FORTITUDE: Episode 9 Review

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Just shoot me then, begs Tony Fyler.


Damn you, Fortitude, episode nine. Damn you all the way to a frozen-over hell and back. You made me do something I swore I’d never, ever do. You made me agree with Jessica ‘Dead Eyes McNoSoul’ Raine.

This is not something I will forget in a hurry.

There’s a moment in episode nine where Jules Sutter, having apparently had the get-out clause of chemical infection snatched away from her, takes her utterly creepy child to the airport, only to discover it’s been shut down just moments earlier. When threatened by an armed deputy, Sutter, played by Raine, and presumably faaaaaairly close to a nervous breakdown, yells ‘Just shoot me then!’

Which, having come through nine of the eleven episodes of this snowblind Twin Peaks update, is sort of how we feel too.

In this episode, it’s not just Raine who’s in danger of getting a bullet. At least two other characters are on the wrong end of a weapon, and one of them ends up being very, very dead. There are dead or really actively dying men hidden behind doors; creepy, potentially infected/demonic blokes bleeding in bathtubs for reasons we don’t yet understand and then jumping out of windows to schlepp across town; there’s continuing creepazoid Markus Huseklepp appearing to nick his girlfriend’s lobotomized corpse from cold storage and give it a Viking funeral. At least a couple of characters appear to be on the verge of nervous breakdowns in this episode too, but hoorah and hallelujah – the ground-penetrating radar image that Billy Pettigrew took, and which has been wafting about the place for a while now, is finally interpreted, so we can tick that off our list of loose ends. It’s possible the interpretation of the data might have something fairly hefty to do with the psychofest among the local wildlife, and it might also tie in to the handful of horrifying murders among the town’s human inhabitants too.

Who knows? The tests on Liam Sutter’s spinal fluid come back confusing, and he appears to still be Weirdo #1 in a town full of people where apparently, being a nice human being is against the rules.

This is the point about Fortitude – it dangles clues this way and that, and viewers stick with it to see which, if any of them, turn out to have been valid in any way. Of course, whichever way it’s resolved, it’s now set to disappoint a lot of people, because the clues have been reasonably evenly distributed between a chemical solution and something altogether weirder, so one way or another, a lot of people will raise their hands and ask ‘But what about…’ before reeling off a lot of loose ends. Not for nothing, but we haven’t seen the Russian guys who seemed to be so threatening for at least a couple of episode, and the drama’s constructed so loosely that we don’t believe they’re just off having their own life in another part of the town – it actively feels like they’ve been shuffled out of the way until another paper-thin conspiracy is needed, when they can be wheeled out and pointed at like pantomime villains again.

We’re not sure whether the revelations in this episode are actually relevant to something like the death of Billy Pettigrew, and if so, how that could remotely be the case, but there are at least a couple of biggies, and there seems to have been a turning point for Sheriff Dan Andersson at least, whose characterization has remained opaque throughout. That will be the plot you’re looking at, groaning ever onward toward a big sign painted ‘The End’ – possibly in the mingled blood of all the townsfolk.

We’re also not sure what point some characters still have in the story, leading to the uncomfortable sensation of watching a drama in which people have been shown to die in some pretty gruesome ways, and really wishing a few more would bite the bullet before the end. Elena, who spends much of this episode whispering at a child’s bedroom door, we could cheerfully lose to a polar bear attack. Huseklepp, while a good personification by Darren Boyd, could be done with now – would it really have stretched credulity any further for him to have jumped on the burning boat with Shirley? Every single one of the Sutters could be trampled to squishy raspberry jam-death by a mammoth and our Thursdays would only get brighter. Perversely, some of the characters we most disliked or distrusted back at the start, including the Governor, are positively welcome now by comparison.

This surely can’t be what Sky Atlantic planned as a viewer-reaction to its most expensive original drama – with two episodes to go, people vaguely fantasizing about the gruesome deaths of more characters. But that’s an inevitable consequence of a gruesome murder series in which nobody is really especially likeable at all. We’re not asking for shiny happy people, just characters that give us something back for the effort of investing in their lives or stories. This week saw the death of a character whose point in the whole thing has been mystifying from episode one, embodied by an actor better than the material they were given. We’d love to be able to tell you we cared when the character died, that the actor had managed to imbue them with some reason to give a toss – but the hooks simply weren’t in the writing, so we just scratched them off our list of things to talk about, rather than feeling any emotional lurch at their passing.

Episode ten looks like giving us more insight into the death of Billy Pettigrew - another character that for all the talk about him has given us little in the way of reasons to care about his presumably massively unpleasant death. And that’s the nub of the issue – this intense, character-packed drama has long stopped being about the characters. Now we’re grimly holding on to find out what is actually going on, while a lot of actors who are better than the material collect a chilly but agreeably bulky wage packet.

Grab your snow shoes, there’s not long to go, and who knows? The massacre could be just around the corner.

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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