CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: Horror, feuds and the endless night cast a bewitching spell

2 weeks ago 1

True Detective: Night Country

Rating:

To Catch A Copper 

Rating:

Silence Of The Lambs star Jodie Foster says she agreed to star as Alaskan police chief Liz Danvers, in the creepy crime serial True Detective: Night Country (Sky Atlantic), on one condition.

She insisted her character had to be an unremitting pain in the neck. And she got her wish. Danvers has all the charm of a polar bear with an icicle stuck in an awkward place.

Whether she's jailing her own foster daughter for getting beaten up at a protest march, forcing her team to work overtime on Christmas Eve or bullying colleagues into having one-night stands, she is shockingly unlikeable.

And somehow, we admire her for it. She might be a monster, but she's an honest, dogged, fearless monster who will keep the town safe.

Silence Of The Lambs star Jodie Foster (pictured) says she agreed to star as Alaskan police chief Liz Danvers, in the creepy crime serial True Detective: Night Country (Sky Atlantic), on one condition

There were few surprises, just a succession of depressingly inevitable outcomes, in To Catch A Copper (Ch4). Pictured: Geoff and Amber in To Catch A Copper

That uncompromising streak of cussedness is a good sign in a sleuth. Think of Morse, or Vera, or Ted Hastings. Nothing is ever good enough for them. If they say, 'Well done,' you know they will find fault a minute later.

A Freudian psychologist might say this trait comforts us, because it's what we learned to expect from our parents when we were children. That's who the true detective is — a substitute for mum or dad, putting the world to rights by ensuring justice is done. Mind you, Sigmund Freud never caught any murderers, so that theory is probably nonsense.

This is the fourth series of True Detective, apparently detached from the others though there's one tenuous link, too convoluted to explain here. (Oh, go on then: British actress Fiona Shaw, who was the emotionless spy chief in Killing Eve, plays lonely widow Rose. Her closest friend is a ghost called Travis Cohle — the father of Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey when True Detective began in 2014. Aren't you glad you asked?)

Royal flush of the night: 

A bizarre tradition on the day of a Nasa rocket launch was revealed on The Space Shuttle That Fell To Earth (BBC2). Since the era of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the astronauts play a hand of poker, minutes before lift-off.

We now know what 'Night Country' refers to — an otherworldly network of caves beneath the ice, where demons lurk. This penultimate episode ended on a cliffhanger, with Danvers and her sidekick Evangeline Navarro (former world champion boxer Kali Reis) driving through a snowstorm to hack their way into the ice tunnels.

When the story began, it teetered on the brink of unintentional comedy. A team of scientists were found, naked and frozen solid, in a blizzard. As they defrosted, one turned out not to be dead, though no one noticed till his arm snapped off.

Once the pace slowed, the combination of horror, police politics, family feuds and the bone-chilling atmosphere of Alaska's endless night began to exert a bewitching spell — like the eerie theme tune by Billie Eilish. It has proved full of surprises... not least that John Hawkes, who plays bitter veteran policeman Hank Prior, sings like Johnny Cash.

There were few surprises, just a succession of depressingly inevitable outcomes, in To Catch A Copper (Ch4). Two experienced officers with Avon and Somerset Police were accused of sexually predatory behaviour. Both men were preying on junior recruits, the youngest just 17 years old. Both men were well-known for this behaviour. Neither was prosecuted because, we were informed, there was 'insufficient evidence'. Since one of them was posting photos of his victims on the internet, this was hard to comprehend.

Both lost their jobs, but whether they also lost their pensions, we don't know, because this documentary asked no difficult questions and offered no criticisms.

The force's counter corruption unit, a real-life AC12, would doubtless deny it, but we were left with a sense that the men's real mistake was to target police cadets, not members of the public. That's a grim thought.

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