‘True Detective: Night Country’ Episode 1 Recap & Theories: What Did ‘She’s Awake’ Mean?

True Detective returns in full force this winter, starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in lead roles. Honestly, the combo of a traumatized female detective and a small, cold town is always a great combination. For example, look at Mare of Easttown. There’s a lot to unpack here. We’re taking a trip to Alaska, to Ennis, where a research station for climate change and other scientific research was left abandoned out of the blue by the group of men working there. Six years ago, the icy town saw the gruesome murder of an indigenous woman, whose tongue was cut out and whose body was left at the edge of the village for everyone to gawk at. State trooper Angie Navarro, who found the body back then, believes there’s a connection between the missing person case today and that woman’s murder. Will Danvers cave in and work with Navarro, or will she choose a different path? Let’s find out with True Detective season 4, episode 1. 


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens In Episode 1?

On December 17th, the sunset for the last time in the year in Ennis. A man is trying to hunt a reindeer, but as the sun sets, something shifts, and they eerily all jump off into the horizon. I suppose this signifies an eerie paranormal presence in Ennis, or it’s just to signify a bad omen. The show starts with a quote by Hildred Castaigne that implies that the darkness will bring some sort of terrible beast to the town. The supply man visits Tsalal, an Arctic research station, to deliver some goodies for the scientists. To his surprise, no one’s in there, and he discovers a severed tongue on the floor by chance before leaving. Detective Elizabeth Danvers is immediately called to the scene along with Hank Prior and his son Peter; we can call them her sidekicks. While Peter’s very interested in every word Liz has to say, Hank isn’t so keen on it (I smell envy). Danvers discovers that the men have been missing for at least a couple of days, and so they need to hurry up to figure out what’s happened.


There were six scientists from all around the world in this facility, and they had been working there for 18 years. When it comes time to look at the tongue, Danvers notices some intricate details that suggest that it belonged to an Inupiaq woman. When Trooper Navarro hears about the tongue, she immediately wants Danvers to reopen an old file about a murdered woman named Anne Masu Kowtok. There seems to be something suspicious about Hank, who has some old files tucked away in his home and won’t share them with Danvers. She gets Peter to go digging for her, and he, like a good boy, brings them to her.

Who Was Anne?

Danvers tells Peter about how a woman named Anne was found at the edge of the village with 32 stab wounds from a sharp, unidentified object in the shape of a star. Apparently, Anne was an indigenous woman who was an activist and was against the mine in Ennis. Her brother Ryan had warned her that if she protested against the mine, it would mean the end of Ennis because it is the biggest source of livelihood there; however, she wouldn’t stop running her mouth. Ryan believes that’s what got her killed, especially with her tongue cut out (brutal). Angie was on that case but never closed it; she wants Danvers to get to the bottom of it. Of course, she also believes that if it were a white woman, the case would’ve been solved much earlier. It was a sheer act of hatred. Considering her tongue was missing, there is a huge possibility that this might be an act of revenge.


On the other hand, we learn that Liz is actually a stepmom, and her stepdaughter Leah gets caught making a sex tape with a 16-year-old. When she goes to pick her up, they almost meet with an accident, but it’s a drunk woman named Stacy, who is notorious for drunk driving for no reason. We never know what time it is in Ennis since it’s permanently night. It seems Liz has a traumatic experience from her past that she isn’t willing to talk about, which has something to do with Leah’s dead father. This was also a drunk driving incident, so she’s extra sensitive to this situation.

Who Discovers The Scientists?

A woman named Rose Aguineau sees a man who is absolutely not dressed for the cold outside her home. She calls this man Travis, and he doesn’t say a word; he only shows himself to her. It’s not far-fetched to assume he’s a ghost, and we learn he’s dead later on. But Travis guides Rose, who we can assume was his mother, possibly out into the snow, does some dance moves, and points in a direction. When Rose arrives there, she finds three of the men, dead with their heads sticking out of the frozen snow. It also appears as if they don’t really have any clothes on (yikes). Elsewhere, Navarro is met with a polar bear while driving off to the scientific facility, another possible sign. Both Danvers and Navarro end up at the facility, knowing there’ll be some more clues. Danvers, in the meantime, has gone back through Anne’s files and discovered that she was found wearing the same parka as a man named Raymond Clark, one of the scientists. This can indicate that the two were possibly seeing each other and might’ve fallen out. But this is also a clear indication that there is some sort of connection between Anne’s death and Tsalal.


What Is “She’s Awake”?

At the beginning of episode 1 of True Detective: Night Country, we get a brief scene in the research facility where a man is making a ham sandwich in front of his phone, presumably making some content for the internet. When he’s about to “present” his finished sandwich to the camera, he notices his friend Clark convulsing. Worried, he calls out to him, and when the convulsions stop, Clark says, “She’s awake.” The lights go out, and we move on to two days later, when the supply man finds the empty facility. This phrase is littered throughout the show; Navarro hears it when she almost hits the polar bear, and Danvers hears it in her sleep, from whom we can assume is the ghost of her dead son, Holden. We could also imagine that the comment simply implies that darkness is here and something terrible is about to occur. Liz keeps making remarks about the spiritual nature of Angie’s beliefs, which could be why we see the animals act strangely in the show. Whatever it is, this horror mystery is definitely making for the perfect January watch, and we can’t wait to see what Liz will discover next!

I suppose everyone looks suspicious right now, but it could be that Hank is hiding something about Anne’s case, which is why he wasn’t willing to share the files with Danvers. On the other hand, this is definitely coming across as an act of revenge, which is why everything is connected to Anne’s death.

Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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