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True Detective Season 4: Welcome Back, Jodie Foster

Not that the small screen ever really went away, but it’s fair to say we’re in a televisual renaissance. After crowding around the water cooler to discuss your Lost theories or Breaking Bad’s latest shock death in the early naughties, we were then treated to epics including BoJack Horseman and Game of Thrones (well, for the first seven seasons). More recently, we’ve been spoiled with everything from The Fall of the House of Usher to The Bear

Each streaming service offers its own smorgasbord of must-watch TV, but when it comes to the undisputed king of gripping dramas and fantasy dramas, HBO has the competition licked. Boasting legends like The Sopranos and The Wire back in the day, HBO’s modern lineup has kept us well-fed with House of the Dragon, Euphoria, Succession, The Last of Us, Big Little Lies, and The White Lotus … and that’s just for openers.

As 2024 prepares another TV buffet, things are off to a flying start with the long-awaited return of True Detective. While some had given up on seeing a fourth season of the atmospheric anthology, there’s another case to solve in True Detective: Night Country. The series is known for its A-list cast, and sparing no expense Jodie Foster is taking the lead this time around. The Hollywood icon might be known for her Oscar-winning back catalogue, but now we ask: Is the Jodie Foster renaissance here?

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Silence of the Critics

Just as most outstanding TV shows never go away forever, Foster has far from retired from Tinsel Town. Nor is True Detective strictly speaking her comeback (speaking of which, you need to watch HBO’s The Comeback with Lisa Kudrow). But Foster’s latest part starring as Liz Danvers, the troubled Chief of Police in Ennis, Alaska, feels like an evolution of her curriculum vitae

Starting out in a Coppertone ad at the age of just three, Foster has been treading the boards since 1965, but she really found her fame as a child prostitute Iris Steensma in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. Dark outings have always been in Foster’s blood, and alongside her transition into adult roles playing rape survivor Sarah Tobias in The Accused, she was immortalized as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Despite being faced with the seemingly impossible task of outshining Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, Foster held her own and rightly earned an Academy Award for Best Actress. She has always been more than just an actor; back before Demme was attached to The Silence of the Lambs, she’d wanted to purchase the film rights herself — citing Clarice Starling as a “real female heroine.”

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We’d like to imagine the gritty murder mystery of Night Country as a natural evolution of Foster’s time as Clarice, especially since she stepped away from Starling and left Julianne Moore to practice her West Virginia accent for 2001’s Hannibal. The BBC reported that Foster felt the script betrayed what The Silence of the Lambs established with Clarice, but the official stance is that she was working on the (never released) Flora Plum

Things come full circle with Danvers having many similarities to Starling–but also many notable differences. The fresh-faced The Silence of the Lambs character was still wet behind the ears back then, whereas Danvers is a hardened veteran of the force, someone Foster describes as “Alaska Karen” to The New York Times. As Silence put a strong woman up against a potentially overpowering male, Foster hyped Night Country as making space for “women who are as changeable, difficult and complicated as the men.” It’s seemingly part of what lured her to the series. 

 “We’re not really used to seeing women like that,” she says. 

Welcome back

Foster as Chief Liz Danvers IHBO) and Agent Clarice Starling (Orion)

The truth is that Jodie Foster’s never been too far outside our eyeline, but aside the odd narration and voice work, or playing Maggie Simpson in a single episode of The Simpsons, True Detective marks her first time back on television since she played the titular Dearing in 1975’s The Secret Life of T. K. Dearing

Foster has also eschewed the silver screen in recent years, with her last big budget release having been 2013’s middling Elysium. Hotel Artemis failed to get a buzz going three years later, and her acclaimed performance in The Mauritanian flew under the radar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while you may remember her from thrillers including Panic Room and Flightplan, fewer will recall she’s had a lucrative career behind the camera. 

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Having directed episodes of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, Foster kept things macabre with the Black Mirror episode, “Arkangel.” It’s also easy to forget that she directed 2016’s Money Monster to reunite George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It’s about time saw flex her acting chops again, and we can’t think of a better followup than an HBO show as renowned as True Detective

So what brought her back? Foster says she was originally reluctant to play Danvers because she didn’t see herself in the part, despite the anthology series kickstarting her love of streaming shows. Thankfully, showrunner and Night Country writer Issa López made a few tweaks and explained (via The Express), “We talked a bit and she started speaking about a character full of flaws.” Saying that Foster is “honest and she doesn’t bullsh*t,” López claims she made the character an a**hole on Foster’s request.

But this isn’t a one-woman show by any means, with Night Country boasting a rounded cast of complex characters destined to butt heads with the openly racist Danvers. We’re also excited to see Kali Reis as Danvers’ work partner, state trooper Evangeline Navarro. The vibe’s reminiscent of Kate Winslet and Evan Peters in Mare of Easttown, which is another HBO banger that saw an Oscar winner turn to television. Following an Honorary Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement after co-starring alongside the equally beloved Annette Bening in Nyad, Foster taking the lead in something as massive as True Detective just feels correct.

The HBO effect

Foster and costar Kali Reis in True Detective: Night Country. HBO

HBO shows are often noteworthy for their star-studded casts, with Westworld known for Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, and Thandiwe Newton. Matthew Macfadyen is no longer remembered as Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, but rather will be forever immortalized as Succession’s Tom Wambsgans, while The White Lotus Season 2 reminded us why The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli is so great. 

As with all the above, True Detective has become an unlikely home for some of the biggest names around. Aside from the obvious of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson playing Rust Cohle and Marty Hart in Season 1, the second season saw Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Rachel McAdams join this bleak universe. While Season 3 had more of a star on the rise than an established Hollywood regular there’s no escaping the acting prowess of Mahershala Ali and his meteoric climb since. 

Considering most had parked the idea of True Detective Season 4, the choice of Jodie Foster as the lead is a great way to lure back naysayers (a bit like casting Kim Kardashian in American Horror Story Season 12) as even if you weren’t convinced, you’ll likely tune in to see whether Foster still has it. HBO has something of a magic touch with bringing back familiar famous faces, while Night Country has the potential to give Foster a boost similar to Jennifer Coolidge’s trajectory after The White Lotus

In the same way that Night Country is clearly, thematically the next chapter of the True Detective story, giving us a supernatural vibe with a homage to 30 Days of Night and The Thing, its elements of dark, grisly horror, and swapping of women for men in traditionally masculine roles, feels like snippets of Foster’s work so far stitched together into something that’s at once familiar yet different enough to intrigue. Only time will tell whether Liz Danvers will be the next Rust Cohle, but with True Detective hoping to return to its early highs, the Jodie Foster renaissance we pondered up top might be just over the snow-capped horizon.

Fair to say, we’re here for it. 


Based in Manchester, UK, Tom Chapman has over seven years’ experience covering everything from dragons to Demogorgons. Starting out with a stint at Movie Pilot in Berlin, Tom has since branched out to indulge his love of all things Star Wars and the MCU at Digital Spy, Den of Geek, IGN, Yahoo! and more. These days, you’ll find Tom channelling his inner Gale Weathers and ranting about how HBO did us dirty with Game of Thrones Season Eight.




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