What Happened To The Researchers In Night Country?

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Warning! Contains major spoilers for True Detective season 4.


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Summary

  • True Detective season 4 introduces a captivating mystery surrounding the disappearance of researchers in an Alaskan facility, adding a unique identity to the franchise with its snow-clad setting and the interplay of conservative fantasy and true crime realism.
  • The primary suspect in the researchers’ murder is Raymond Clark, who exhibits suspicious behavior and has connections to the Yellow King cult symbol. Clues suggest he may have been influenced by dark forces that plagued previous investigations.
  • The researchers’ deaths were not just a hate crime, but a ritualistic murder. The killer wanted law enforcement to find the bodies and left behind symbols and details for them to discover. Their deaths may be connected to Annie’s murder and indicate the involvement of powerful individuals or an evil cover-up related to their groundbreaking research.


True Detective season 4’s biggest mystery remains what happened to the researchers in the Alaskan facility, but the show has already dropped a few clues, paving the way for theories. Like the previous installments of the True Detective series, season 4 also harps on the hardened cop trope by introducing Jodi Foster’s Danvers and Kali Reis’ Navarro as two commanding law enforcers. However, what allows it to etch its own identity in the franchise is its snow-clad Alaskan setting and the intriguing interplay of conservative fantasy and true crime realism in its overarching storyline.


Unlike True Detective season 1, season 4 does not go back and forth between timelines and primarily follows a linear narrative. However, similar to season 1, it sets the stage for its crime drama by introducing a gripping mystery in its opening arc itself. The mystery revolves around the sudden disappearance of a group of researchers, strangely found frozen in snow towards the end of the episode.


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The Researchers Were Allegedly Killed By An Avalanche In True Detective: Night Country

Silver Sky has already prepared a cover-up for their murders

Dervla Kirwan's Kate McKitterick interacting with Danvers outside in the mine in True Detective Night Country


In True Detective: Night Country‘s episode 5, Danvers gets called to the Silver Sky mine, where Ted Connelly and Kate McKitterick ask her what she was doing at the mine’s private property. When Danvers reveals that she visited the ice cave’s entrance because some new leads suggested that Raymond Clark would be there, McKitterick assures her that she does not have to investigate the Tsalal case anymore. She claims that, according to forensics in Anchorage, the researchers were killed in an avalanche.


Although Connelly, too, tries to convince Danvers to step back from the case, Danvers realizes that the Silver Sky mine likely had something to do with Annie and the researchers’ murders. They likely fear that in the pursuit of investigating Annie and the researchers’ cases, Danvers and Navarro will uncover the mine’s dark secrets and how the Tsalal researchers were publishing bogus pollution reports to protect them from legal ramifications. Therefore, even though McKitterick confidently claims an avalanche killed the researchers, they were likely killed by someone.

Did Raymond Clark Kill The Other Researchers?

The identity of the researchers’ murderer explained


Although the identity of the killer remains a mystery after True Detective: Night Country‘s episode 2, many clues suggest that Raymond Clark might have murdered his fellow researchers. For starters, things went south for the researchers right after Raymond Clark said, “She’s awake,” in episode 1’s opening moments. Toward the end of True Detective: Night Country‘s episode 2, Peter also realizes that Raymond Clark is missing from the frozen researchers’ corpsicle, suggesting that he is still alive. Many witnesses from Ennis also claim that Clark was not doing very well before the researchers disappeared and often mumbled to himself while walking around naked.


Episode 2’s ending moments also reveal that Clark had the same spiral tattoo on his chest that was found on the frozen researchers’ foreheads. While none of these clues confirm he killed his fellow researchers, they make him the primary suspect in the crime. The fact that he was also obsessed with the Yellow King cult’s spiral symbol and the fact that Tsalal links to season 1’s Tuttle family seemingly hint that Clark was influenced by the same dark forces that plagued Rust and Marty’s investigations.

