“Is there anyone in this town you haven’t fucked?” asks Trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) in the most recent episode of True Detective: Night Country.
It is a valid response, as Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) sheepishly tries hiding behind Navarro when the pair is knocking on a woman’s door on Christmas Eve. No, it isn’t because the police are making a holiday call to ask for information to help a murder investigation. Instead, Danvers’ off-duty exploits are behind the potentially awkward information, and Navarro can’t quite believe it.
Not all of Danvers's sexploits in the series trigger angry spouses. Still, True Detective is properly taking the crown for horniest HBO Sunday night show, succeeding the previous reigning champ, The White Lotus. (The Gilded Age needs a few more bangs for their buck to take this title). Also, for the record, this doesn’t always equate to good sex, as showrunner Issa López doesn’t shy away from the awkwardness that accompanies a quick shag with a familiar partner.
First things first, the Alaska-set fourth installment of the HBO anthology follows in some of the footsteps of True Detective’s other titular investigators, who use sex as a form of release and are not put off by a wedding ring. Thankfully, Season 4 doesn’t just repeat the same hits bedroom antics from previous iterations.
Considering the fictional Alaskan small-town Ennis experiences an endless night beginning Dec. 17 and going into the New Year, the residents can be forgiven for spending time between the sheets—or on a motel desk—to pass the time.
Of course, the investigation into the curious and disturbing deaths of seven researchers and its link to an unsolved murder six years earlier has suddenly increased Danvers’ work to-do list.
The grisly mystery also brings an old flame and antagonist into her orbit. No-strings sex with a guy she has been banging for two decades comes with a lack of expectations beyond quick satisfaction. It only gets complicated because Captain Ted Connelly (Christopher Eccleston) is her boss and pushes her buttons—not always the kind she likes.
Behind Danvers’ sex drive
Emotional barriers are far harder to break than physical ones, and Danvers sleeping with half the town (OK, we only know of at least two people so far) could be considered a symptom of her job or a response to the painful past that is hinted at through flashbacks.
Thankfully, Danvers’ sex drive is not simply a reaction to whatever tragedy befell her family. During her post-coital walk down memory lane with Connelly, they reminisce about how long they have been saying variations of, “That’s the last time we do this.” He thinks it has only been 15 years; she knows it’s been 19. A guilty conscience causes Connelly to ‘Eternal Sunshine’ the first few years of them knocking boots, as he had only just gotten married when it began. Danvers shrugs it off. She was a free agent back then, on a break with her significant other, Jake, at that time.
These sexcapades add texture to these characters. In Episode 4, when a drunk Danvers drives to Connelly’s motel room—its garish green walls will surely sober up anyone—she does so to let off steam. Her already precarious relationship with stepdaughter Leah (Isabella Star LeBlanc) fractures further, so instead of trying to resolve it, Danvers first turns to a bottle of vodka from the freezer, followed by the bed of her fuck-buddy.
Instead of the sun-soaked Sicilian luxury White Lotus locale cranking up the heat and keeping clothing coverage at a bare minimum, True Detective: Night Country is a lesson in removing layers seductively, or so a drunk Danvers believes. Foster peeling off her ultra-sensible thick gray socks and twirling them around like a pair of lace panties is an early contender for the funniest moment of the year. Is it that seductive? Maybe not, but the pure playfulness is up there with White Lotus’ Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò) in their kicky little outfits—both shows share costume designer Alex Bovaird.
Another fun costume detail is that Danvers kept her socks on during the first reunion tryst with Connelly, with her pants not entirely off either. Some may ding the bra-wearing as unrealistic, but this pair has been at it for so long that they barely remove anything. Discourse about sex scenes finds TV and movie fans debating whether these scenes serve the story, and Liz Danvers’ socks prove that they do—among other things.
Drunk acting in a seduction scene can easily fall into cringe territory, but Foster effortlessly avoids this, beginning with Danvers’ disgusted reaction to the taste of the teeth-whitening LED device that Connelly tries to hide. Other details like Connelly pausing Elf on the TV rather than turning it off (hey, he might want to watch it after) add to the overall comedic nature of this scene, which quickly takes a sour turn before Danvers finishes undoing her pants.
