene of Season 3’s Purcell case. The dolls and Devil Traps both appear near victims so perhaps Season 4 will follow suit.
The Crooked Spiral symbol appears a few times throughout the trailers and in one scene it appears to be painted on a large fuel tank with what could possibly be blood. In another scene, a drawing of the symbol is shown to Rhys’s Navarro and she remarks that she recognizes the symbol, that she has seen it before a long time ago. One thing we will note is that the Crooked Spiral symbol from Season 1 is drawn clockwise, implying movement forward, or a forward-moving cycle.
As the symbol is presented in the trailers for Season 4, it appears to be depicted flipped so that the spiral is moving backward onto itself. This detail could imply a couple of explanations such as an oversight by a copycat killer, someone unfamiliar with the specifics of what happened in Louisiana. Another idea that comes to mind is the purposeful reversal of the Crooked Spiral to negate the meaning or even have the symbol have the opposite meaning of the original sigil.
In certain practices of magic, particularly with Runes, inverting or reversing a symbol can provide the negate versions of the properties believed to be attributed to the symbol. If this is in fact what is happening in season 4, then those responsible for making the symbols could be seeking to undo what was done by the Crooked Spiral cult or perhaps attempting to desecrate their symbol in this fashion.
Something prevalent in the works of H.P. Lovecraft is the tension and fear that is caused by the unknown. The creatures and eldritch beings that appear within the Mythos are terrifying to behold. Those completely unfamiliar with the existence of these entities are often driven completely mad but what they encounter. It breaks their mind. Often the protagonists in these tales are investigating something strange and slowly they unravel the terrible truth before facing a grim end.
Sometimes these characters call upon their faith to help them with muddied results as the Great Old Ones are seemingly immensely powerful to the extent that they are divine. In these stories, there are those who serve these beings, cults that do the bidding of ancient monstrosities and because Lovecraft was a huge racist, these cultists are typically described as being of mixed ethnicity – sometimes it is inferred that these cultists had interbred with lesser monsters. The rituals and symbolism of these cults are almost always described as barbaric, strange, and savage, in a way that implies the inherent superiority of the white male investigator.
Racism aside, Lovecraft’s writing builds inherent tension between a more Western Christian main character and oftentimes indigenous people worshipping these elder beings of the Mythos. This could potentially be a major factor in Season 4 as the trailers indicate some level of friction between Foster’s character and the rest of the town, who appear to be of Native American descent.
Danvers says to Navarro in one scene that the two just need to work together to solve this case and then they are done being associated with each other. In another scene, Navarro states that no one in the town likes Danvers. It should also be noted that the missing workers at the research facility appear to all be Caucasian, at least from what has been shown in the trailers. In the second trailer, there appears to be a protest or riot of some sort where police are shown attacking the protestors.
Navarro is shown the Crooked Spiral symbol and says she recognizes it from her past, from a long time ago. There is also a still shot of a crucifix necklace hanging from a car rearview mirror and later Foster can be heard saying that Navarro is the one who believes in miracles. Danvers frantically protests that the victims died for real reasons, implying that perhaps some of her fellow investigators are more superstitious or even perhaps that they explain some of what occurs with their own faith.
Now with all of the points made in this article, our theories of how it all connects are either based in reality or based on the supernatural. The realistic theory is that through some means the Wellspring Initiative founded by the Tuttles and thus connected to the Crooked Spiral cult, was not confined to solely Louisiana but reached across the country, even to remote Ennis, Alaska. Once there, they committed the same terrible crimes as they did in Louisiana but perhaps not to the extent of Errol Childress.
If such a school was located in this town and similar terrors were afflicted upon the children attending these schools, then it is possible that some of the native children in Ennis would bear resentment towards the Caucasian outsiders who committed the harm. Furthermore, it is a possibility that the Wellspring Program was never in Ennis but one of the students who were victimized at one of those schools traveled to Alaska, perhaps for work.
There is a likelihood that season 4 will explore the cultural impact colonialism has on indigenous peoples, especially when there is money to be made. American history is littered with atrocities against its indigenous peoples for the sake of National expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the control of precious resources.
If Ennis is an Alaskan oil pipeline town, there could be inherent animosity between Western outsiders coming to harvest the resources of the land and the indigenous people who have always lived on that land and in harmony with it. If the Crooked Spiral Cult did manage to reach Ennis, then there is little doubt that their actions there further exacerbated the hostilities.
