A police officer stands looking serious.

True Detective: Night Country has been one of the darkest seasons of the crime anthology so far, in every possible sense. But the ending of episode 5 took things to a whole new level.

With only one episode of showrunner Issa López’ season left to go, Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Navarro (Kali Reiss) are now hot on the trail of the mysterious ice caves where Annie Masu Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen) may have been murdered. But the people involved are also hot on their trail, resulting in a horribly tense showdown in the episode’s final minutes.

So what exactly happened, and what was its larger significance in the series as a whole? Let’s dive in, but beware of episode 5 spoilers ahead.

What happens in True Detective: Night Country, episode 5?

Desperate to find the entrance to the ice tunnels that may be the site of Annie’s murder, Danvers decides to use extreme measures. Ennis’ chief of police visits drug addict and former engineer Otis Heiss (Klaus Tange), bribes him with heroin, and sneaks him out of his facility so he can show her the cave’s location.

At the same time officer Hank Prior (John Hawkes) meets with the town’s mine and ice rink owner Kate McKittrick (Dervla Kirwan), who warns him that Danvers is getting too close to discovering the cave and must be stopped.

“Otis Heiss is a drug addict,” she tells him. “Drug addicts get lost. I don’t need to know the details.”

Back at Danvers’ house, Heiss has just shown her the cave’s entrance on a map when Hank arrives, insisting on bringing the engineer in. When Danvers refuses to let it happen, he takes her gun, shoots Heiss when he tries to run, and has the gun trained on Danvers. Suddenly, Hank’s son, rookie officer Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), shows up and points his own gun at his father.

“You should know something,” Hank says, realising Peter isn’t going to side with him. “I didn’t kill Annie K, I just moved her body. Blood is blood, Peter. Remember that.”

He raises the gun at Danvers, and Pete shoots his own father in the head.

Two police officers stand in the middle of an ice rink, facing each other.

A troubled relationship.
Credit: Max

Hank and Pete Prior’s fates are proof that time is a flat circle.

Pretty grim stuff, eh? It’s definitely one of the biggest gut-punches of not only this season, but any True Detective season. It’s also a painful end to Hank and Peter’s troubled father/son story arc, which was marked by a cycle of physical abuse, repressed emotion, and things left unsaid.

But, what that final scene does say may have some ramifications for the show as a whole. Because when you break it down, it feels like key characters are already ending up trapped in circular narrative arcs. Before his death, Hank confesses to moving Annie K’s body — essentially being part of a cover-up, seemingly linked to the mine. That action set off a chain of events that led directly to the scene in Danvers’ house, where Hank’s own son was then forced to kill him — and then move his body and take part in yet another cover up.

As we learned from Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle in True Detective‘s very first season, and as we’re learning again in Night Country, “time is a flat circle” after all. What could that mean for Danvers and Navarro?

True Detective airs Sunday nights on HBO/Max at 9 p.m ET/PT.

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