Friday, 27 January 2017

TV Review: Fortitude Series 1

“It’s not a new hotel we need, it’s a bigger morgue"


The publicity for Season 2 of Fortitude, just starting now on Sky Atlantic, reminded me that I had the first series still lying around unwatched and that now would be as good a time as any to get stuck in. Created and written by Simon Donald, it manages the not-inconsiderable feat of being an effective cross-genre show, so much so that it flicks from one to another from scene to scene. It begins life as a murder mystery set in the isolated town of Fortitude in Arctic Norway, the quality of its cast meaning that it can afford to knock off Christopher Eccleston's scientist within the first couple of episodes.

As it is a community of about 700 in extreme conditions, it also plays out as a small town comedy of the blackest kind, as the quote up top demonstrates, bringing in soap opera-ish twists which also darken as well, pretty much into horror show territory. But where Fortitude is most unexpected is in its ventures into sci-fi, as the strange happenings in the township begin to defy any kind of rational explanation. It's a disconcerting move but once the paradigm is established, I kinda liked the randomness it brought to the show, especially since I had no idea that that was where we were heading.

And with such a good cast as I've already mentioned, you couldn't help but be swept up into the travails of this community made up of all sorts of people from different countries, all ostensibly running away from something as the cliché goes. Jessica Raine's army wife, Luke Treadaway's researcher, Phoebe Nicholls' long-suffering doctor, Michael Gambon's terminally ill elder, Sofie Gråbøl's ambitious governor and her police officer husband Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, all being investigated by Stanley Tucci's DCI travelling all the way from the Met in suspiciously quick time.

Fortitude's unpredictable nature may not suit everyone, but with its climate change klaxons, polar bear strangeness and general WTFness, I found it a most compelling drama to watch and I'm looking forward to the second instalment, which looks to be following the anthology format of using the same setting but with a largely new cast. So who knows if the likes of Leanne Best, Jonjo O'Neill, Chipo Chung and Ramon Tikaram will be back alongside Richard Dormer's haunted Sheriff Andersen.

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