FORTITUDE: Episode 4 Review

Tony Fyler gets his thermals on.


Well, it’s moving all of a sudden, you have to say that for it. After starting off as sedate as a glacier full of horrid people, Sky Atlantic’s frozen drama Fortitude is actually starting to get somewhere. This week, it picked up the thread of the blood-stained T-shirt, confused the bejeesus out of people with the psychotic on the run, revealed a demented hidden past with staggeringly red Arctic herring potential for one character, got hugely teenage and angsty with Sheriff Andersson, advanced the story of the frostbitten kid, and got particularly odd and creepy with Allerdyce and Huseklepp, serving up whale to the uptight medical-women mother-in-law, and then feeding the well-built Allerdyce with ice-cream by the spoonful to make her ‘ever more beautiful’ in an attempt to make sure they can be ‘closer than anyone’. Personally, we’re calling cannibalism.

There’s still quite a hefty degree to which Fortitude is still an overbaked, underjuiced slab of pretentious Nordcrime wank, but as it develops into what already begins to feel like the padding-filled mid-section, there are at least signs of movement, signs of development – if only to fill in the middles of events by which we’ve been mystified already – the mammoth, the killing of Professor Stoddart, the continuing career of Jessica ‘Dead Eyes’ Raine and so on. The new mysteries being unveiled or seeded – hermaphroditic reindeer foetuses, the Sutter kid erupting in blood, then recovering, psychotic Ronnie Morgan still being on the run and, despite being the focus of much of episode three, no-one appearing to give a toss about him or the girl throughout the whole of episode four, and the faint suggestion that exposure to the mammoth makes you ill, or nuts, or possibly both – are all pointless plot-balls to juggle until or unless proven otherwise. Then there’s the Governor, her husband the cop and Mrs Stoddart.

Was there an ulterior motive for the Governor to remove Professor Stoddart’s last message from his wife’s mobile phone (beyond, potentially, the small matter of having killed him or ordered him killed because he was threatening not to let her hotel project go ahead)? There seems to be either an existing or a developing fondness between the Governor’s husband and the Professor’s widow, and again we’re not sure whether that stink is the massive red herring in the room or the dead mammoth.

Two episodes ago, we didn’t care. But now… now we’re four episodes in, and dammit if the thing hasn’t hooked us just a little bit. Yes it’s a mad mammoth’s mixture of ingredients – Nordic grimness, noirish pauses, generally unlikeable characters doing generally unpleasant things to one another, and a bumper fun pack of conspiracy drama elements that feel like they’ve been collected by rooting through the rubbish bins of Lost and Twin Peaks, but at this point, we’re willing at least some of it to make sense by the end – and even though it fills the week with a kind of apprehension rather than a joy, a sense of ‘Oh hell, it’s Thursday isn’t it?’, enough madness is thrown at you in episode four to make it impossible to turn back from. If you invested in Lost, you’ll know what we mean: after four episodes, Fortitude has that kind of ‘Dammit, I’ve got to see what actually happened now’ grim determination hook that’ll take you through to the end of the season. So if you don’t want to get invested, look away now, before the creepy couple really get started, and before characters you thought were mostly filler turn out to have spent seven years in jail for killing a man with a pair of scissors. Before the sheriff goes gooey and the Governor goes stalky and the lab techs prove what kind of blood was on the T-shirt and before nobody mentions the psycho with the daughter for a whole episode, or explains the pig, or talks about polar bears. If you want an exit, this is it. Otherwise, put your thermals on and let’s sit in Fortitude together, drinking liquid gravel or Arctic vodka, and find out what the hell is going on.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at
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