'True Detective: Night Country' finale: Who killed the scientists?

It’s been weeks since the stunning first episode of HBO’s True Detective: Night Country, helmed by showrunner Issa López. That’s when we first saw the scientists at the Tsalal Arctic Research Station ditch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, run out into the snow, and freeze into a horrific corpsicle on the Alaskan tundra.

But how did they get there? What or who scared them enough to find themselves in such an end? Police Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and state trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) have finally come to the end of their investigation. Now that the core mystery of True Detective: Night Country has been revealed, let’s break it all down.

First of all, who killed Annie K?

A police chief sits in a ring of evidence.

The clues were all there.
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

After chasing their prime suspect, creepy spiral-loving scientist Raymond Clark (Owen McDonnell), through the subterranean ice caves beneath Ennis, Navarro and Danvers discover it was the Tsalal scientists who murdered Iñupiaq activist Annie Masu Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen). In their underground ice core lab, Danvers finds the star-shaped tool that matches Annie’s wounds. They also locate a ladder leading vertically to a hatch that opens into the Tsalal Arctic Research Station.

After capturing and interrogating Clark, the pair gets some answers. Clark, who was in a relationship with Annie, says she found some of his notes about their work and how it involved colluding with the people running the Silver Sky mine. Yes, the scientists were digging for the DNA of a microorganism as reported, but they found that the dig went faster when the permafrost was softened by the mine’s toxic waste.

“The more waste in the water, the more waste in the ground, the better the permafrost was for our work,” Clark says. The Tsalal scientists, in turn, falsified the mine’s toxicity reports.

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Without Clark’s knowledge, Annie snuck into the facility to find evidence Tsalal was being paid by the mine. Instead, she found out the truth — and she destroyed the scientists’ work. Project lead Anders Lund (Þorsteinn Bachmann) — the guy who survived the corpsicle, the one who had his arm snapped off while frozen, the one who delivered a terrifying message to Navarro — was the one to find Annie obliterating their research. Lund attacked Annie, Clark intervened, and Annie hit him over the head with a large robotic arm. When the rest of the scientists arrived, they joined Lund in his attack, which Annie survived. However, Clark ultimately killed Annie. 

A man in hospital with severe frostbite looks threatening while pointing at the camera.

Anders Lund, the only corpsicle survivor, started the attack on Annie.
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

The Tsalal scientists called the mine to cover it all up. As Silver Sky needed those continued falsified numbers to operate, they tapped dodgy Ennis police officer Hank Prior (John Hawkes) to help. Willing to do anything for a promotion, he moved Annie’s body to the site where she was later found by Navarro.

But what happened to the scientists between Annie’s murder and their frozen fate? As Danvers says, “The question isn’t who killed Annie K, but who knows who killed her?”

What happened to the scientists?

Three heads protrude from the ice.

How’d they get here?
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

When Danvers and Navarro investigate the hatch that Clark held shut, they find a handprint with missing fingers. That leads them to Blair (Kathryn Wilder), one of the women who works at the Ennis crab factory.

Danvers and Navarro visit Blair’s home, which she shares with Beatrice (L’xeis Diane Benson), a former cleaner at the Tsalal facility and the matriarch of the Iñupiaq women of Ennis. They’re gradually joined in the house by more women, including Alma (AneMarie Ottosen), Janice (Mary Lou Asicksik), Lou (Yaari Walker), and Grace (Ippiksaut Friesen). Beatrice confirms that the group had only recently discovered the scientists were the murderers; previously, they’d all assumed Annie’s activism work had made her a target.

“For six years, we thought it was the mine, the town,” she says. “To shut her up, shut everyone up. But then we understood.”

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In a flashback, Beatrice is shown working at Tsalal; she discovers the scientists’ secret hatch while she’s mopping. Climbing down into the underground lab, Beatrice finds the star-shaped tool used on Annie’s body. Another of the group working after hours at the Ennis police station takes photographs of Annie’s file, confirming the murder weapon.

