‘True Detective: Night Country’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: Who Placed The Tongue In Tsalal?


The penultimate episode of True Detective: Night Country came with a bunch of revelations, some of which were startling and some of which were quite predictable. Hank was the guy who removed Annie Kowtok’s body from the caves of Ennis to the spot where she was eventually found, and he did it for Kate because she didn’t want Silversky Mining to be accused of murder, and she promised Hank the chief of police position. Kayla and Pete separated, thereby prompting Pete to consider living with his father. But he dropped that plan and went to live with Liz after he learned that Hank was spying on Liz through his laptop. William Wheeler’s case wasn’t a murder-suicide; either Liz or Navarro had killed him and then buried the evidence. Hank killed Otis Heiss (because he could connect Tsalal and Annie to Silversky) and then tried to kill Liz, but Pete intervened and killed Hank. While Liz and Navarro headed towards the caves to unearth Ennis’s open secret, Pete composed himself so that he could dispose of the bodies. Let’s find out if the final episode of the series has managed to close things off in a satisfying fashion or not.

Spoiler Alert

Raymond Clark Killed Annie Kowtok

Episode 6 of True Detective: Night Country opens with Liz and Navarro working their way into the caves of Ennis, and it seems like they are following Navarro’s “instinct.” They fall through one of the floors, and it seems like they are going to be stuck there for the rest of their lives because it’s a very secluded area of the town, and nobody is aware that they are down there. That’s when Navarro and Liz not only notice the fossils that were seen in Annie’s video and the star-shaped screwdriver that matched the wounds on Annie’s body, but are also spooked by Raymond Clark. Liz and Navarro go after him and stumble upon the ladder leading up to Tsalal station. We get a brief glimpse of Pete cleaning up Liz’s house and packing up the bodies in the car so that he can deliver it to Rose, and then the episode goes back to Liz and Navarro trying to find Clark. Liz is trapped by Clark, and Navarro is knocked out by him. When Navarro regains consciousness, she begins to beat the living hell out of Clark. Liz manages to crack the glass door trapping her, rushes to Navarro, and stops her from killing Clark. 

The focus shifts back to Pete, and his cleanup session is interrupted by Leah, because she was invited to come over by Liz for New Year’s. Leah senses that something is wrong, but instead of telling her the truth about what has happened, Pete says that he is not in the right state of mind because of everything that’s happening between him and Kayla. He says that he doesn’t want Kayla and Darwin to be alone on New Year’s Eve and uses that as an excuse to drop off Leah at Kayla’s place, thereby giving him the opportunity to deal with the bodies. When he does go to drop off Leah, he is confronted by Kayla, who also wants to know what Pete is actually up to. Pete promises her that this is the last time he’ll go out of his way to do anything, and Kayla seemingly forgives him and wishes him the best for the “thing” (which includes burying the bodies of Hank and Otis) that he needs to do. 

Since they have nowhere to go because of the blizzard roaring through Ennis, Liz and Navarro take their sweet time tending to their wounds, having food, and torturing Clark until he breaks. Clark admits that Annie had found out that Tsalal was pushing Silversky to pollute the environment of Ennis more than what they were already doing because it was aiding in the dissolution of the ice around the microorganism that was the key to “saving the world.” Tsalal saw the deaths of the natives as a small sacrifice because, eventually, their work would “save the world.” Annie did the sensible thing and destroyed Tsalal’s research to put a stop to the deaths of the indigenous folks of Ennis, and when the scientists found out, they killed her. Clark didn’t stab her, but he did suffocate her, despite knowing that she had some life left in her and that she could’ve been saved if she was taken to the hospital. That said, when it comes to the severed tongue, Clark clarifies that it wasn’t him. He says that it could’ve been done by Hank to “send a message” to other protestors, but he tells Navarro that the Tsalal scientists didn’t do that.

Navarro allows Raymond Clark to die

Liz leaves Navarro to do whatever she wants to do with Clark, but Navarro doesn’t kill him. Make a note of this because there’s a weird contradiction in the episode later on. Liz remembers that when she and Navarro confronted Wheeler, she wanted to kill him, but Navarro did it before she could make a move. I am guessing that she says that to free Navarro of the thought that she was the only one who had walked into the Wheeler household with murderous intent. And, by the looks of it, Liz’s confession does lift some kind of weight off Navarro’s shoulders. While taking a break and peeling oranges (like Navarro’s mother and sister used to) for her drink, Liz notices that the spot where the severed tongue was kept is still fresh or that the blood and saliva that had come out of it have left a mark. When she tries to explore it further, Navarro takes her to interrogate Clark. The next question that Clark is forced to answer is the mystery surrounding the deaths of the Tsalal scientists. Clark is convinced that Annie’s ghost did it. 

