“True Detective: Night Country” is the series’ first season after Pizzolatto stepped back as writer and director. Taking his place is the capable Issa López, who first burst onto the international kino scene with the 2017 magical-realist-crime-fantasy-horror film “Tigers Are Not Afraid.” Those who saw that film will know the knack she has for subverting expectations and manipulating genre conventions, so there’s reason to hope “Night Country” will be a step up from the disappointing third season. It seems clear that Pizzolatto meant to do his own kind of subversion there, to skewer the libidinal vortex viewers anticipate whenever they engage with a piece of art or media focused on crime, while politely maintaining that of course it’s only with compassion and righteous indignation that they consume the such stories of brutalization and injustice. How deliberately flat, uneventful, and ultimately nihilistic that series was I at least interpret as a rebuke to the whole project of true crime.
Well, none of the crimes on “True Detective” have ever been “true” in the literal sense, funnily enough. And as heartily as I agree with Pizzolatto that true crime bloodlust is deeply pathological and unsettling, there were better ways of exploring it. One such alternative is to do what Lopez seems to have done, which is fold the series lore back on itself. Perhaps “Night Country” will be an inquest into the very ethics of the series itself?
“True Detective” season 4 premieres on HBO and Max on January 14, 2024.