The Answer to True Detective Season 4's Mystery Could Be Lying in Plain Sight
The more supernatural season could incorporate the myths behind its arctic setting.
True Detective has always kept its viewers guessing, and the fourth season, True Detective: Night Country, is no different. In the first episode, we’ve already seen an abandoned Arctic Research Station, a native Inupiaq woman’s tongue found on the floor, and the staff of the station found frozen in the ice. As it’s only Episode 1, there are a lot more questions than answers, but the clues are already beginning to pile up.
One of the biggest clues may have been an unassuming shot connecting the entire mystery to an Inuit myth that could explain everything.
When we see Officer Peter Prior at home, he asks his young son Darwin what he’s drawing and is handed an image that would make any therapist concerned: a strange woman with red eyes and severed and bleeding fingers.
Peter asks his girlfriend Kayla about the picture, and she dismisses it as “just a local legend,” the result of Darwin spending time with his grandmother. But just what is this legend, and what could it mean for the mystery at the center of this show?
True Detective Season 4 showrunner Issa López confirmed on Instagram this is an image of Sedna, the Inuit goddess who controls the underworld and the sea. Different Inuit communities have different versions of the myth, but most share the same basic story beats: Sedna was a beautiful maiden, but when she angered her father by refusing a marriage proposal, he took her into the ocean in his kayak. When he threw her overboard, she clung to the kayak, forcing her father to sever her fingers with an axe. She sunk to the bottom of the ocean, where she grew a tail and became the sea goddess. Each of her severed fingers grew into sea animals, and she controls their availability to hunters.
So how could this factor into True Detective? One of the main mysteries surrounds the tongue found on the station’s floor, years after Inupiaq activist Annie K was found dead without her tongue. Perhaps the severed fingers of Sedna were modified to be a severed tongue, and the cold sea was used to preserve the tongue for years. Sedna’s role as the god of the underworld would also explain the death of the researchers: they were mining ice cores from deep underground. Maybe they awoke something they didn’t understand.
It wouldn’t be the first time a child’s wild imagination has held the key to solving a cold case. In Season 1, a little girl describes seeing a “green-eared spaghetti monster,” leading many fans to theorize the show may have a tie to Cthulu. In actuality, the “monster” was just a man with a scarred face with paint on his ears — but he was the one responsible for every ritual murder.
In Season 4, True Detective has the opportunity to repeat — or even improve upon — this plot twist. If the show wants to lean directly into the supernatural, this myth could be revealed to be real, and Sedna killed Annie K. as a sacrifice and the researchers for mining close to her realm. If this season is just as grounded as its predecessors, then the true killer could be merely inspired by Sedna, killing in her name with a calling card derived from her severed fingers. Who knows, maybe Sedna and the Yellow King are in cahoots, further tying this season with the first.
Either way, True Detective: Night Country is perfectly poised to use the Inupiaq community as not just a setting but an integral part of the plot through its mythology. Incorporating the Sedna myth would deepen the cultural elements of the series and show how important the local legends can be. Even if it’s just an Easter egg, it’s exposing a little-seen mythology and culture to a huge audience. But if it’s more, it could just blow the case wide open.