Season 4 of True Detective, Night Country, is the most supernatural yet of HBO's detective anthology series.
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Fans of the hit series are probably skeptical of online rumors claiming that Season 4 is inspired by real events.
It should be noted that Season 4 of True Detective is not directly based on a true story. It is a full-fledged work of fiction, not a historical drama. Even so, the fourth series of the HBO series is largely inspired by a real-life tragedy: the Diatlov incident, writes escapistmagazine.com.
A bizarre event never conclusively explained, the Dyatlov Pass incident involved the deaths of nine Soviet hikers in 1959. Some members of the group died of gruesome injuries—think missing eyeballs and tongues—while others they died of hypothermia. None of them were found properly dressed for the freezing conditions as they apparently ran from their tent in panic.
If all of this sounds familiar, it's because it mirrors much of what happens in the first three episodes of season 4 of True Detective. Here, several workers at Tsalal Research Station die after soaring naked in the Alaskan wilderness. On the way, they suffer strange injuries, not unlike those associated with the Diatlov incident. Even a stray tongue shows up at the research station (though it's related to a separate crime).
The only detail that Issa López, the producer of the season, added was “Corpsicles”,
a gruesome pile of corpses frozen together. In reality, the poor souls caught up in the Diatlov incident left behind eight distinct, separate bodies.
Nor is the Diatlov incident the only source of inspiration for True Detective Season 4. López and his team also borrow elements from the (somewhat exaggerated) legend of the Mary Celeste. If you're unfamiliar with maritime mysteries, the Mary Celeste was a merchant ship whose crew apparently disappeared similar to how the Tsalal workers disappear in the season 4 debut episode.
Other than that, True Detective: Night Country has other pop culture influences as its main influences. These include Ridley Scott's Alien, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and John Carpenter's The Thing—all of which López listed in a recent interview with AV Club.
The fourth season of True Detective also makes frequent references to its own first season, which was partly inspired by the 1895 short story collection The King in Yellow.