‘True Detective’ Season 4 Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: How Did Annie Kowtok Die?


True Detective season 4, titled Night Country, takes us into the harsh and cold Alaskan terrain, where we see a detective named Liz Danvers handling a very strange case. A group of scientists disappeared overnight from the Tsalal laboratory, and nobody had any clue what happened to them or where they had gone. At the beginning of True Detective episode 1, we saw a man from the Inupiaq Community on a hunting spree when suddenly something eerie took place, and the herd of Caribou jumped off the cliff. The unnatural event set the tone for the entire series, and it made us realize the kind of conflict we were up for. So, let’s recap the events of True Detective Episode 1 and see if Officer Danvers and Agent Navarro were able to find any sort of breakthrough in their investigation.

Spoiler Alert

What Happened at the Tsalal Lab?

Liz Danvers came to know that something had happened inside the Tsalal lab, and so she went to investigate the matter together with her colleagues Hank and Peter. When they reached the lab, they found out that everybody had disappeared into thin air, leaving behind their personal belongings and communication equipment. Hank believed that the scientists had probably gone on some geeky expedition, but Liz knew that the matter was not as simple as that. A delivery guy had gone to the facility, and when he didn’t find anybody there, he informed the authorities about it, and that is how the police came to know about the strange disappearance. There was a severed tongue lying on the floor, and Liz just knew, looking at it, that it belonged to a woman from the indigenous tribe. But what was most unsettling was a message written on the whiteboard that said, “We are all dead.” Liz knew that the scientists had voluntarily done whatever they did and knew what the outcome was.

Liz’s intuition was telling her that the entire incident could have something to do with a cold case from the past, but she was in denial until Agent Navarro came and explicitly asked her about it. Liz, however, refused to share any details of the ongoing case, and therefore, Navarro furiously walked out of the precinct.

The Tsalal scientists undertook a lot of research projects, ranging from climate change to finding the origins of life, and the authorities never imagined that something suspicious would be happening there. The police officers had no clue what they were in for or what discovery they would make at the very next moment.

Why Was Navarro Obsessed With Kowtok’s Case?

Evangeline Navarro was a part of the Alaska police force, but she was demoted to a trooper after she got obsessed with the Annie Kowtok murder case and messed with the wrong people. Kare McKittrick was an influential man in the area, and things changed for Navarro the moment she asked him questions and kept him under the ambit of her investigation. Navarro always felt very strongly for the cause of the women who were abused, and moreover, she knew that indigenous people had to deal with a lot of racism, which frustrated her because nobody spoke about it. 

According to the forensic report, Annie Kowtok was stabbed 32 times with a star-shaped object, the murder weapon, which was never really recovered. Even the woman’s tongue was cut off, which was why Navarro felt that the Tsalal case could have some connection with Kowtok’s case. Navarro was the first to see the crime scene during Kowtok’s case, and she told Liz how the woman was tortured and beaten to death. The people who killed Kowtok kept hitting her even after there was no life left inside her, but still, no proper action was taken against the perpetrators.

In the present time, Navarro also met with Annie’s brother to check on what he had been up to and what he had been doing all this time. She was later called by her colleague to Jules’ house, who was probably her sister, as the latter had gotten another anxiety attack. Jules told Navarro that she didn’t want to end up like her mother and that she was trying very hard each and every day to bring the situation under control. We were not told a lot about Navarro’s past in the first episode of True Detective Season 4, but it was quite evident that there were many aspects that she didn’t talk about and that she didn’t exactly have a very happy childhood.

Why Did Hank Have Annie’s File?

When Navarro met Liz, she told her that she needed to open Kowtok’s case once as she believed that the tongue found at the Tsalal Lab belonged to Annie and, therefore, speculated that the missing scientists might have something to do with Kowtok’s case. However, Liz was aware of Navarro’s obsession with the case, which was why she initially refused to comply with Navarro’s request. But even Liz somewhere felt that the trooper might be correct and that there could be a possibility that the two incidents were related in some way. 

It was Hank who had taken Navarro off the case, as he had been pressured by his superiors to do so, and that was why even Liz was now very cautious about indulging in the issue. The strangest thing that made me suspicious about Hank’s intention was the fact that he had the file of Annie Kowtok’s case at his house, and when Liz asked him to give it to her, it felt like he was reluctant to do so.

Why did Navarro go to the Tsalal lab?

Liz might have told Navarro that she wasn’t going to reopen Annie’s file, but she knew that she had a hunch that two cases might be connected, which was why Liz asked Peter to go to his father’s house and bring Annie’s file. Peter was very scared, as he probably knew the consequences his actions would have if his father found out, but still, he did what Liz asked him to and gave her the file. Liz noticed that one of the scientists was wearing Annie’s parka, so she went to Tsalal Lab once again to look for the suspicious parka that could connect the missing dots. Navarro was also present there, and Liz told her whatever she found about the torn parka. They were not able to find any sort of evidence, but they knew that the scientists had something to do with Annie’s case for sure. It could be possible that Annie was acquainted with one of the scientists, or maybe she was dating him or was in a relationship with him. That parka made one thing very clear: Annie’s case had something to do with the incident that happened at the lab.

What Did the Officers Find in the Snow?

At the end of True Detective Episode 1, Liz got a call from Peter, who told her that a woman named Rose had found something on the ice. Probably, Rose was schizophrenic, as she often used to see her dead husband or probably her son, named Travis. That deduction is made because she didn’t seem shocked when she saw Travis for the first time in episode 1, and then something happened that changed the course of things. Travis led her to the corpses of the scientists, and it was then that she informed the authorities about her findings. She told Navarro that it was Travis who showed her the way, but the latter knew that he had died years ago. This entire incident made me realize that probably some other-worldly things were happening in the ice-capped Alaskan terrain, and probably Liz might have to figure out a lot of things in the subsequent episodes.

When Liz and other police officers arrived at the scene, they found the dead bodies of the scientists half-buried in the ice. Before that, a polar bear came in front of Navarro’s car, and she felt as if some powers were at play, which probably she didn’t have an understanding of. It felt like the scientists had taken their own lives, or maybe someone had sedated them and left them in the wilderness to die. Throughout episode 1, we heard a voice whispering the words, “She’s Awake,” which in a very literal sense could mean that Annie’s spirit has come back from the dead to take revenge on her perpetrators. Or it could be possible that someone very close to Annie was taking revenge for her death and making it look like a supernatural phenomenon so as to deceive the cops. In the upcoming episodes, we will get to know what exactly happened at the lab and if it had something to do with Annie’s case.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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