FORTITUDE: Episode 11 Review

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Tony Fyler looks to the future.


We live in a flawed and imperfect universe.  There are probably theorems to prove this conclusively, whereas Fyler’s Theorem of Fortitude, Episode Eleven only suggests as much with a strong degree of likelihood. In anything but a flawed and imperfect universe, it would be impossible to write and screen a massively expensive, hugely drawn-out frozen miserablist drama series in which characters played by Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci die, while the character played by Jessica Raine survives right to the end. Right to the end and beyond, no less, as the astonishing news reaches us that oh yes, Fortitude will be back for a second series.

To be honest its continuation is confusing purely in plotting terms, since in episodes ten and eleven, we find out what’s the cause of the mystery, and a comprehensive action plan is formed to eradicate the scourge that makes miserable and unpleasant but otherwise harmless characters suddenly rip each other open and spew goo onto each other’s innards (If you’re just tuning in – welcome!). Throughout episode eleven, the Powers-That-Be know what’s causing the problem, so where a second series can go, dramatically, is a little unclear.

Granted, yes, there’s still a mammoth’s graveyard under the permafrost outside of town, and yes, there are still people presumably full of the contagion walking about town, and yes, there’s at least one thread in episode eleven that sees the development of the potential for a whole other run of what we eventually discover is going the hell on in the town. But where does it go from here? A lot more people have been killed than you can generally sweep under the carpet, and surely the solution to Darwin’s nightmare is either just around the corner, or will never be found. Is that the plot arc for Series 2, perhaps? An all-out species war?

To give it its due, episode eleven delivers in a fairly frenetic way the kind of action utterly missing from some of the series’ mid-range padding episodes. One self-immolation, one shooting, one clonk round the back of the head, one stabbing, one prissy little man-fight, one fall from some height and so on – yes it may be like the latter stages of the Saw franchise, but by jingo it passes the time. The thing is it passes at least six episodes worth of time in the space of a single hour, so actually trying to pinpoint what happened in the final episode is ridiculously tricky, for the opposite reason it was tricky in episodes four, five and six – there, very little of any consequence whatsoever actually happened, but it happened like Pinter, all glances, non-sequiturs and pauses that threatened to eat up the screen and the lifetime of viewers for no very good reason. Episode eleven, by contrast, is a Jason Statham movie – loud, fast, and going bang a lot for reasons that passeth the understanding of most viewers but which presumably made sense to a writer on the way to a pay cheque.

Don’t under any circumstances get me wrong – I’m a popcorn-slut, and I’d watch more Fortitude if it was all more like episode eleven. The only thing that gives me hope for a second series is that having done all the moody, what-the-hell-is-this stuff through most of this series, there’s now no excuse why a second series shouldn’t be more like episode eleven – more of a desperate battle against the forces of a nature that seems malign but isn’t, rather than all the intensely tiresome ‘I was a murderess years ago, but I don’t like to talk about it’ or ‘my father never loved me enough, even though he wasn’t really my father’ characterisation which bogged down most of this series.

So that’s episode eleven – people die, people live, people fall down shafts and shoot each other, things explode, things get burned to cinders with flamethrowers, all in a desperate quest to understand and destroy the threat that’s trapped on the island with them before it can infect them and kill them and pass itself on. More of that? Sure, if we must. Lose the ponderous intensity and write what you’ve finally decided the show should be – a hard-edged sci-fi show that slams man and a never-before-encountered enemy together in a quest for the same environment. That, like episode eleven, would be worth watching.

One thing though that remains particularly interesting is Liam Sutter. Having been infected, and having killed Professor Stoddart, he recovered spectacularly well from frostbite, and has now been charged with the job of Just Being Weird. We wonder whether, as opposed to the life cycles we saw in Shirley or Doctor Allerdyce, there’s some other alternative, grander evolution at work with Liam as the first victim. That has potential to evolve the threat as much as the character who falls down a shaft in episode eleven does.

Who’s up for finding out when Fortitude returns?

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 FylerWrites.co.uk
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