There’s nothing like watching someone die slowly in front of you to make you feel uncomfortable. Fortitude Episode 9 begins with a gun shot, then leaves you wondering about its consequences.
It’s a cruel piece of writing, but Fortitude is a cruel place – something that, after nine hours of surviving the cold landscape, DCI Morton (Stanley Tucci) is fully beginning to appreciate. The rest of the residents, though, have faced an equally nasty ordeal.
Ronnie (Johnny Harris)’s daughter continues to make her way through life without her dad, shepherded carefully around the town by Elena. But even she’s not oblivious to the civilisation’s harsh undercurrent, where small children have committed the most horrible crimes. She begins to pick up on whispered conversations between the adults near her – “What were you talking about?” – while her father continues to bleed out, unseen, in the cupboard.
Will he be discovered? Will he come back to life as some kind of zombie? It’s something you can’t rule out, especially with another dodgy corpse lying around. After Shirley’s post-mortem, all Marcus wants to do is see her body; an emotional agony almost (but not) as gruesome as the physical torture he faced last week at the hands of Frank.
Liam’s family are undergoing a similar torment, as they try to comprehend what’s going on inside their boy. That’s what Governor Hildur and her team of scientists hope to found out, by taking a sample of spinal fluid to compare with Shirley’s biochemistry. “I understand how difficult this must be,” Sofie Grabol says, sensitively, as she asks for consent. “How?” comes the reply from Liam’s angry mother. “How could you possibly understand that?”
The scientific revelations of Episode 8 gave us our first glimpse of an explanation, with the discovery of what seems to be a virus that infects apex predators – those at the top of their food chain (hello, polar bears) – and makes them go funny. Is the virus some kind of alien life form? Is it more rational than that? Either way, a mammoth discovery of what lays under the ice only deepens the picture: the whole area, you feel in your bones, suddenly has a lot more at stake.
The scans, interpreted by Morton’s colleagues (wherever they’re from), take us back to the elephant in the room: Pettigrew, whose death has been the detective’s concern from day one. It also reminds us of the political corruption once suspected to be at the heart of all this, before Liam went all psycho chef with a potato peeler.
“Everything I’ve done is to defend my family,” argues Frank, as his own brutal assault is questioned.
“If we found that a chemical had altered Liam’s behaviour,” says Hildur to his wife, “that would change everything.”
The juxtaposition between human and inhuman cause is becoming increasingly interesting: we initially thought the mystery’s big answer would be one or the other, cover-up or aliens, but Episode 9 introduces another option: both. It makes acts like handcuffing a man to a post while he’s murdered all the more barbaric.
The gunshot from Episode 1, echoed here, suddenly seems like a trivial thing, something almost incidental. It’s an ambiguity that Michael Gambon milks for all its worth, as his drunken breakdown leaves him wandering in the snow, tracked by Morton, who hopes to rescue him. After all that frustrating nonsense about voodoo dolls and dreamcatchers, Henry’s mumbling here finally becomes more coherent – and more moving – as Episode 9 evolves into a surprisingly subtle two-hander between Henry and Morton. Stanley is equally brilliant, his determined expression a contrast to the crinkled worry and resignation of Gambon’s face. As time ticks slowly by, the prospect of working out the motivation of Fortitude’s residents – a place where all humans are apex predators – becomes increasingly chilling. Tucci nails it. “There’s no justice in this fucking place,” he spits.
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.
Where can I watch Fortitude on pay-per-view VOD?