FORTITUDE: Episode 8 Review

Braaaaaaains, says Tony Fyler.

As the residents of frozen hellhole Fortitude wise up to the fact that something deeply weird is happening to their town, there’s a sense of the drama developing into something akin to the Scopes Monkey Trial. Is there a demon loose in the town, turning otherwise reasonable human beings into psychotic, focused killers? Or is there a more rational, bio-chemical explanation?

Both got a preliminary advance in this episode, with Michael Gambon’s Henry Tyson handing over his blood-filled totem to the now-released Liam Sutter (only to have it bleed all over father Frank’s hands) before going off, we assume to die his death in the icy wastes a couple of miles from his own front door, and the town’s forensic team finding more evidence of a chemical signature in the brain of a dead polar bear which had attacked and killed a bigger, more generally savage competitor. They find the same chemical built up in Shirley Allerdyce’s brain, in a scene which begins to remind viewers of the Saw or Hostel movies, bone skull-caps sawed through, brains sliced and removed while the corpse’s face is essentially pulled down like a pair of stretchy tights.

We’re in similarly horror movie territory at other points in the episode too – in between scenes of him rushing to help take care of Liam, Frank Sutter has Markus Huseklepp tied up in his own house, and he’s in fingernail-pulling, power drill-using, face-smashing mode as he tries to get Huseklepp to admit to bringing some creepazoid influence to bear on both Shirley and Liam to make them do what they did. It watches as the breakdown of reason, and a miniature version of the sort of psychotic breakdown much of the town might be prone to if the truth – whatever that turns out to be – were revealed to them.

Elsewhere in Fortitude, the Governor and her husband are having one of the most identifiably human and well-written conversations yet seen in the show, dealing not with demons or chemical psychotics, but with the disintegration of their marriage. Their planned glacier hotel appears to be a no-go too, as funding from the mainland is withdrawn. Ronnie Morgan – remember him? Everyone spent a whole episode looking for him because he was out of psychosis medication? – is not looking well, hidden somewhere closer than all the search teams are looking. Jessica Raine appears to have arrived on set for this episode uncertain which of her two career performances the material demanded; should she be grumpy posh girl, or awkwardly funny not-as-posh-as-all-that girl? I won’t spoiler the excitement for you.

As usual commanding attention by the internalized little he displays, Stanley Tucci’s DCI Morton is the figure actually pushing the plot along in this episode, with investigations into the bullets that killed Billy Pettigrew, and into a phot by Henry Tyson which seems to show a frame we’ve seen before, occupied by Pettigrew as he was killed. Again the sense pervades that there was some sort of conspiracy on Fortitude long before the death of Professor Stoddart in episode one. Nobody mentioned the mammoth again in this episode, but the idea we floated last time, of contaminants creeping into the water and snow of the area is referenced as a serious potential explanation for the psychofest the town is becoming. If the solution turns out to be pleasingly rational and based in chemistry though, clearly the mammoth is just a relatively recent additional to the supply of these contaminants – they’ve been affecting the reindeer population for a while, causing hermaphroditism and spontaneous abortions. Just to hedge the chemical betting, it’s also mentioned that local folklore says such hermaphroditism has been the result of a demon living in the herd. That’s an element that still troubles the viewer – in the case of chemical infection, we’d expect variety of behavior-pattern depending on the victim. But both Liam and Shirley appear to have acted within a pattern, and with specificity of purpose, meaning we could be into Twin Peaky, demon-haunted territory. An early line about the local cemetery including plague victims, and nothing decaying in the permafrost of the region, comes back to us, whether there’s a specific chemical explanation or a ludicrous demon-flavoured one.

Chemistry or demons? Rational science or irrational spirituality? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, the Fortitude Psycho Trial is winding up, as it continues to tease us with the question of what kind of show it actually is – The Killing Christmas Special, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tramadol. While taking every new episode on its merits, we’ve inadvertently sleepwalked through most of the series by now. Knuckle down, brace yourselves, try really hard to give a toss and we should have some sort of resolution almost before we know it.

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
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