This review contains spoilers.
Cold. What is cold? Strictly speaking, it’s a reduction in thermodynamic energy, the slowing of fundamental particles. Slide far enough down the temperature scale and everything stops moving, even atoms. You don’t need to chill things by quite that much to notice a deadening of action. Cold slows. Cold kills. And cold preserves.
All of these actions are present as we enter the second episode of Fortitude, where, assuming the suggestion that it’s a proxy for Svalbard, the average annual temperature is -5 degrees centigrade. ‘You cannot die here’ says Markus, explaining that the normal process of decay doesn’t quite work this near to the pole. ‘There are bodies here that still have plague in them’, he continues with disconcerting lightness. The import is twofold; firstly, something very unpleasant is just a song thaw away from being melted into viable dangerousness and secondly, whatever you do is going to leave a trail, no matter how hard you try to hide it.
And Hildur is trying hard. Deleting Stoddart’s last voicemail message, inveigling her way into the murder investigation and trying to apply pressure to an unperturbed Henry Tyson, her actions drip with guilt. Or do they? Don’t let the police interview scene fool you, she’s still half politician, half businesswoman and it’s her job to make everything appear nice and clean, innocent and open for business. Her entire pitch for investment in Fortitude was that the town was uniquely crime-free. This gruesome and public murder could not have come at a worse time, if indeed any time could be described as better. Nevertheless, Hildur’s secrets may yet emerge from the ice, as Henry darkly suggests.
Not that he’s got anything to gloat about. There are more mysteries somewhere beneath his waterline too. His phone call from the bar has come to the attention of DCI Morton, who is now circling intently around all the key figures in the town. If he can wait until Henry sobers up, it’s not necessarily because his testimony is not important,but rather that Morton can be a very patient man.
That patience is matched by his quiet, polite insistence. His is the sort of temperament that works better than any legal warrant, granting him access to autopsies, crime scenes and private homes with little more than a softly spoken request that he be admitted. He maintains a repertoire of harder material, such as gently blackmailing a philandering husband, but his genteel approach works for the most part in an environment in which people seem desperate for someone, even an outsider, on whom to unburden themselves.
This is, surprisingly, even true of the gruff Dan Anderssen who managed to drop his guard, after his own fashion, sufficiently to enjoy a spot of bonding with the London detective over a glass or two of tequila. It was an interesting decision, letting these two men take some time out together, and likely to be only a brief moment of respite. We’ve seen each of them follow the series’ two investigative trails, separately and broadly amicably, but with an inevitable clash of interest and of personalities yet to come.
The discovery of Jason and Natalie was done very swiftly and is almost certainly a red herring, not least because at episode 2 we’re still at the point of asking questions and not yet at the stage of finding answers. Thus, we see Morton (and Hildur, again separately) pressing for more information on the mammoth and linger on the scene long enough, and only long enough, for the query to be raised. The same is true of the hints and revelations at the less murderous but no less clandestine goings-on in the town. Is everybody sleeping with everybody else? Up to a point, perhaps yes but only so far that it’s needed to give several people the motive to seek an alibi.
There may be another unintended consequence of all this betrayal, though how far it is intentional remains to be seen. Several characters, including those who have borne, and continue to bear, the heaviest emotional burdens, appear curiously inert. Frank’s relationship with Elena is dully functional while his concern for Liam remains expressed purely as inchoate guilt for his actions on the night that the boy was injured and leaves a gaping space where he should be anxious for his welfare right now. Without the latter, the former seems fraudulent and makes Frank an unsympathetic character, which is not the same as having him appear a poor husband and father. Similar things could be said about the supposedly grieving Trish, who simply stares into middle distance until such times that the plot requires her to emote. Perhaps it’s a further consequence of the cold, reducing emotional movement to tiny ululations of occasional pain, or maybe it’s that plot is currently trumping character.
Plot could yet prove to be enough. We’re still in the exploratory phase, like DCI Morton, asking questions, peering through windows and picking up rocks to examine what we find underneath. Let’s see Fortitude thaw a little bit more and reveal a few more of its horrors, there’s still plenty of questions to be answered.
You cannot die here. No? Well, someone did.
Read Michael’s review of Episode 1 here.
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