Warning: If you haven’t watched the previous episodes of Fortitude, this will contain spoilers.
“A loving God could not have created something so wicked.”
That’s what Darwin apparently wrote about the wasps that, it turns out, have been the force behind all of Fortitude’s freaky murders. Prehistoric parasites that lay their eggs in people, only for the hosts to vomit them into others, before – as Vincent discovered last week – the larvae hatch and crawl their way out.
It was a cliff-hanger that left you buzzing with fear and excitement, because Fortitude’s finale reveals what Sky’s show really was all along: a chilling slice of horror, incubated in the host of a crime thriller.
How do you kill an ancient evil? As Aliens taught us, fire is the best option, and the series wastes no time in turning on the gas. It’s a scorching opening to Episode 11, which otherwise remains surprisingly non-explosive. Then again, explosions have never been Fortitude’s style: from the outset, this has been a slow-burner, moving at a deliberately glacial pace.
That insistence upon step-by-step reveals gave the show a frustrating, but also unique quality: part Broadchurch, part X-Files, you could never tell whether the answer to the series’ unanswered questions would be corrupt government officials or aliens. In an attempt to maintain that mystery, writer Simon Donald throw up all kinds of enigmas, from Henry’s voodoo doll to the fleeing of Ronnie (Johnny Harris) and his daughter. The fact that so many subplots amounted to nothing sums up the bizarre, yet brilliant nature of the show: one that was as unpredictable as it seemed unplanned.
But Fortitude finds its feet in this uneven final hour, which returns to Donald’s core concept of the thin line between humanity and monsters, despite refusing to draw a line under events completely.
As people have gradually been possessed by the demonic insects – it’s testament to the makers’ knack for gore and the cast’s convincing performances that we’ve never giggled at the notion – their family and friends have had to face the repercussions: in a claustrophobic, cut-off community, after all, there’s nowhere to go to escape death. For some, that means trying to come to terms with justice and the fact that their loved one’s are murderers. For others, it means making sacrifices.
When he closed the door in Episode 10, Vincent was well aware that he would have to suffer whatever method of execution was used to terminate the plague of pests; scarred and burned, Luke Treadaway bears the results with a noble grimace. His colleague, Natalie (Sienna Guillory), is supportive, as their relationship continues to blossom nicely (although whatever happened to Vincent’s other romantic interest, Ingrid?) and more scientific research is carried out.
While the slight closure offered by their facts is satisfying, though, we’re reminded that the overall problem facing the town is still there, as Yuri ventures out with the drill to recover the ivory from the elephant graveyard. Pursued by Eric, the resulting showdown is tense, but also curiously uninteresting: now that we’ve seen the wasps that await anyone who comes into contact with the mammoths, we already know this whole escapade is surely doomed. (Yuri’s new catchphrase of “Motherfuckers!” is a long way from the intrigue offered by Stanley Tucci’s policeman.)
It’s no surprise, then, that Fortitude’s finale finds its impact somewhere else: in the relationship between Verónica Echegui’s Elena and Richard Dormer’s Sheriff Dan. As Ronnie’s daughter, Carrie, comes into harm’s way from another zombie, both adults have to make a tough decision that – after the handcuff-filled flashbacks of recent weeks – really does carry emotional weight. This is what works about the show: it’s ability to capture the anguish of the relationships between the local residents. In that sense, more than any other, Season 1’s finale lives up to its ‘Broadchurch on ice’ billing.
While Dormer wrings his hands, and Governor Hildur (Sofie Grabol) laments the lack of her ice hotel, the wifeless Marcus visits Vincent. The old Darwin quote crops up, but it’s the revelatory Darren Boyd who suggests the series’ big shock: that it’s not wasps that make him doubt the existence of a benevolent God, but humans. “We always seek excuses for our basest selves,” he says, staring into the distance. In a town where dead bodies can’t decompose, consequences cannot be avoided and past secrets always resurface, how the remaining remnants of Fortitude’s society deals with that realisation is one leftover question that we look forward to being answered. Without Stanley Tucci, though, would another season of Fortitude really work?
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 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.
Photo: Sky/Tiger Aspect Productions
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