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Tanya Tagaq Plays a Pivotal Role in 'True Detective' Season Finale

The Inuk artist provides vocals for the HBO series' soundtrack, and her song "Submerged" scores a pivotal moment in the season finale, in which she appears as an actress.

Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq

Katrin Naleid

The new season of True Detective wrapped up this weekend, and timed with the tense final episode, HBO also released the show's gripping soundtrack. Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq, one of the most celebrated contemporary musicians in Canada, contributed to seven songs on the soundtrack as well as making appearances in the show herself.

Subtitled Night Country, the fourth season of the HBO detective show takes place in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska. It stars Jodie Foster and Kali Reis as Liz Danvers and Evangeline Navarro, two police officers trying to figure out how the recent bizarre deaths of six scientists are linked to the murder of Iñupiaq activist Annie Kowtok. Through its mystery framing, the show explores themes like colonial violence, environmental destruction, and missing and murdered Indigenous women.


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While the score was primarily composed by British composer Vince Pope, Tagaq's vocal work and throat singing add power to Pope's compositions. Tagaq is listed as a featured artist on six tracks on the soundtrack, and is the sole artist credited on "Tanya's Lullaby," a beautiful composition where Tagaq's voice is layered to ghostly effect.

Tagaq had an impact on the series in more ways than one. She appears as an actress in the show, playing a doula, and her family's names also provided inspiration for two of the series' characters. Danvers and Navarro visit a fisherman named Oliver Tagaq in one episode. Navarro also periodically spends the night with a sweet bartender named Qavvik, a version of Tagaq's daughter's name. Tagaq thanked season four showrunner Issa López for including the names in the show.

Tagaq also had a pivotal role in the show's finale. Spoilers below!

During a key scene where Danvers and Navarro learn how the scientists died — or at least how they ended up frozen into what Danvers sardonically calls, a "corpsicle" — Tagaq's song "Submerged" begins to blare, soundtracking a rousing moment of revelation. We learn that the scientists were taken out onto the ice by a group of Iñupiat women in response to Annie's murder. Tagaq herself shows up amongst the group, during a hard-hitting moment made all the more impactful by her music.

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True Detective: Night Country, though critically acclaimed, has been lambasted by some online, subject to "review bombing" on Rotten Tomatoes (a practice often directed at projects led by and starring women). Others have criticized the show for falling into copaganda — police propaganda — and glamorizing police violence.

But the finale is successful because it drives home that in this story, the police could never be heroes. Danvers and Navarro have been trying to find Annie's killer, only to find out that the Iñupiat women have already avenged her. They've been too late all along. Their job, in the end, is not to make arrests and save the day, but to listen to the story that the Iñupiat women, soundtracked by Tagaq, choose to share.

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Kid Cudi performs onstage during Weekend 2 - Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 21, 2024 in Indio, Calif.
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

Kid Cudi performs onstage during Weekend 2 - Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 21, 2024 in Indio, Calif.

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