When things went down on that fateful night, Clark apparently ran to the ladder leading to the underground lab, closed the hatch over him, and held onto it for dear life. He heard the deaths of his colleagues and the alleged spirit trying to open it. When asked about Otis Heiss, Clark says that Annie is responsible for that, too, even though Annie wasn’t even born when Otis got injured. That’s when Clark floats the idea that there’s some time travel shenanigans going on, and Annie’s spirit is going to various timelines of Ennis and wreaking havoc. Frustrated by all this nonsense, Liz decides to go and take a nap. Weirdly enough, she finds what seems to be Julia’s necklace stuck in her hair. How is that possible? Is it even real? I don’t really know. We briefly see Pete driving to Rose’s place with the bodies, and that’s when Ennis goes into a blackout. 

The drop in temperature wakes Liz up, and she finds out that Navarro has allowed Clark to walk into the cold and freeze to death. Liz gets angry because Clark was the key to solving the whole case. Now, remember what I said earlier? Liz was okay with Navarro shooting Clark in the head. She walked out of the room so that Navarro could shoot Clark in the head. She didn’t care if their only witness died. She seemingly understood Navarro’s anger and her need to kill him. But now that he is actually dead, she is angry. Bad writing or shifting character motivations? I will let you decide. To make matters worse (or better, depending on where you are in terms of the finale’s quality), someone’s ghost is seen standing in the distance as Navarro tries to fire up the backup generator to prevent Liz and herself from freezing to death. Liz sees the broken wheel cap (from the car crash that killed Liz’s son). Navarro sees Clark glitching. I am willing to bet that these are all visions caused by insomnia, cabin fever, or alcohol. It’s not clear, and, trust me, the show doesn’t clarify it all the way to the end. Why? For the sake of mystery. Does that make the show interesting? No.

Who Killed the Tsalal Scientists?

We briefly see Rose helping Pete get rid of the bodies and giving him some cliche advice about how killing people isn’t difficult and that living with that knowledge is the real battle. Leah leaves a message for Liz to come back home without dying. While trying to keep themselves warm by sitting around a fire, Liz and Navarro get into an argument because Navarro says that something is calling her from the “great beyond” and that she has met Liz’s dead son in this supernatural space. Jodie Foster, channeling every ounce of anger that she can muster to put Navarro in her place, is riveting. By the way, Liz walks away from the spot because she doesn’t want to be around Navarro and tries to warm up by curling up underneath a bunch of coats and blankets. When that doesn’t work, she goes back to Navarro but finds out that she is gone. Liz exits the building and notices Navarro walking away into the distance. Navarro seems to be hallucinating as she reaches out to someone, and the spirit says her actual Inupiat name. I have watched this episode on a screener provided by Warner Bros. It didn’t have subtitles. So, I couldn’t figure out what was said. Anyway, Liz tries to get a hold of Navarro before she dies in the blizzard. However, the vision of Holden calling out to her from underneath the icy surface she is standing on causes Liz to depart with her common sense, and she starts to crack the ice beneath her legs. Obviously, it causes her to fall in and drown. Thankfully, Navarro pulls her out and helps her recover. 

The ice bath has apparently turned Liz into a believer (which is something that I predicted would happen because it’s the most cliche arc for a staunch atheist) as she asks Navarro to talk about Holden even though she knows that there’s no “great beyond” and that her son died in a car crash. The blizzard randomly dies down. Navarro talks about bottling her feelings and refusing to see reality, much like Clark was holding down the hatch. That prompts Liz to check for fingerprints on the hatch. Given how the hatch was a mystery until today’s episode, it hasn’t been analyzed. Liz notices a unique imprint—a hand that didn’t have all five fingers. This takes the dynamic duo to Beatrice and Blair Hartman. Beatrice basically says that, during one of her cleanup sessions, she found out that the Tsalal scientists had killed Annie. So, she and the rest of the Inupiat women went over there, kidnapped them, and made them walk into the icy, cold darkness. They believe they died the way they died because that’s what Annie wanted to happen to them. Intimidated and impressed by their strength, Navarro and Liz tell Beatrice and her team of warriors that they’re going to go with the official narrative that the Tsalal men died under natural circumstances. Navarro tries to learn about the tongue, but Beatrice doesn’t give a straight answer, thereby shrouding that piece of evidence in mystery. 

