Spoilers for True Detective: Night Country Episode 5 follow!
In the penultimate episode of True Detective: Night Country, it’s revealed that Hank Prior (John Hawkes) helped the Silver Sky mining factory cover up the murder of Annie K. (Nivi Pedersen) and that he did it under the belief that it would secure him the Chief of Police position in Ennis. These two reveals confirm Silver Sky’s long-rumored involvement in Annie’s murder and explain why Hank has always seemed to harbor a grudge against Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster), whose relocation to Ennis prevented him from becoming the town’s police chief.
Unfortunately, Hank’s continued subservience to Kate McKitterick (Dervla Kirwan), a Silver Sky executive, results in him ending up in a tense standoff with Liz and his son, Peter Prior (Finn Bennett). After Hank reveals that he didn’t kill Annie but did move her body, he raises his gun to shoot Liz. In response, Peter instinctively shoots him in the head. It’s a shocking and emotionally devastating moment, and it marks the instance in which the personal and professional lives of Night Country’s detectives have become irrevocably intertwined.
Unlike so many of the season’s biggest scenes, it doesn’t call to mind similar moments from previous True Detective seasons. It actually feels more reminiscent of one of HBO’s other, non-True Detective crime shows: Mare of Easttown.
When Mare of Easttown premiered on HBO in 2021, it stood out not only because of Kate Winslet’s spell-binding turn as its messy, prickly lead but also because of its unrelenting focus on its titular Philadelphia suburb. The show established and explored a lived-in, authentic community of neighbors, friends, and local rivals over the course of its seven episodes. In doing so, it made viewers just as invested in Mare’s relationships with her friends, family members, and colleagues as they were in finding out who committed the crime at the center of it.
The show’s focus on matters both personal and professional eventually pays off in its emotionally wrenching finale, which sees Mare discover that the murderer she’s been searching for all along is the young son of her best friend. Rarely has a crime show ever gone to such lengths to make the personal half of its story matter so much. Not even the first three seasons of True Detective blur the lines between their heroes’ personal and professional lives quite as heartbreakingly or explicitly as Mare of Easttown does in its finale.
That’s what makes the fifth episode of True Detective: Night Country seem so unique. Hank’s final admission offers a new key piece of insight into Annie K.’s brutal murder, and Peter’s decision to shoot his father also represents the moment when he fully commits to the justice-oriented, crime-solving life that Liz has been training him to excel at all along. It’s a dramatic beat that helps justify the amount of time Night Country has spent exploring the interpersonal dynamics between the citizens of Ennis, and it just adds yet another layer of compelling emotional messiness to a season that is already overflowing with it.
Night Country has gone out of its way across its first five episodes to honor the True Detective seasons that have come before it. By both making Peter Prior’s already strained relationship with his father an integral part of its central case and by exploring the social structure of its Alaskan small town so thoroughly, though, Night Country has proven that its influences also extend far beyond its own show. It has, in fact, borrowed the best lesson from Mare of Easttown, a crime series that truly proves just how much of a cost solving a case can toll.