TV Reviewer Katie Young dodges the incoming polar bear army and reviews episode two of Sky’s chiller Fortitude…
After the events of the mammoth (pun intended) premiere, this week’s follow up felt glacial by comparison, as Fortitude’s residents dealt with the news of Stoddart’s death.
With both DCI Morton and Dan Anderssen investigating the murder and everyone acting strangely, the eye of suspicion is a roving one. Jason’s hasty retreat with Natalie to the cabin doesn’t look good for either of them, although Natalie’s expertise has bought her a stay of execution while she determines the authenticity of the mammoth’s tooth found in Jason’s pocket. Of course, no one knows there is an entire carcass thawing out in a nearby shed…
Jason’s would-be partner in crime, Ronnie, is also acting guiltily, trying to flee the town with his daughter under cover of night. And Hildur shows a side colder than the Arctic landscape when she offers Henry a reprieve from exile in exchange for information, before taunting him with the fact he will suffer a lonely death on the mainland when he can’t or won’t tell her what she wants to hear.
Hildur is aware that things look bad for her, with Stoddart set to scupper her plans for a tourist retreat before his death, and her subterfuge in this episode suggests she has plenty to hide, even if she wasn’t directly involved in the scientist’s murder.
Sheriff Anderssen isn’t out of the frame either, with his knack of being present just as very bad things are about to happen. While he and Morton may have reached a truce, I suspect both men have very different agendas.
This week’s episode certainly did nothing to clear up any of the questions posed in the opener. We know that Fortitude is basically an Arctic swingers’ club, and that not all of the inhabitants are aware of the extent of the sexual shenanigans going on. Stoddart’s widow, Trish (who has the best alibi of all, having been on the flight with Morton), has been seeing Hildur’s husband behind her back. Frank and Elena are continuing their affair despite Frank’s guilt over his son’s frostbite. Dan also seems to be infatuated with the Spanish beauty, often lurking outside her door before changing his mind and scarpering. And Natalie’s comment that people get close when it’s cold suggests married Jason isn’t the only person she’s been snuggling up to. Yet jealousy doesn’t seem like a viable motive for murder in this frosty environment.
In fact, that is one of the main problems I have with Fortitude. The coolness of the characters is making it very hard to invest emotionally in any of them or their relationships. The mystery of Stoddart’s death is compelling enough for the time being, and juicy morsels of detail such as there being plague victims buried in the permafrost are very tantalising. But I’m finding it difficult to root for any of the townsfolk. While Stanley Tucci is charismatic as Morton, and Luke Treadaway brings vulnerability and likeability to Vincent, both are outsiders. I pretty much agreed with the lovely Vincent when he voiced a desire to get out of town after his release from custody. We’re constantly told that Fortitude is a special and otherworldly place and, by extension, so are the inhabitants, but they just seem…well kind of dull and indifferent.
Natalie tells Vincent that Fortitude is “neither good nor bad”, which is exactly what she said about Dan Anderssen last week. She also calls the place “vivid, unsullied and wild”, again suggesting it is some kind of liminal space, yet there’s little evidence in this episode to support that. After the premiere, I thought perhaps the town and its surroundings were actively hostile, a little like the sea in J.A. Lindqvist’s novel Harbour. But apart from the revelation that there might be nasty diseases preserved in the ice and the strange rabbit references (Stoddart was watching the movie Harvey when he was killed and Ronnie’s daughter allegedly has a rabbit in her bag), there was hardly any of the eerie ambiguity which flavoured the premiere in this episode. While the series looks beautiful and the sweeping white vistas are stunning, Fortitude as a place doesn’t yet feel like a character in and of itself.
Still, it’s early days. I really want to love Fortitude, and I’m curious to see where it’s headed. But there’s something missing, something I can’t quite put my finger on. I can’t help but feel that if this show is to make good on the promise of the opening episode, it needs to find a beating heart under the icy façade.