During True Detective: Night Country‘s ending, Liz sits down for an interview with two detectives, much like Rust and Marty did in True Detective Season 1, and weaves a totally false narrative about Otis and Hank’s deaths, Pete’s involvement, and Navarro’s disappearance so that none of them lose their jobs. Liz leaks Clark’s confession video, which leads to the shutdown of Tsalal and Silversky Mining. We see Liz and Leah on more amicable terms and enjoying a sandwich and a car ride together. And then we see Liz and Navarro on the porch of her house, chilling. What the hell am I supposed to explain here? The show keeps the supernatural aspects totally vague. The backstories are pretty obscure as well. The mystery surrounding the murders is resolved in the most basic fashion possible. It’s a revenge story. It’s an anti-capitalism story. It’s a pro-environment story. The show also forces two cops to do good and makes them serve the people (because they pay the salaries of the police) instead of licking the boots of their superiors and the industrialists. There’s no point talking about the spooky stuff because the showrunners want the audience to marinate in the ambiguity despite giving it more attention than the other themes of the show. I am sure that if the writers and directors are asked about this lack of explanation, they are going to blame the audience for focusing on the subplots that aren’t “important” or “politically relevant,” while totally ignoring the disproportionate attention given to the mystery, the murder, and the politics of Ennis in the writing department.

Who Placed The Tongue In The Tsalal Station?

Surprisingly enough, the only aspect of True Detective: Night Country that’s left totally unexplained is Annie Kowtok’s tongue. By the way, if you are wondering whether or not that was Annie’s tongue at all, well, it was confirmed in the first episode itself by Liz that when Annie’s body was found, her tongue was missing. So, that is Annie’s tongue. But who could’ve been brutal enough to cut it and then place it at the Tsalal Research Station on the night the scientists over there perished? Firstly, there’s Hank. He was the last person to have access to her body and he was one of the first officers to arrive at Tsalal. So, he could’ve cut off Annie’s tongue to emphasize the brutality of the crime, thereby sending a warning sign to protestors like her. Then he could’ve placed the tongue at the scene of the crime to confuse Liz and make her believe that something supernatural had done it. Or maybe he felt extremely guilty about partaking in the burial of the truth that Annie was trying to unearth, and he actually put the tongue there so that Liz could make the connection and hold Tsalal and Silversky Mining responsible for killing Annie and the town of Ennis. 

Secondly, there’s Raymond Clark. He was the one who actually killed Annie. Yes, he said he didn’t have anything to do with the tongue but maybe he was lying. Maybe he kept it as a souvenir. But when he started to feel that Annie’s spirit was hunting them down, he tried to return it. Finally, there are the Inupiat women. I don’t know if they had access to Annie’s body after her death, but if they did, they probably kept it so that they could push forth the theory that Annie’s spirit was doing the vigilante work, not them. They probably didn’t see the mutilation of her body as a sign of disrespect, but their way of using a unique aspect of the Inupiat community (the striations on the tongue) to strike terror in the hearts of their abusers. By the way, why did Liz see some kind of saliva deposit where the tongue was placed in the final episode? Does saliva not dry up even after two weeks (that’s the amount of time that has passed between the first and the last episode)? My theory is that Liz was hallucinating. When the tongue was initially found, there were several people who spotted it. When Liz saw the saliva deposit, she was the only one there. So, maybe she was thinking about it and her theories about what happened to Annie and the scientists manifested in the form of those markings on the floor.

Final Thoughts

To be honest, I didn’t like True Detective: Night Country‘s finale. I am not surprised, though, because I knew that pushing all the plot revelations towards the tail end of the series was going to lead to a rushed and unsatisfactory ending, and that’s exactly what has happened. Everything, apart from the storytelling, was really solid. The atmosphere, the acting, the camerawork, the editing, the production design, the VFX, the CGI—everything was top-notch. I’ll say that the storytelling was solid until episode 3. I knew that the plot and the political commentary didn’t have any meat on them when they didn’t start dropping any mind-blowing revelations in episode 4 and kept insinuating that something supernatural was going on. I think the showrunners wanted to convey that the visions and the nightmares were a result of insomnia caused by the lack of daylight. But I have seen many other movies and series portray insomnia better than this. In this show, it seemed like the showrunners started misleading the audience and didn’t know when they had to stop. 

I do think that this season of True Detective needed two more episodes to wrap things up. The ending was too convenient. It would’ve been nice to see the characters and the town face the consequences of the 15th night of darkness. Where is the final fight between Liz, Connelly, and Kate? Where are the nightmares that are going to haunt Pete? What the hell happened to Oliver Tagaq? How did Ennis react to the shutdown of Tsalal and Silversky? How did Leah and Liz actually renew their bond? How did Navarro adjust to the new reality she was going to live in? I am sure there could’ve been some great dialogue-heavy scenes centered around these subplots. But it looks like these ideas have been scrapped, or maybe the showrunners didn’t think about them in the first place. Hence, a bloody montage. Well, it is what it is, and what it is is not really good. Worth a watch? Sure, if you can keep your expectations in check.

- Advertisement -
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This