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True Detective: Night Country Episode 5 Pays Homage To A Major Real-World Mystery

"True Detective: Night Country" Episode 5, "Part 5," is one intense penultimate episode. Death and tension run rampant throughout, and in the end, Detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) finally make their way toward the hyped ice caves ... which may or may not lead into the mysterious "Night Country" that gives the season its name. While it's easy to miss among all the grief, struggle, and patricide, the episode also contains a subtle nod to the Dyatlov Pass incident, a real-life event that makes everything even creepier than before.

The Dyatlov Pass incident is an infamous 1959 mystery in which a group of nine hikers died on the Kholat Saykl mountain in Russia. Seemingly, they cut themselves out from their tent and escaped into the snowy wilderness with barely any clothes and were found all around the nearby area, some with strange and horrific injuries. Over the years, there have been multiple theories of what happened to the group, ranging from natural forces to the paranormal. One of the more convincing is that a slab avalanche partially buried their tent and forced them to flee into the night.

In "Part 5," Anchorage's autopsy deems the Tsalal station scientists' deaths the result of ... a slab avalanche, an Easter egg that seems custom-designed to connect the Tsalal incident to the Dyatlov Pass one, adding yet another layer to the season's tendency to blur the lines between the normal and the supernatural.

Showrunner Issa López has been open about her fascination with the Dyatlov Pass incident

For viewers who have been paying attention to the people behind "True Detective: Night Country," it might not come as a surprise that the season references the Dyatlov Pass incident. After all, showrunner Issa López hasn't exactly been hiding her fascination with this particular mystery. She also treats the avalanche theory with roughly the same amount of suspicion as Liz Danvers does on the show.

"An avalanche doesn't explain a lot of the details I think," López said in an interview with Vanity Fair. "Even if it did, I prefer the strange, incomplete answer. I think there is a fascination with puzzles that are still missing a couple of pieces, and that obsess us, and make us angry, and make us not stop thinking about them."

López's embrace of the incomplete fits very well with "True Detective: Night Country" and its tendency to walk the line between the known and the unknown without fully embracing either ... which, of course, is something the series has already played with in "True Detective" Season 1. Danvers might be asking all the right questions — but she lives in a world where conclusive answers are rare.