Somehow, teasing Connelly for “working on his Hollywood smile” to aid a potential mayoral campaign turns into a likeability contest, doubling as insight into who Liz Danvers was pre-Ennis. “You were a better cop than me from day one, but you were terrible with people,” says Connelly. He hesitates before saying the next part about how she got worse after Jake and Holden—we’re still left to assume this is the death of her husband and son. “You just got fucking shittier,” he adds.
The mention of those names isn’t quite as mood-ruining as, say, Portia (Hayley Lu Richardson) walking in on Jack (Leo Woodall) fucking his “uncle” Quentin (Tom Hollander) in The White Lotus, but it is enough for Danvers to put her boots on sans socks. That is how much she wants out of that nightmare green room. Hey, at least Connelly can return to watching the wholesome Will Ferrell holiday classic.
Volleying “fuck yous” is a Danvers specialty, but her heightened vodka-fueled belligerence is met with little patience from Connelly. Previously, their intimate relationship was revealed via a lighthearted, combative tone. “So you fuck me with the bodies, then you come to actually fuck me,” Connelly says in the second episode. It is the first time Danvers visits his motel, and the cut to them fucking makes their personal status crystal clear.
TV’s history of horny detectives
Let’s broach the queer elephant in the room. López spoke to Slate about the intentional choice to show both Danvers and Navarro sleeping with only men (Navarro is bisexual): “Both of them act in the ways that male characters traditionally have played forever, and what’s ironic is that Danvers gets all this shit and all the jokes about her sexuality. Well, if she were a male character, no one would comment on the fact that she fucks around in town.”
In that same Slate article, López reflected on the sexuality in Pizalatto’s original series and the men who make those choices. “I thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk about how women who are powerful, and who are making the decisions in their lives, approach sex,” she said. Infidelity is a recurring theme, but whereas Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart has a picture-perfect family image from the outside, Danvers is a free agent—though she has a history of hooking up with married men.
Whereas Night Country has a lot of nods to the imagery of its debut season, it is at its strongest when it reflects other recent female investigators who came before and after Rust and Marty. Whether Kate Winslet’s constant-vaping detective on Mare of Easttown, Top of the Lake’s Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), or odd-couple investigating duo Dulcie Collins (Kate Box) and Eddie Redcliffe (Madeleine Sami) in the recent Prime Video hidden gem Deadloch—which should be on everyone’s to-watch list.
With Danvers, there is an ongoing thread about Tinder (which she does use and sets a broader net than Ennis) and how many guys she has slept with. Some of it is lighthearted, but other comments are more damaging, such as Hank (John Hawkes) accusing Danvers of trying to Mrs. Robinson his son and fellow police officer Peter (Finn Bennett). It doesn’t help that Peter, who’s not even 30 years old, doesn’t get the movie (or song) reference, but anyone watching this pair knows this is a mother-son dynamic and not of the Oedipal kind. Sex has nothing to do with the impact Danvers is having on Peter’s marriage, but late-night calls about work are equally detrimental.
Boundaries are repeatedly crossed in other relationships. Seeing how Danvers and Connelly are with each other during and after—such as Danvers saying, “You’re sweating on me” with mild repulsion—reinforces their push-pull. This pair can’t keep work out of the bedroom, and while it is unprofessional, the exchanges have a similar tone whether they have just done the dirty or not. In the second episode, they are both sober, and Connelly’s button-pushing comments occur afterward—something he needs to remember if he wants to get laid anytime soon.
Navarro can’t help but judge Danvers when their Christmas Eve house call to gather information about nearby ice caves is fraught with tension caused by an affair. However, in the previous episode, the ding of a Tinder notification leads to the pair having a conversation about loneliness, and their defenses continue to drop—no matter how often they disagree. Navarro has an ongoing romance with local bar owner Qaavick (Joel Montgrand), and like Danvers, she struggles to reveal her emotions.
But in True Detective, truths have a habit of coming out during these horny scenes, whether through vulnerability, frustration, or alcohol. Perhaps there is light in the dark, after all.