Perhaps this is why Navarro is shown to be more religious and why she recognized the symbol. We feel this is more likely than just a wayward cultist from Louisiana or even a former victim of the cult who then turned into the very monsters that harmed them long ago. It does not appear that Navarro is the sole person who knows the symbol, at least that was the impression given from the trailer.
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After she is shown the symbol, the next scene is her comforting another younger woman who is crying. We feel the connection and impact of the Crooked Spiral Cult in season 4 will have a similar scope and web of mysteries as it did in season 1. Perhaps the perpetrator(s) in season 4 will have a vendetta against the cult and what they’ve done and the malefactors have melded that hatred with their aversion to outsiders. This could be a driving factor in the murders of the research facility employees, who are likely not local to the area and could be viewed as occupiers instead of neighbors.
Throughout American history, not only is the forceful relocation of native populations are frequent occurrence but also racism through assimilation; forcing these indigenous peoples to abandon their culture, their religion, etc. There has been no shortage of horrifying news surrounding the brutal and callous truth of some schools throughout North America that led to unnumbered deaths. We feel this theme will likely be explored in the new season, where the school in question is yet again the hunting grounds of horrible predators.
It is revealed in the trailers that the bodies of the 8 victims are frozen together into a single mound of flesh, maybe as a form of ritual. The killings in seasons 1 & 3 followed some similar guidelines such as the symbols left around the victims or the posing of the victims themselves.
In season 1, the religious occult nature of the murders is a predominant factor in them and how the detectives approach the investigation at hand. In season 3 the stage is not as profound and the facts are not as clear. There is not an inherent ideology behind the crimes and if anything it added to the element of Hayes losing his mental faculties and struggling to remember the details years apart.
We feel that season 4 will continue in this vein, whereas Danvers is not struggling to remember but rather trying to prove what happened with science and fact rather than faith. There is a tone that is set by both trailers, indicating that strange things occur in Alaska and that often, there is no answer or explanation to what happened. This very well might be the most supernatural-leaning season of True Detective.
Now with that in mind, there is a possible connection to the Cthulhu Mythos, as Hastur The Yellow King had a powerful child known as Ithaqua. In the Mythos, Ithaqua is described as a giant humanoid with red glowing eyes; he is called the Death Walker, Lord of the Wind, Lord of the Cold, and Wendigo. He is feared in the far north, including Alaska where natives are said to leave sacrifices for him as a form of appeasing the deity.
Ithaqua is said to hunt the wastes at night and brutally slaughter any unlucky enough to encounter him. So perhaps the killer(s) in this season identify themselves as the progeny of The Yellow King or maybe they killed the research facility workers as some form of sacrifice to another older entity.
Additionally, there are several scenes within the trailers for season 4 that either show someone falling into water, falling through ice or going underground through ice. In one particular frame, a flashlight shines on a wall of glacial ice and a human hand is seen pounding on the other side of that ice, as if trapped there.
This is also important as The Yellow Kind in the Cthulhu Mythos is also known as Dweller in the Depths, Thing in the Lake, and Him That Slept Beneath. So it is a possibility that those parties responsible are expanding upon the twisted lore of The Crooked Spiral Cult or they are combating it, fighting fire with fire by calling upon an entity of their own.
The cult in the first season preyed upon the impoverished, the lonely, and those who wouldn’t be overly missed should they disappear. With the natural disasters in Louisiana, the cult was able to exploit these tragedies for their own gain by disposing of evidence, schools, etc. The perpetrators in season 4 could just as likely be exploiting the transient population of workers coming to Ennis to take advantage of the resources/facilities there. There are countless shows on television that indicates some inhabitants work seasonally or as it becomes available, often traveling from very remote regions to population centers or to sea for months at a time.
Danvers is heard stating ominously that this is Alaska and that people don’t ever really leave. Danvers could likely uncover that many people she thought had left town, had a much crueler and colder fate. It will certainly be interesting to see how the story unfolds on screen. Now, the supernatural theory is that some of this occult material is actually true and that try as they might, the detectives are unable to make adequate connections and gather enough facts on what really happened to solve the case. Danvers herself says in the trailer, some things cannot be explained.
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Are You Excited For True Detective Season 4?
We hope you enjoyed our theory about True Detective season 4. What are your thoughts? Do you have any theories on the new season of True Detective? Furthermore, do you think that it will be connected to previous seasons? Let us know on social media!