How TRUE DETECTIVE: NIGHT COUNTRY Directly Connects to Season 1

In True Detective‘s first season Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle told detectives about his estranged father, Travis. He said the two had once lived together in Alaska and his pops died there long ago of leukemia. Only, the police found no evidence Travis Cohle ever had cancer. Now we know we should have believed Rust. True Detective: Night Country confirmed the ghost who located those frozen bodies was Rust’s dad, who died in the ice before leukemia could kill him. But that connection is more than just a fun Easter egg. Travis Cohle’s spirit might be helping to finally resolve the very same case Rust worked on in the show’s first season. That swirling symbol connecting two murder cases in Ennis, Alaska is the same symbol associated with the Tuttle Cult in Louisiana. And that very same family is funding the Tsalal Arctic Research Station.

The Connection Between Rust and Travis Cohle

Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle with long hair and a mustache sitting down in True Detective Season One

True Detective: Night Country‘s second episode confirmed Rust’s unsubstantiated season one statements about his dad. Travis Cohle did live and die in Alaska. One day, many years ago, he went out into the ice after learning he had a fatal form of leukemia. He preferred to end things on his own terms rather than succumb to cancer. That wasn’t the end of his story, at least not according to Fiona Shaw’s Rose Aguineau. She claims to see ghosts, same as many others in Ennis, and she told Trooper Navarro (Kali Reis) that her dead lover’s spirit has been visiting her for years.

It’s not clear if Rose really sees Travis’s actual ghost or if people who live on the edge of the world see figments of the darkness. What does matter is that she believes she followed Travis’s spirit out into the cold to find something she seemingly knew nothing about. Out in the ice, Travis did a strange, silent dance before pointing to the frozen corpses of the Tsalal Station men. Without Rose, and possibly the dead Travis, the scientists might still be missing in the tundra.

A ghost with a plaid shirt holds his arms out white on True Detective: Night Country

Rust Cohle said he and his dad “never really liked each other.” The son also described his father as a “survivalist” with “some very f***ing strange ideas.” Travis didn’t have the highest opinion of his boy, either. He apparently thought his son had “no loyalty” after Rust left the cold of Alaska to move back to the warmth of south Texas. But despite their differences, the strange, cerebral Rust—with his unusual outlook on life and existence—and his estranged dad were clearly a lot alike. The episode also revealed another major connection between both the Cohle boys and the show’s first and fourth seasons. Even across time, distance, and death, the Cohles are trying to expose the same cult.

The Swirling Logo at the Center of True Detective Seasons One and Four

Two photos of topless people with the same swirling tattoo, one a man and woman, the other just the man, from True Detective: Night Country

True Detective: Night Country‘s second episode reintroduced an important, ominous symbol that dates back to the show’s pilot.

Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) learned that four days after the brutal murder of his secret girlfriend Annie K, Tsalal Station’s Raymond Clark got the same tattoo Annie had. The tattoo artist said the currently missing and assumed alive Clark was emotional after she completed the work. While that (along with Annie’s missing cell phone in his possession) implicates Clark in Annie’s death, the symbol has far bigger meaning than anyone person.

Rust Cohle looks at a swirl of birds creating a symbol in True Detective

Rose said that ancient, crooked swirl is older than Ennis and maybe even the ice itself. It now connects to the town’s two investigations. One of the Tsalal station employees discovered in the snow had it drawn on his forehead. And it was prominently displayed in Clark’s spooky secret trailer, which looked like an outpost of season one’s Carcosa where so many victims met their end. A victim of the Yellow King’s followers is also where that logo first appeared on True Detective.

Murder victim Dora Lange had that exact, unexplained symbol on her back in True Detective‘s first episode ever. Her case was the origins for the entire series. It then appeared many more times in the show’s first year. It even made a reappearance in season three, which also had connections to season one.

Rust Cohle writes in his notebook near the corpse of a naked woman with antlers and a tattoo on her back in True Detective

The swirling symbol directly connects to season one’s Tuttle Family Cult. The group of pedophiles worshiped the “Yellow King” and sacrificed children. Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart investigated their heinous crimes. However, the the government and the press dismissed the detectives’ efforts to expose the powerful and politically connected cult.

The truth might finally come out now, though, because Night Country just made the Tuttle’s prime suspects in multiple murders again.

How True Detective: Night Country Connects to Season One’s Yellow King Cult

A swirling symbol in black on the roof of a trailer from True Detective: Night Country

Officer Peter Prior tracked down the organization funding the Tsalal station. The real funding, hidden behind a shell company, comes from Tuttle United. That mega-corporation does “everything” from glass and tech to video games, palm oil, and cruise liners. That information bored Chief Danvers, but not longtime viewers who know the Tuttle as a cult of pedophile child killers who wear scary animals masks as part of their rituals. In addition to their unnatural swirl, they also put handmade crowns of leaves, twigs, and antlers on their victims. They also made dolls to represent their heinous crimes. (That was another motif that appeared in the show’s third season, also centered around a child’s murder).

Danvers and Navarro found similar dolls, crowns, drawings, and the cult’s swirling symbol in Clark’s trailer. That inside of that frightening home in the snow wouldn’t have looked out of place in Louisiana where Cohle and Hart almost died in season one’s finale.

A frozen head with a swirling symbol on the forehead from True Detective: Night Country

That finale was the end of their story, but the two detectives never truly closed their case. They stopped a single murderer, but the Tuttle Family Cult never answered for their crimes. Now that same cult is funding strange, impossible work involving ancient microbes at an unusual research station at the far end of the world. It’s a place where men went out running naked in the snow and a cult’s logo adorns the wall of a potential killer’s secret home. It’s also a place where the ghost of Rust Cohle’s dad—whose corpse also brought Evangeline Navarro and Rose Aguineau together—was seen walking the ice locating the dead. And it’s a place that intimately connects True Detective‘s first and fourth seasons.

Maybe time really is a flat circle. If it is, it would contain all the evil in the world, from Louisiana to Alaska. Fortunately that means it also contains all the same detectives trying to do something about that evil. Them and their dead dads.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on   Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.

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