After the feature-length first episode, the future of Fortitude on my Sky planner pretty much depended on it going somewhere, fairly fast, in Episode 2.
Well, so much for that then.
Fortitude, Episode 2, went precisely nowhere, and it went there with the same painful slowness as Episode 1, though mercifully over only half the time, clocking in at the regulation one hour.
The actual amount of nothing-very-much that happened in Episode 2 is hard to precisely quantify – some people talked to some other people about the same things they discussed with original people in Episode 1. A guy who’s been in all likelihood wrongfully arrested was mistreated and then put back in his cell. The wife of a professor (who may or may not have been killed because of some discovery over what may or may not yet prove to be a mammoth, but bloomin’ well looks like one from its remains) was mistreated by the town’s governor, and her final tangible contact with her dead husband erased. A couple of people who were both in the first episode, but had had no reason on earth to meet each other, met each other. A search and rescue man (whose son had gotten frostbite while he, the dad, was out having grunty, barely-naked-cos-it’s-cold-outside sex with the Spanish woman who works in the local hotel) did some weeping and soul-searching and then, abruptly, given the opportunity to get back inside the Spanish hotel-woman, decided ‘Ah, frostbite, Schmostbite, he’ll be fine’.
There were a couple of other affairs revealed, though nothing as frankly baffling as the sauna scene in Episode 1, and there was what feels heavy-handedly like a bit of a Lost-ism – “No-one’s allowed to die here, or be buried here.” At first when you hear it, you think “Well, that’s clearly mad,” so it was underscored twice with extra heaviness of fist – bodies in the graveyard still have plague in them, because the permafrost is a biological cryo-pod, and Henry, Michael Gambon’s character who exists largely to be dying of cancer, will have to take his final curtain alone, probably miserable, and on the mainland, away from most of the people on Fortitude he appears to radically dislike in any case.
Among all this frozen freakshow fun moved Stanley Tucci’s DCI Morton – still without a plausible explanation for his arrival in good time, though given a stab at one here to at least tide us over. He remains the one bright spot of warmth and movement in a drama that feels like that most insidious of conditions – televisual frostbite. Most of the people here appear to be either actively unpleasant or sadly shrugworthy, and you’re aching for a whirlwind of personality to shake them up and go ‘You’re mad, you’re a crook, you’re a drunk, you’ve got frostbite, you’re a mammoth, you’re dead, you’re dying, you’re all nicked, even the dead bloke, now come along with me and the world can get on with its business.’ Tucci’s performance is far too understated to give us that sense of satisfaction (ten more episodes to go, folks. Yes, really. Imagine what you could do with ten hours…), but simply by virtue of calling some people out, not being bound by the sense of Arctic grimness ad wearing a good coat, Morton becomes instantly the person you want to see in each scene. He’s our hope, our lifeline through this otherwise increasingly solid, silent icefest full of really good actors.
Fortitude, Episode 3 comes our way this week. I’m predicting more talking, more police brutality, a bit of political chicanery, nobody giving a toss about the feelings of Professor Stoddart’s wife, Henry being miserable and needling some people, some further confusion over whether the damned mammoth is a mammoth, possibly resulting in another death, absolutely no explanation of the pig from Episode 1, Jessica Raine getting a chance to do some screaming and the whole thing being infused by a creepy ice-bound misanthropy as a substitute for meaning or moving the hell along.
Which I suppose means when the aliens arrive, you can all point at me and laugh at my lack of faith. At least for now though, I can’t help feeling Fortitude has missed its mark – it’s clearly aimed at an adult audience, but by the time you’re part of an adult audience, surely even my geekbrothers and nerdsisters have got better, warmer, more personally nourishing things to do than watch people go slowly stark raving mad in relative silence in the Arctic. Quite apart from anything else, if you do want to watch people go slowly stark raving mad in relative silence in the Arctic, the Top Gear Polar Special has been available on DVD for years, and has the added bonus of watching Jeremy Clarkson suffer.
…I’ve scared myself now. I’ve just recommended watching Jeremy Clarkson as something better to do than watching a show with a lot of really good actors and Jessica Raine in. This can’t be allowed to continue. Come on, Fortitude, Episode 3 – give us a reason to give a damn, please! For the love of all that’s geeky, give us something.
Tony Fyler 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 FylerWrites.co.uk