If you’re watching True Detective: Night Country, chances are you’re glued to the screen scanning for clues like we are. And that means you’re onto the spirals.
In the fourth season of the HBO series, this time helmed by showrunner Issa López, police Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and state trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) can’t stop finding these symbols in their seemingly unrelated investigations.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen sinister spirals in this show. As Mashable’s Kristy Puchko points out, “In Season 1 of True Detective, spirals were a creepy recurring symbol tied to the Yellow King and his mystical murder spree.”
But what do the spirals mean? It’s one of the burning questions we have for the season. Let’s track them down in an act that will make a true armchair detective of us all.
Danvers makes the first spiral in the season herself as she’s processing evidence related to the disappearance of the scientists from the remote Tsalal Arctic Research Station and the murder of Iñupiaq activist Annie Masu Kowtok (Nivi Pedersen). She inadvertently makes a spiral pattern of her printouts, finding her way to the pink parka jacket that will connect the cases before the actual spiral symbol starts showing up.
After the discovery of the corpiscle, Danvers sweeps snow off the forehead of one of the frozen scientists and uncovers a spiral on the corpse’s skin. Later, when Rose Aguineau (Fiona Shaw) is talking with Navarro, she asks whether the trooper saw the shape. When Navarro says she vaguely remembers seeing it before, Rose draws the shape in the snow and explains, “It’s old, missy. Older than Ennis. It’s older than the ice, probably.”
Navarro remembers Annie had a tattoo of a spiral. She shows Danvers a picture of the design, proving the connection between their cases. Danvers begrudgingly follows the lead and asks a former worker from the Tsalal facility (L’xeis Diane Benson) about the symbol, who supposes it to be linked to witchcraft or a “devil sign.” Her colleague (Kathryn Wilder) says she doesn’t recognise it either.
Later in the episode, Danvers figures out that one of the Tsalal scientists, Raymond Clark, had gotten a spiral tattoo on his chest four days after Annie’s body was found. The tattoo artist tells Danvers that Clark cried for “sentimental” reasons when he had it done, and shares the photo Clark gave as a design reference; it’s a photo of the tattoo on Annie’s back, and one that indicates Clark and Annie were lovers.
Now officially teamed up on the cases, Danvers and Navarro find their way to Clark’s creepy trailer, where a giant spiral (among other things) has been scrawled on the ceiling — above a woven, life-sized doll lying on the bed. By the end of the episode, they’ve figured out Clark’s actually probably alive.
What do the spirals in True Detective mean?
It’s still very early days in Night Country to make a call, but the symbol connects the murder of Annie Masu Kowtok and the disappearance of the scientists. Clark seems to be the key here. What the spiral means in this context is unclear so far, but as Rose says, it’s an ancient symbol, which means historically there are loads of interpretations. Whether or not Night Country‘s spirals connect to Season 1’s use of the imagery remains to be seen.
How to watch: True Detective airs Sunday nights on HBO/Max at 9 p.m ET/PT.