What to Know About Ennis, Alaska In True Detective: Night Country?
Season 4 of True Detective takes the anthology-style adventure to Ennis, Alaska, where a group of eight research station employees mysteriously disappear without a trace.
Jodie Foster and Kali Reis lead a sizable cast in this new season as Foster's Liz Danvers and Reis' Evangeline Navarro reluctantly team up to learn the truth about how these people went missing and where they are now.
Speaking with Hola, Season 4 writer Issa Lopez shared how much research she did on Alaska for the series, confirming that she had "never been to Alaska and certainly not that part of Alaska" before working on the story.
She also teased how different it is compared to Season 1's Louisiana setting, describing it as "a dark mirror of what the first season did" with the "sweltering" heat:
"It made all the sense to answer to the sweltering of the first season of 'True Detective' with the darkness of this one. You know, it feels like a dark mirror of what the first season did."
During pandemic-induced lockdowns, she was able to fly to Alaska and visit the area, diving into what it was really like to live up there as she interacted with locals:
"Eventually, lockdown allowed me to jump on a plane and go to Alaska and visit these towns that I had become obsessed with, and see the people, and eat their food, and ride with them on snowmobiles over the frozen ocean, and visit the graveyards, and go to church with them, and have long conversations to truly understand so many other things that I couldn’t find online that you can’t learn in a library or with social media."
Lopez also detailed some of the difficulties she had making the show with Deadline, explaining how she "had to be incredibly careful and mindful throughout" in embracing the Iñupiaq people who call Alaska home. This led her to find out that over 70% of the town is made up of Indigenous people, many of whom were Iñupiaq:
"What was challenging, and I had to be incredibly careful and mindful throughout, was capturing the world and the energy and the spirit of the Iñupiaq people, who are definitely not a culture I was familiar with. But the more I understood about the location where I wanted to set the story, the more I knew that 70% of the population is Iñupiaq, at least Indigenous, in these parts of Alaska, and it would be unfair to make my characters any other color."
It meant a great deal to her to bring this kind of representation to the small screen as the Iñupiaq got "a chance for them to see themselves in TV:"
"So, the representation of these characters, in a way that was not only respectful, but a chance for them to see themselves in TV, was enormous. That part of the work required a lot of research and dialogue."
She also embraced the environmental themes more slowly as she learned about "the inner workings of northwest Alaska" and how mining and the energy industry impact the people living there:
"The environmental theme came more slowly, when I started to understand the inner workings of northwest Alaska and the industries and the conflicts in the area. You just start to create this town, and the forces that pull energy inside it. Mining is a huge deal in that area of Alaska, and there’s constant conflict around the benefits of a burgeoning energy industry, but at the same time, the damage that it creates in an environment where people need the environment to survive. So, it’s just rich grounds to create the story."
While Ennis plays a huge role in the show, Time Magazine detailed how the town itself is fictional, describing it as a "mining town 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle" which deals with weeks where the sun does not rise.
Alaskan outlet Anchorage Daily News shared how this town is a fictionalized amalgamation of the following three different northern towns/cities in the state: Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, and Nome.
The footage for True Detective Season 4 was shot almost exclusively in Iceland to capture the spirit of Alaska, which was done since Iceland has a much larger infrastructure capable of handling productions on that scale. It also gave HBO a sizable tax break in the process.
What Will Happen Next in Ennis in True Detective Season 4?
Episode 1 served mostly to set up the main story for True Detective: Night Country, with Foster and Enis' law enforcement officials now invested in finding the whereabouts of the series' central eight missing researchers.
While both of them also handle their issues outside the line of duty, it all comes to a head at the end of Episode 1 when they find multiple frozen bodies sticking out of a huge field of ice.
Due to the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness, fans will see new challenges not seen in previous seasons of True Detective as Danvers and Navarro have to handle sub-freezing temperatures and the issue of having no natural light to assist them.
And with Ennis being such a small town with an exceptionally small population, they'll also have to prevent widespread panic from spreading once word gets out that this mystery is real.
True Detective Season 4 airs on HBO and Max on Sunday nights, with Episode 1 now streaming on the service. Episode 2 will hit the streamer at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Sunday, January 21.