TV Review – Fortitude: Season 1, Episode 3

Fortitude

Katie Young stays in the cold as she continues the reviews of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude. This week episode three…

Everyone’s a suspect this week, as the inhabitants of Fortitude and their relationships seem to be unravelling somewhat in the aftermath of Stoddart’s death.

Morton is being stalked by the mysterious and potty-mouthed Russian, Yuri, who is after a survey conducted by the late Mr. Pettigrew before he got munched by a polar bear and shot in the head by Henry Tyson. Yuri is later quizzed by police officer Eric, but pretends he can’t speak English.

Ingrid confides to boss, Dan Anderssen, that she cannot sleep for seeing Stoddart’s body in her mind’s eye. Dan is also suffering from insomnia, but his appears to have more to do with the jealousy consuming him after he learns of Frank’s affair with Spanish temptress, Elena.

Meanwhile, the hunt is on for Ronnie and daughter Cassie, as police discover Ciaran beaten, tied up and minus a boat, and find medicine prescribed for psychosis at Ronnie’s home. Ronnie is trying to reach the mainland, and decides to sell a tusk from the mammoth carcass in order to raise the airfare. Who exactly he intends to sell it to is anyone’s guess.

Henry also succumbs to mania, running amok with a rifle in a taxidermist’s. He asks Dan to shoot him, have him stuffed, and stand him in the airport as a deterrent to anyone venturing into the frozen town, but later denies having made the call to police about the Pettigrew and Stoddart deaths when he’s grilled by Morton.

The charismatic DCI also quizzes Hildur, suggesting it is equally likely that Stoddart was the victim of a government conspiracy to get the ice hotel built or murdered by a frenzied acquaintance. And there’s more trouble for Hildur when Stoddart’s widow, Trish, finds out that the governor has procured the report her late husband didn’t have time to amend in light of his new discovery. Trish also knows about the deleted voicemail, and intends to leave Fortitude. A thousand Icelandic Krona says she’ll be polar bear fodder before long.

Over at the research facility, Jules keeps vigil at Liam’s bedside, and Natalie reveals that the tooth found on Jason is 32,000 years old. Despite Vincent’s best attempt to catch him out, Jason denies that the tooth is from the local area, insisting it’s an heirloom from his grandfather. But before Natalie can retire after a tough day’s carbon dating, Eric finds Frank’s bloody shirt, and she is tasked with finding out if the blood is ‘animal or human’.

I’m no forensics expert, but wouldn’t a tiny, remote town in the Arctic, where people are not even allowed to die, have DNA profiles of all the people living there on file? It seems very unlikely that Dan would storm up to Elena’s hotel room and beat a naked, showering Frank to a pulp based on the circumstantial evidence that he had human blood on his shirt before ascertaining whose blood. Of course, the real reason for the sheriff’s rage is his infatuation with Elena, a woman apparently so irresistibly hot that the polar bears around Fortitude are going to find themselves glacier-less long before global warming does its thing. But even so, Anderssen’s lack of professionalism is absurd.

There’s something almost gothic in flavour about this episode. The remote town can be seen as a sort of prison (both Ronnie and Trish wish to leave but are unable to), and its inhabitants are all harbouring secrets under surveillance. Morton is the ‘watcher’, a detective from the outside world, but the townsfolk are also scrutinising each other – and him.

But if the aesthetic of the hanging animal remains, surrounded by howling dogs, and the preoccupation with bed-hopping and deteriorating mental stability add to this dark, decadent sensibility, the script and characterisation unfortunately do not. Creepy Markus comes off as someone from a Channel 4 documentary about feeders (it probably doesn’t help that he’s played by lovely comic actor, Darren Boyd and I keep expecting his scenes to turn into a Smack the Pony sketch), and at points, Morton’s wry manipulation of his suspects and constant coffee stirring stray into Columbo territory.

While the question of who killed Charlie Stoddart, and how this relates to Pettigrew’s ‘accident’ is still tantalising, and the scenery is still stunning, I’m having real issues getting my grappling hooks into any of the characters. The extent of the adulterous shenanigans is bordering on silly, and I am having trouble buying that any of these people like each other, let alone love passionately enough to kill one another. Aside from Vincent (a woefully underused Luke Treadaway), Morton, and Ingrid, no one in Fortitude is remotely likable or relatable. And speaking of wasted talent, I’m intrigued to see if Ramon Tikaram’s taxidermist is going to make a reappearance at some point.

The various plot strands and mysteries do seem to be knitting together, but Fortitude must give us a way to connect with the numerous players if we are to fully engage with this frosty bunch.

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