True Detective: Night Country’s “Corpsicle” Explained

The researchers’ corpsicle holds many clues to the overarching mystery

a picture of Jodie Foster as Liz Danvers against an image of a frozen body From True Detective Season 4

Peter also notices that they damaged their eardrums, suggesting that they were first exposed to the high-pressure depths of a cold water body and then pulled out and left to freeze to death.


Many details surrounding the researchers’ death suggest that their murder was a lot more than a hate crime. The killer seems to have followed a ritual where he either forced the researchers to take their clothes off before making them jump inside ice-cold waters or removed their clothes after killing them before immersing them in ice. The fact that the researchers were clearly visible well above the ground also suggests that the killer wanted law enforcement to find them frozen. It seems like the killer intentionally created corpsicles out of them to ensure that whoever found them frozen noticed all the little details and symbols he left behind on their bodies.


Although True Detective: Night Country has only hinted at how it might eventually connect to season 1’s Yellow King cult, the ritualistic nature of the murder suggests that the killer may be influenced by dark cultist ideologies. The corpsicle also reveals that the researchers were in immense pain during their final moments and were so disoriented that they started scratching their skin and even pulling out their eyes. Peter also notices that they damaged their eardrums, suggesting that they were first exposed to the high-pressure depths of a cold water body and then pulled out and left to freeze to death.


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Why Were The Researchers Naked In True Detective: Night Country?

Two potential reasons why the researchers had no clothes on

True Detective Night Country


Depending on the order of the events that ensued before the researchers were frozen, two possibilities could explain why they were naked. One possibility would be that they removed their clothes after experiencing extreme hypothermia. Extreme hypothermia often leaves one with a burning feeling that can be mistaken as heat. Owing to this, people who have hypothermia often paradoxically start undressing themselves. While it seems likely that the researchers might have done the same in True Detective: Night Country, it seems strange how their clothes were left folded near the crime scene.


If hypothermia caused them to take their clothes off, they were certainly not in the state to fold their clothes and line them together before freezing to death. This could mean that the killer made them remove their clothes before sending them out in the cold. However, considering how Danvers and her APF team only found a few pairs of shoes near the frozen bodies, it is hard not to wonder what made so many of the researchers run out in the blistering cold without their shoes and what the killer did to terrify them to such a degree.


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Why Were The Researchers Killed In True Detective?

The real reason why the researchers were murdered in True Detective

Kali Reis and Jodie Foster in Night Country's poster in the background with Foster's Liz Danvers in the the center

Their research could be a cover for something evil, or it could have led them to discover something they were not meant to find.


The researchers’ educational backgrounds reveal that they were all highly qualified in fields related to earth sciences. When Danvers asks Peter what they were doing in Alaska, Peter says they were trying to discover the origins of life. While these details do not necessarily reveal why they were killed, whatever they were working on was likely groundbreaking. However, their research work could also be a cover for something far more evil. Or, their research led them to discover something they were not meant to find, eventually landing them in the crosshairs of some powerful people.


When Danvers initially investigates the TSALAL facility in True Detective season 4’s episode 1, she notices a whiteboard with “We Are All Dead” written on it. This suggests that the researchers were well aware that they were going to die even before they left the facility. While only time will tell what led to their murders, the spiral marks on their foreheads could mean that their deaths were somehow connected to the Yellow King cult killings from True Detective season 1. Their deaths can also be linked to Raymond Clark based on several clues dropped in episode 2.


As Annie’s video suggests, she seemingly discovered something in the cave that potentially exposed what the Silver Sky mine the Tsalal researchers were up to. Her discovery might have put her in the researchers’ crosshairs, and they might have killed her. Out of guilt surrounding Annie’s death, Raymond must have killed his fellow scientists at Tsalal.


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Raymond Clark Is The Only Researcher Still Alive – What That Means

One researcher in True Detective: Night Country may still be alive

True Detective


True Detective season 4’s episode 1 does not reveal how many researchers Danvers and Navarro find frozen in the snow. However, there is a brief scene in the show’s trailer where Danvers mentions that one of the researchers is missing. In episode 2, True Detective: Night Country confirms that Raymond Clark is missing from the researchers’ combined corpsicle, hinting that he may still be alive. This could mean that Clark was the killer all along. While his reasons for killing his team members are still shrouded, his past relationship with Annie could imply that he killed the researchers because of their involvement in Annie’s murder.

