Fortitude‘s overhyped first two episodes have left me feeling – Nordic noir? More like Nordic Meh!
This one-off series (which, no doubt if ratings do well will get commissioned for another), is set in a fictional town in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, above the Arctic circle – so, cue a character looking at the Northern Lights in episode one and being surprised by them. Filming was done in both Iceland and, when the character wanted to suffer really extreme cold weather – the UK.
In fact, it snowed heavily in the North on the day the first two episodes premiered and caused a load of travel chaos, so it made me wonder if someone was trying to drum up even more hype for this than the endless trailers we’ve seen!
Expect spoilers in this review, by the way…
The first episode begins with Henry (Michael Gambon) spotting a a polar bear chewing on an unfortunate Billy Pettigrew (Tam Dean Burn), and, whilst looking horrified, aims to shoot the bear, but accidentally hits the man square in the head and blows his brains out. Oops! But don’t despair as local sheriff, Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer – who has a look of Bryan Cranston about him) appears out of nowhere and tells him to go home and leave it all to him to deal with. Alas, he didn’t do a brilliant job because some kids stumble across the remains three months on, making one of them, Liam Sutter (Darwin Brokenbro), ill.
As we get introduced to the characters, we find out Henry is dying, while Liam’s father, Frank (Nicholas Pinnock), works for search and rescue within the police and is also having an affair with Elena (Verónica Echegui), Governor Hildur Odegard (The Killing‘s Sofie Gråbøl) is concerned with keeping tourism continuing on the glacier, expecting Charlie Stoddart’s (Christopher Eccleston) governmental report will allow her new hotel project to go ahead, but suddenly the grisly discovery of a mysterious diseased carcass might throw all of that out. Meanwhile, Jason Donnelly (Aaron McCusker) and Ronnie Morgan (Johnny Harris) are the two men going about with the carcass remains trying to find out how much it’s worth, even though Stoddart tells them it’s not something they should legally be profiting from.
By the end of the episode, Liam is facing amptutation for frostbitten toes, whilst his mother, Jules (Jessica Raine) suspects Frank is up to no good because he clearly went out and left Liam at home, so she’s assumed the worst… which we know is right because Frank was seen nobbing Elena in private.
Also, it’s worse than that, he’s dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead, Jim, it’s worse than that… Stoddart’s been murdered! Butchered by a bear, as his stomach looks like it’s erupted all over the place, while and new arrival Vincent (Luke Treadaway) is instantly arrested by the police, even though we know he went to the man’s house with a bottle of wine.
Earlier on, it was rather unnerving to see that when a couple of arctic trekkers are seen by the Frank Sutter and Dan Anderssen, Dan lends one of them his rifle because they are unprepared for the threat of polar bears… and I was unnerved because one of the two men looks more unhinged than a door which has fallen off! I wouldn’t give him a rubber toy gun, never mind one that fires real bullets!
In Fortitude, the communal sauna shows that the residents are not backwards in coming forwards, and there’s also no crime there, because the rules are that you have to have a roof over your head and you have to be able to provide for yourself, so there’s no stealing… and no crime. Well, until now.
Go to page 2 for episode 2.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.