‘True Detective’ Season 4 Episode 4 Recap & Ending Explained: Is Julia Dead?

You couldn’t have seen this one coming. And evidently, Issa Lopez doesn’t care a jot about the thematic styles that True Detective has gotten you used to over the years. We’re not shying away from jumpscares anymore, and that too, more than a couple in just one episode. And the fact that they add this questionable dose of ridiculousness to the otherwise grim episode makes this choice even odder, if anything. Loss and internal chaos play Grinch in this mournful Christmas episode.

Spoilers Ahead


A Christmas Of Heartbreak And Mazes Of Emotions

Christmas didn’t make Ennis happy. But, just maybe, not everything that changes in the frozen town when the seemingly endless night hits it is ominous. The sporadic bursts of sensibility that aren’t totally impossible to see in someone like Danvers take on a more unmissable shape in the fourth episode, even though the circumstances are rather depressing. Stick a disturbed woman in a town that doesn’t see the sun for weeks, and you’re practically ensuring a slippery slope to absolute tragedy. But, as a silver lining, Danvers taking care of a freezing, nearly naked Julia and handing her over to Navarro gives the two estranged friends a shot to talk without fighting. Understandably, the video of Annie’s last scream hasn’t left anyone’s mind. But with such intense personal battles taking up so much of their headspace, do Danvers and Navarro really have a shot at solving the case without some kind of divine intervention? In that way, at least, Hank’s sort of lucky. With no workload keeping him occupied, he can at least mourn the fact that he’s been catfished by his long-distance “fiancée,” however much desperate denial he may be in right now.


Why Is Danvers Looking Into Otis Heiss?

Connelly most certainly has a bone to pick with his secret lover and probably most hated subordinate, Danvers. And even though I do wish he would just come out and say it instead of going on with his passive-aggressive visits and bitter chitchats, their eventual confrontation did check a few boxes. For starters, we now have something of a confirmation on the theory that the deaths of her partner and child did change Danvers for the worse. And as a sweet bonus, we now know that being hated so much at her previous workplace did nothing to make her a more tolerable boss in the Ennis PD. Why else would she torment poor Peter on Christmas Eve with one task after another? Peter ain’t complaining, though. If anything, he’s practically bursting with pride, letting Danvers in on all he’s found out about a certain Otis Heiss. The detective instincts of the woman are impeccable. Even amid all the personal and social scuffles she couldn’t avoid if her life depended on them, Danvers has found just the right thread to pull at. If their deaths are of an inexplicable kind, she has a better chance of solving the mystery by investigating their peculiar wounds. And in comes a new name in a while: Otis Heiss, the only man whose medical records show that he’d once sustained similar injuries to those of the scientists.


How Did Julia Die?

True Detective has indulged in more than enough discourse about the dead coming back to those close to them for reasons good and sinister. Whatever’s haunting Navarro’s family is keen in its observation of the people around the family. Or maybe Navarro and Julia are two people they’re comfortable communicating with and through, and that’s about it. Any speculation about that orange that pops up out of thin air as though it were a ball thrown by a ghost kid will be a shot in the dark. But one thing is for certain: the orange does link them to the more science-backed ghost that haunts their traumatized minds—their mother. It’s not unusual for someone like Julia, someone whose diagnoses would fill up a psychiatrist’s notebook, to be suicidal. And that eerie calm that shows up on the face of a person who’s given up on hope is all that there is on Julia’s face as she voluntarily gets herself admitted to a facility—of course, to comfort her worried-sick sister too. Her dead mother’s ghost screaming at her from under the bed was probably the worst thing she could’ve seen before walking into the freezing ocean, stripped bare. Julia’s no more. Perhaps what took her mother was the same thing that took her. Albeit a tad tentatively, I’d even say that what took her mother was perhaps the same thing that took her. And what this perceived failure—something that she’s long seen coming—takes from Navarro is her survival instincts. Not just physically, which obviously manifests in a needless and very painful rage battle with the local hoodlums, but also emotionally, as a desperately, achingly vulnerable Navarro rests her head on Qavvik.


Is Otis Heiss Connected To Annie K’s Death?

“What you see is what you get” may be how the saying goes, but True Detective has never bothered to confine itself to just one sense, or even all five, for that matter. It’s as though the show itself sort of has a sixth sense, and it almost challenges us to develop one if we don’t already have it. It’s possible that the perp behind these insane crimes is hiding in plain sight. But there’s no way to handcuff any one of them without their glaring humanness, something that you wouldn’t associate with killers, shining in your eye the whole time. Even Rose, the most intriguing enigma in the show so far (other than Qavvik, but don’t rat me out), is shockingly human in her “normie” identity crisis.

And that brings us to the most human thing of all, Danvers. So hopelessly mortal, she can’t grasp that she has a right to grieve and to not move on from a loss so unfair. So attached to her dead son, her grief manifests as a lifesize and very alive version of her son’s soft toy. But she’d never admit how desperately she wished she could undo it all. Terrified of her suicidal vulnerability, she chucks the toy in the yard to prove her steely acceptance of the tragedy. If only it could hide the fact that she sort of believes Navarro. She is sort of convinced that her partner saw a ghost in that room with one dead and one alive Wheeler. But no. Believe you me, Danvers is a believer.

And it’s this belief in her that nudges her to poke at the Otis Heiss angle. But even she couldn’t have guessed that he’d be connected to the spot where Annie was killed. And it’s not just a minor connection this ghost of a man with a rap sheet for days has with the secret cave Annie’d made her last video in. As very reluctantly admitted by the man Danvers used to sleep with, Otis was the very man who’d created the map to the ominous and evil ice caves hidden underneath Ennis’ grounds. And considering Otis had sustained the same peculiar injuries that are visible on the dead Tsalal scientists, his being the map maker not only connects him to Annie’s death but also connects the Tsalal men to the same.

Now, the supernatural is not just there to push the vulnerable off the edge. Chances are, the whale bones in the wall of the cave and the power that was mysteriously cut off in a goddamn ice cave are relevant to the freaky deaths. And if we’re going there, I might as well call it Oliver, whose humble home having a rock with that crooked circle on it can only mean one thing—he’s joined the Tsalal scientists. But the same can’t be said about Otis Heiss, who, despite his feeble state, may have a lot to say about the one who rules the night. The ending sequence is an acknowledging nod to the title of the season, appreciating being kept an open secret all this while. If they really are in the night country, everything bizarre that’s been tormenting Ennis so far makes sense without logic backing it.

I doubt that True Detective would leave Navarro’s frequent brush with ghostly beings up to our interpretations. What she was melting down about in Danvers’ house was the fear of impending death. If it is, and I’m not claiming it to be the absolute truth, just mental illness after all, then maybe it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Navarro was scared of feeling suicidal. The chances of her emotional exorcism, however, seem really thin when her sister’s corpse floats down in the streams, terrifying yet grabbing Navarro. What Otis’ capture of the place they thought was Clark’s hideout does promise is a tangible piece of the puzzle—something we can’t wait to fit into the bigger picture.


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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