FORTITUDE: Episode 5 Review

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Tony Fyler says don’t eat mammoth snow.


‘A [Spoilers Deleted]? A [Spoilers Deleted] killed Charlie? That’s what you’re telling me now?

That’s a line, fairly early in episode five of Sky Atlantic’s Lost Twin Peakathon, Fortitude, which pretty much sums up the viewer’s reaction to events in the first ten minutes. We’re very much in stretchy credibility territory here, but the show does at least show us something which seems to prove that indeed, yes, a [Spoilers Deleted] killed Professor Charlie Stoddart, played by Christopher Eccleston, back in episode one. Why such a thing would do that is left only vaguely hinted at. There’s a creepy bit of Twin Peakery which seems to lead us off into distinctly Lynchian territory, certainly, and a trickle of what can only be described as mammoth-juice going down the drain fires connections in the brain, makes us think about Dark Water, potentially polluted snow and a degree of ancient plague and possibly psychosis kept alive forever in the permafrost of the area.

Beyond the shock of the first ten minutes, and the joy of seeing Christopher Eccleston alive in flashback, watching Harvey on TV, and the first words spoken by Jimmy Stewart being ‘Oh Doctor…’, episode five is mainly crying, screaming, angst and creepiness. So no real change there then.

All three of the Sutters, Jules, Frank and Liam, have a rough ride in this episode. Michael Gambon’s Henry Tyson goes looking for a shaman and does something suitably melodramatic when he thinks he’s found one. And there’s some by-now regulation creepiness from Markus Huseklepp (Darren Boyd) and Shirley Allerdyce (Jessica Gunning), as he practically force feeds her to ‘stop her fading away to nothing,’ while keeping what look suspiciously like progress pictures of her increasing weight and unhealthiness. Meanwhile the man we’re expected to think of as a psychotic given his prescription, Ronnie Morgan, is still on the run with his daughter, and still – not another peep out of Sheriff Dan Anderssen about him, having spent most of episode four chasing all over the place for him to ensure the girl’s safety. There’s crying from her in this episode too, and a couple more dots join up – he touched the mammoth to saw its tusks off, then suddenly – and with very little exterior explanation, seemed to be bleeding from the hand, in a fairly frostbitten-looking way. In this episode, the ‘injury’ to his hand stops him jump-starting some transport for them, and then he roars and swears at his daughter. We wonder of course whether contact with the mammoth directly turns you psychotic, and then we wonder whether the person who killed Professor Stoddart went to investigate the creature before waking up, being creepy and setting about the scientist with a range of kitchen implements. Shirley Allerdyce, now we think about it, went and saw the mammoth…and now she’s falling ill – though whether that’s with Psycho Mammoth Fever or just Ice Cream Sickness, we’re not yet sure. We live in a degree of hope, it has to be said, that she wakes up in episode six and beats massive creepazoid Huseklepp to death with a kitchen timer shaped like a cow.

Among all the frozen sturm and ancient drang of this episode, we’re thankful as ever for the calm low-voiced, velvet-covered steel of Stanley Tucci’s DCI Morton, matched her by Richard Dorner’s Anderssen, who seems to have progressed from alcoholic potentially-muderous henchman of the Governor to actually quite reasonable bloke, despite the occasional jealousy-fuelled savage beating of suspects. Their cross-table police talk in this episode is a welcome respite from the blinding white outside scenery where people have a tendency to be monstrously unpleasant and psychotic to one another. True, most of it conforms to the Nordic crimewank pattern already long established – Morton’s meandering on Lockerbie in episode five seems to be going somewhere but is actually an expositional cul de sac. There’s a sense that he lets Dorner out-do him when describing the death of Billy Pettigrew, before cutting him dead and going to throw up his plate of Ludefisk.

In the case of the viewer vs the meaningless death of Billy Pettigrew, incidentally, there is progress. Annoyingly vague progress to be sure, but progress nonetheless.  Perhaps the answers lie beneath the floorboard in his room, some of which have recently been replaced – pause for dramatic music.

The thing is, the very first scene in Fortitude was of Billy Pettigrew getting shot in the head by Henry Morton – or so we’re lead to believe. Pettigrew, or whoever it was, was being eaten by a polar bear, though he’d already either passed out or died when Tyson shot him. If there’s more to Pettigrew’s death than has as yet met the eye and the answer lies beneath the floorboards, then what it means is that the production crew are keen to make us think some things by showing us what we think are circumstances inevitably leading to conclusions, and then pulling the rug from under us.

If that’s the case, maybe a [Spoilers Deleted] didn’t really kill Charlie after all. Onward, like a slog to the North Pole and back, we go, to find out a tiny bit more of what’s really going on in episode six…

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
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