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Uncategorized'True Detective: Night Country': What's deal with the spirals?

‘True Detective: Night Country’: What’s deal with the spirals?

If you’re watching True Detective: Night Country, chances are you’re glued to the screen scanning for clues like we are. And that means you’re onto the spirals.

In the fourth season of the HBO series, this time helmed by showrunner Issa López, police chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and state trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) can’t stop finding these symbols in their investigations.


‘True Detective: Night County’s Isabella Star LaBlanc and Anna Lambe on Indigenous representation

It’s not the first time we’ve seen sinister spirals in this show. As Mashable’s Kristy Puchko points out, “In Season 1 of True Detective, spirals were a creepy recurring symbol tied to the Yellow King and his mystical murder spree.”

But what do the spirals mean? It’s one of the burning questions we have for the season (along with those polar bears and what the hell that ungodly corpsicle is). Let’s track them down in an act that will make a true armchair detective of us all.

Episode 1

A detective sits in a spiral of images.

Evidence processing in spiral form.
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

Danvers makes the first spiral in the season herself as she’s processing evidence related to the disappearance of the scientists from the remote Tsalal Arctic Research Station and the murder of Iñupiaq activist Annie Masu Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen). She inadvertently makes a spiral pattern of her printouts, finding her way to the pink parka jacket that will connect the cases before the actual spiral symbol starts showing up. Danvers and Navarro make a similar spiral processing evidence in episode 3.

Episode 2

A state trooper walks through a dark space with a flashlight.

Clark’s creepy caravan has a giant spiral on the ceiling.
Credit: Michele K. Short / HBO

After the discovery of the corpiscle, Danvers sweeps snow off the forehead of one of the frozen scientists and uncovers a spiral on the corpse’s skin. Later, when Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw) is talking with Navarro, she asks whether the trooper saw the shape. When Navarro says she vaguely remembers seeing it before, Rose draws the shape in the snow and explains, “It’s old, missy. Older than Ennis. It’s older than the ice, probably.”

Navarro remembers Annie had a tattoo of a spiral. She shows Danvers a picture of the design, proving the connection between their cases. Danvers begrudgingly follows the lead and asks a former worker from the Tsalal facility (L’xeis Diane Benson) about the symbol, who supposes it to be linked to witchcraft or a “devil sign.” Her colleague (Kathryn Wilder) says she doesn’t recognise it either.

Two detectives enter a very creepy decrepit caravan.

Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

Later in the episode, Danvers figures out that one of the Tsalal scientists, Raymond Clark (Owen McDonnell), had gotten a spiral tattoo on his chest four days after Annie’s body was found. The tattoo artist tells Danvers that Clark cried for “sentimental” reasons when he had it done, and shares the photo Clark gave as a design reference; it’s a photo of the tattoo on Annie’s back, and one that indicates Clark and Annie were lovers.

Now officially teamed up on the cases, Danvers and Navarro find their way to Clark’s creepy trailer, where a giant spiral (among other things) has been scrawled on the ceiling — above a woven, life-sized doll lying on the bed. By the end of the episode, they’ve figured out Clark’s actually probably alive.

Episode 3

Two detectives stand in a bunch of evidence.

Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

When Navarro is asking hairdresser Susan (Bridie Trainor) about Annie, she mentions Annie had showed Clark her tattoo when they first met, and that he was “fixated on it.” Susan explains Annie came up with the design after seeing the spiral in recurring dreams in high school. “She got the tattoo, the dreams stopped,” she says.

In the very last moments of the episode, when officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett) hacks into Annie’s phone, he shows Navarro and Danvers a video from it, a recording of her last moments alive in the ice caves we’ve only seen in the opening credits. After a terrible scream, Annie seems to drop her phone, which continues to film the cave ceiling — where a spiral skeleton of some form of prehistoric sea creature can be seen embedded in the ice. Coincidence?

Episode 4

When consulted by Danvers and Navarro, teacher Adam Bryce (Donnie Keshawarz) identifies the spiral skeleton as that of a prehistoric whale, preserved in ice caves near Ennis.

When Navarro and Prior investigate Oliver Tagaq’s (Lance Karmer) place in the nomad camp on Christmas Eve, they find a drawing of the spiral on cardboard on the floor and a stone carved with the symbol, sitting in the drawing’s centre. Navarro takes the stone and asks the residents if they know what it means — they refuse to answer and stand in unison, defensively.

Later, the pair find a giant spiral drawn on the walls of the dilapidated dredge where they find the missing man Otis Heiss (who survived the same type of injuries as the scientists).

What do the spirals in True Detective mean?

It’s still very early days in Night Country to make a call, but the symbol connects the murder of Annie Masu Kowtok and the disappearance of the scientists. Clark seems to be the key here, but the fact that Annie saw the symbol in recurring dreams hints at something more supernatural at play, perhaps.

What the spiral means in this context is unclear so far, but as Rose says, it’s an ancient symbol, which means historically there are loads of interpretations. Is Annie’s tattoo connected to the ancient spiral skeleton in the ice? Whether or not Night Country‘s spirals connect to Season 1’s use of the imagery remains to be seen.

How to watch: True Detective airs Sunday nights on HBO/Max at 9 p.m ET/PT.

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