This review contains spoilers
At some point early in the preparation of From Hell, Alan Moore’s eyes alighted on an advertisement for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was the twist he’d been looking for. ‘A holistic detective?’ he said, ‘you wouldn’t just have to solve the crime. You’d have to solve the entire world that the crime happened in.’ It’s truer of more detective fiction than you might think, especially those that are as concerned with whydunnit as they are whodunnit. One of the best examples is An Inspector Calls, which I alluded to in my review of the first episode of Fortitude, particularly in the character of DCI Morton, an outsider who appears in the wake of an unexpected death and who begins to ask some very searching questions with answers that are just as unexpected. This constant and firm interrogation has the unintended consequence of revealing all manner of dirty secrets and hidden patterns of guilt that the assembled suspects all knew but were disinclined to tell. At least, it would be unintended, were it not the plan to solve the entire world from the outset.
Consequently, the ripples from Stoddart’s death, magnified by Morton’s probing, have started to shake up the denizens of Fortitude in ways that have, or at least appear to have, little direct connection with the professor’s murder. That’s not to say that the crime is unimportant, indeed, the episode is structured around the parallel investigations into two key leads, it’s that the pressure of explaining themselves, and to a larger extent, of covering for themselves, is taking its toll on everyone concerned. The clear outcome is that the atmosphere is getting more intensely claustrophobic with every passing moment. If the crime is to be addressed holistically then, at some level, everyone must be guilty in their own way.
Morton sets out the state of the inquiry in clear, bald terms to Hildur. Either Stoddart died at the hands of a conspiracy determined to prevent the ice hotel project from being derailed, or he met his end at the hands of a pycho off his meds. Morton might be able to cut through the fog of lies and deceit with expert flair but he’s no blithe wielder of Occam’s Razor. The odds of either being the true cause remain 50/50 in his estimation.
Or do they? Would a detective of such obvious skill and experience as Morton really lay out his suspicions to an individual he suspects to be capable of organising a conspiracy to murder, and before he’s had an opportunity to obtain evidence beyond all doubt? Unlikely. He’s a smarter player than that and as an investigator of holistic thoroughness, it’s the fact that he mentioned it to Hildur, rather than the content of his conversation, that matters most here. He’s simply winding the mechanism and watching to see how the device spins. Cunning. Clever. Dangerous.
The risk of this approach is not unmanageable, especially for a character, such as Morton, who can see the strings. His every act comes freighted with a purpose that he appears cognisant of, and which has a meaning that echoes beyond the present moment. There are echoes to the actions of his counterpart copper, Dan Anderssen, but he seems less aware of them. He’s a more brutally emotional character (no matter that he’d deny this himself) and reacts with a more violent, in this episode as much as, one suspects, in the rest of his life, literally violent, rage. His brewing suspicion and discomfort at Frank is not related to the central crime, at least not directly, but it is of that crime. When the blood on Frank’s shirt is found to be human it’s all the excuse that Dan needs to unleash several years’ worth of rage on his hapless, naked colleague. It’s just the mechanism unwinding.
Similar anguish is present in Ronnie Morgan’s desperate flight with his daughter, a dodgy move at the best of times, but in the wake of a murder, almost impossibly reckless. It, like Morton’s summary of Hildur’s ‘motives’, is more of a reflection of the wider problems in the town than of the more immediate issue of Stoddart’s death. Ronnie is undoubtedly involved, as he admits to his daughter, but at some distant remove. In that, he’s as innocent, which is to say guilty, as anyone else here.
So too is Henry Tyson. His conversation with Morton, delayed from last week by Tyson’s drunken stupor, was able to focus on the death of Pettigrew and of Tyson’s clear involvement in it. Morton, with all the muscular suaveness that we have come to expect from Stanley Tucci’s performance, offers a neat checkmate ‘You know when they say “your call may be recorded”?’ he asks, ‘they mean “your call is being recorded”’. He’s able to offer him protection. But from who and for what?. That’s not my voice’ replies Henry. It’s a deflection. A diffusion. And you know what? Part of me believes him.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, here.
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