Warning: If you have not seen Episode 1 of Fortitude, this will contain spoilers.
“It’s a fine place with a lot of very nice people.”
That’s DCI Morton (Stanley Tucci) in his hotel bar at the start of Fortitude Episode 2 (technically Episode 3, after last week’s opening double-bill). It’s hard to imagine anyone reaching that conclusion after our feature-length blast of icy mystery, not least because we saw Professor Charlie Stoddard (Christopher Eccleston) slashed to pieces by… something.
Was it a monster? A particularly aggressive polar bear? The wounds matching a potato peeler suggest an assailant far closer to home, which automatically puts everyone under suspicion. For Morton, though, that seems to be just the way he likes it. With his prim hat and pristine leather gloves, he swans about with a courteous smile. He even tells the schoolteacher who asks him what he makes of Fortitude his first name: Eugene.
A lot of this episode is spent simply watching the detective interacting with the locals. But if that’s a mission statement from the writers to move at a glacial pace, it’s a welcome one: Tucci is so much fun to watch. “Everyone here is running away from something,” hotel waitress Elena tells him, darkly, only hours after bonking married rescue worker Frank (Nicholas Pinnock).
Eugene grins. “I’m not.”
That off-hand chirpiness only makes his arrival in the remote community more intriguing, with no mention made again of how he managed to travel from England (where he claims to hail from) so quickly – he would have had to depart before the murder of Stoddart took place, don’t forget. His conversations colour that curiosity with a wonderfully cool humour. After his abrupt announcement of the professor’s death to his widow, we see a follow-up exchange in a hospital. Just when you think he’s about to apologise, he only becomes ruder.
But that unusual method of investigation also reveals some interesting details. We learn that nobody is allowed to die in the Arctic town, with all bodies removed. Why? Because it’s so cold the corpses are simply preserved, along with their diseases.
If that’s the biggest discovery of the hour, though, it’s no coincidence: Fortitude is as much about its setting as its story. It’s Broadchurch on ice. Episode 2 proves that the approach is more than justified, with every plot strand sprinkled with added layers of snow to bury the secrets.
Richard Dormer’s hairy Sheriff Anderssen continues to exclude Morton from the investigation (chasing up that potato peeler lead with his increasingly impressive sidekick) while Stoddart’s colleague is bombarded with questions – not least what on earth is going on with those pigs in the incubators? It only makes you feel sorrier for young assistant Vincent Rattray (a likeable Luke Treadaway), who, bless him, only arrived last week and is already stuck in a cell.
Michael Gambon also gets a deserved chunk of screentime, following yesterday’s all too brief introduction. Ageing and often filled with alcohol, that rule about shipping out corpses is starting to seem all the more relevant for the photographer. Gambon rambles and recalls memories with all the gravitas you’d expect from the thesp – and enough of a sinister demeanour to leave you waiting for him to dish the dirt on the town’s officials.
A voicemail to wife Trish from Eccleston’s researcher might do that for him, though, judging by Governor Odegard’s reaction to his surprise discovery. Is there more to the mammoth than meets the eye? After her good girl turn in The Killing, Sofie Gråbøl is clearly enjoying the chance to play dodgy, making it evident that her new character is closer to the Governor from The Walking Dead than Sarah Lund.
But for all the hidden answers and unknown killers, the episode is stolen by Pinnock. His conflicted hubbie is eaten up by guilt over leaving his son unattended, while Verónica Echegui’s Elena is moving as the lover realising the impact of her actions. It’s further evidence that Fortitude has miles to go before it sleeps – not just because of its weird mysteries, but because of its engaging ensemble (any of whom, after Eccleston’s departure, are fair game).
“Everyone here is running away from something,” Elena warns Morton, as the thin ice over the town’s secrets begins to thaw. Fortitude isn’t full of very nice people, but it’s certainly a fine place. Brrrroadchurch, indeed.
You can watch Fortitude online in the UK without Sky on NOW TV for £6.99 a month. The monthly subscription gives you live and on-demand access to Sky’s pay TV channels, including Sky Atlantic (Mad Men and Togetherness), Sky 1 (Arrow and The Flash) and FOX TV (The Walking Dead) – with no contract.
Sky customers can watch Fortitude online live through Sky Go, or catch up on Sky On Demand.
Photos: ©2015 Sky/ Tiger Aspect Productions
Where can I watch Fortitude on pay-per-view VOD?