How The Researchers’ Deaths Are Connected To Annie’s

The frozen researchers also had the same spiral markings on their foreheads, hinting that the person (or people) who murdered Annie were also responsible for the researchers’ deaths.


Many details in True Detective season 4’s episode 1 suggest that the researchers’ deaths are connected to Annie. Danvers tells Travis that Annie’s killers had cut off her tongue, but no one ever found it. The delivery man who first notices the deserted TSALAL facility in season 4’s episode 1 finds a dismembered tongue on the floor. Based on the dents on the tongue, Danvers later theorizes that the tongue likely belonged to a native woman who tended fishing nets by licking their threads. Since Annie, too, was a native Alsakan and her tongue was severed but never found, the tongue in the research facility could be hers.


The photos in Annie’s case file also disclose that the spiral marks from season 1 were imprinted on her body. As the show’s official trailer reveals, the frozen researchers also had the same spiral markings on their foreheads, hinting that the person (or people) who murdered Annie were also responsible for the researchers’ deaths. While going through Annie and the researchers’ case files, Danvers also notices that Clark had the same jacket that Annie possessed. She also realizes that Clark’s jacket had a patch on the same spot where Annie’s jacket was torn.


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What Happened To Annie In True Detective: Night Country?

Although True Detective season 4’s episode 1 does not reveal everything about Annie’s mysterious death, it hints at what might have happened to her.


As Navarro and Danvers dig deeper into Clark’s past in True Detective: Night Country‘s episode 2, they learn that he was in a secret relationship with Annie. They also discover that he got the spiral tattooed on his chest four days after Annie’s murder. A trip to his van, where he used to meet Annie, also reveals he is obsessed with the spiral, hinting at how he and Annie might have been Hastur worshipers like the Tuttle family.

The Biggest Clues & Theories About What Happened To The Researchers

True Detective season 4’s episode 1 drops many clues that leave room for several theories

Kali Reis as Navarro and Jodie Foster as Danvers holding flashlights in True Detective season 4


True Detective season 4’s episode 1 only gives a glimpse of the frozen researchers. However, the glimpse alone makes it evident that they were terrified of something or someone before they died. While hypothermia might have left them in a state of confusion and evoked that response out of them, the fact that Danvers mentions they were killed before they were frozen makes it hard not to wonder what scared them so much. The ritualistic nature of their murder suggests that making them remove their clothes and then freezing them might have been a part of the killer’s meticulous murder routine. The constant references to the Yellow King spiral symbols could also be pointing toward supernatural elements that led to the researchers’ murders.


Since True Detective: Night Country‘s episode 2 also reveals that the researchers were trying to sequence the DNA of an extinct micro-organism, it is possible that they awakened a cosmic being or alien parasite while digging up the snow, leaving them at the mercy of potent supernatural forces. Their murders could also have a simple explanation, where they either made some serious miscalculation or were silenced by influential people when they discovered something sinister during their research. The latter seems likely in True Detective season 4, given how the Tsalal facility was funded by an NGO controlled by the Tuttle family’s conglomerate, Tuttle United.


True Detective

season 4 drops new episodes every Sunday on HBO Max.


True Detective Poster
True Detective

In this anthology series, each season follows a different detective or set of detectives as they forced to confront some horrific truths about their town and themselves. No matter the setting and characters, each detective must unravel lies and clues to solve the chilling mysteries around them.

Release Date
January 12, 2014
Cast
Matthew McConaughey , Woody Harrelson , Colin Farrell , Rachel McAdams , Taylor Kitsch , Mahershala Ali , Carmen Ejogo , Michelle Monaghan , Michael Potts , Ray Fisher , Jodie Foster

Seasons
4

Story By
NIC PIZZOLATTO

Writers
Nic Pizzolatto

Network
HBO Max

Directors
Cary Fukunaga

Showrunner
Nic Pizzolatto

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