After discovering the truth of what happened to Annie, the Iñupiaq women of Ennis decide to exact revenge upon the Tsalal scientists themselves instead of reporting it to the police. “That would change nothing. It’s always the same story with the same ending. Nothing ever happens,” Beatrice scoffs at Danvers. “So, we told ourselves a different story with a different ending.”


“We told ourselves a different story with a different ending.”

– Beatrice, “True Detective: Night Country”

On the night the scientists went missing, Beatrice and Blair shut down the power at the Tsalal station. Then the group of women stormed its halls with flashlights and firearms, rounding up the scientists — now known to them as Annie’s murderers. Blair tried to open the hatch, but Clark was holding it shut; he survived by hiding out in the ice caves.

At gunpoint, the scientists were herded into a truck, driven out to the ice, and forced to take off their clothes. In a key moment, Beatrice drew a spiral on Lund’s head, instantly connecting the soon-to-be-frozen scientists with the murder of Annie K — linking Danvers and Navarro’s investigations and pointing them in the right direction.

Then, the men were ordered to run into the dark, across the ice. When they huddled together, they transmogrified into the frozen corpiscle.

Who ultimately killed the scientists and why?

Police chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and state trooper Evangeline Siqiññaatchiaq Navarro (Kali Reis) stand outside a dilapidated house.

Case closed?
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

So, this one’s up to interpretation, depending on which side of the supernatural line you fall in True Detective: Night Country. When the ghost of Travis (Erling Eliasson) led Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw) to discover the tangled, frozen mess of the Tsalal scientists, they all had horrified looks on their faces.

As far as the official forensic report says, delivered by Captain Ted Corsaro (Christopher Eccleston), the scientists’ cause of death was a slab avalanche. Bad weather. Their injuries, as shared by former engineer Otis Heiss (Klaus Tange), could be chalked up to hypothermia. The bleeding ears were thanks to ruptured ear drums, and the terrified looks on their frozen faces were due to hallucinations.

But remember when Danvers called in Prior’s veterinarian cousin in episode 3? Before the forensic examiner reached the corpsicle, the vet concluded the scientists were dead even before their bodies froze. It was possible they’d died from fright, like he’d seen in caribou.

Two cops stand around a frozen mass of bodies.

“They woke her up. If she wanted them, she would take them.”
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

So, did something more supernatural occur out there on the ice? When Navarro asks Beatrice directly whether or not she killed the scientists, Beatrice is unfazed, and indicates that Annie’s vengeful spirit killed the scientists.

“Honey, they did it to themselves,” Beatrice says. “When they dug in our home in the ice, when they killed our daughter in there. They woke her up. If she wanted them, she would take them.”

After forcing them out into the storm at gunpoint, the women then folded the men’s clothes for them to come back to if they survived.

“I guess she wanted to take them,” Beatrice says. “I guess she ate their fuckin’ dreams from the inside out, spit their frozen bones.” 

Navarro also saw a vision of Annie at the protest outside the Silver Sky mine, so we can’t completely rule out the possibility that supernatural forces were at work here. Though Clark didn’t witness any of the events that unfolded after he shut the hatch, he also maintains that Annie (or her spirit) killed the scientists, telling Danvers and Navarro, “I kept seeing her, hearing her voice more and more… I knew she’d come for us.”

Remember, back in episode 1, Clark convulses before telling the scientists, “She’s awake,” right before the power goes off and the women’s crusade begins. It’s likely that Clark was also responsible for writing, “We are all dead” on the whiteboard at the Tsalal station, as seen in that same episode.

“She’s been hiding in those caves forever,” Clark says. “Before she was born, after we all die. Time is a flat circle, and we are all stuck in it.”

When the group of women stand behind Beatrice in solidarity, Navarro and Danvers are given a choice to make: bring them all in, or let justice have been served to Annie K’s killers. They choose to keep the case closed.

True Detective is available to stream on Max.

By 111 Tech

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