This review contains spoilers
‘He had good reason for using overwhelming force’. You have to admire Hildur’s attempts to take control of the narrative as events twist themselves around her. Frank was naked in the shower when Dan assaulted him and gave him such a vicious beating that it’s probably possible to trace the Sheriff’s fingerprint’s in the poor guy’s bruises. Morton, as we now expect, isn’t buying it and immediately seizes control for himself. It’s a piece of narrative necessity that lends the episode pace and structure while offering the chance, in-universe, for the investigation to be done properly.
The central face of the matter is that it takes an outsider to even consider the questions that Morton asks and a man of his tenacious character to actually ask them in a way that yields answers. His methods follow the holistic approach I discussed last week and, at this stage, focus as much on questioning the personality and backgrounds of his interrogatees as much as they do on their relationship to the death of Stoddart (and Pettigrew, whose death is the primary reason for the copper’s presence in the town).
Such methods are pretty effective, especially if the hidden aim is to deepen, rather than solve the mystery. Beyond the investigation of the bloodied t-shirt and Frank’s whereabouts there are several personal histories to explore. Morton’s probing, of the realities of Frank’s army career, of Elena’s violent past and the hold that she has on both Frank and Dan, helps to unravel some of the aspects of the townsfolks’ lives that seem to have been suppressed by mutual consent. It appears more and more that while everyone suspected their relations and neighbours, no one actually wanted to upset the apple cart by giving voice to their feelings. Until those pesky events started twisting.
It’s difficult to see how everything connects at this stage in proceedings, which is no doubt intentional, but a theme is beginning to emerge. Everything is slowly being exposed by forces either unknown or alien to the town and the careful set of balances that have sustained the community are being upset by them. There’s the obvious case of the two (confirmed) deaths, which have invited the questioning outsider. There’s the related pattern of revealed infidelities; Elena/Frank/Jules, Trish/Erik/Hildur (and by extension, the late Professor Stoddart) and there’s the emergence of bizarre phenomena from the retreating ice.
The apparently autoaborted hermaphrodite reindeer foetuses added a extra layer of dread to the show’s weirder elements. The discovery of the mammoth, while intriguing, was not in itself that strange. The disease? Perhaps there is something that has lain dormant only to emerge in the meltwater. But together, and with causes that even the town’s finest minds cannot fathom, we have a developing pattern of odd goings-on that threaten to overwhelm the residents while they were minding their own business murdering people and sleeping with one another’s spouses. There remains the possibility of a plausible single scientific cause to all this but there is also the growing chance that this is all supernatural in origin and that, once the full extent of the situation is revealed, dead professors will be the least of the residents’ concerns. Personally, I’d be happy either way, except to say that the scientific explanation would probably be the scariest one.
Not that the show is lacking in reasons to be fearful, particularly with the increasing amount of screentime devoted to Markus. I have started to develop a cold shudder whenever he appears and have taken to wondering whether Darren Boyd is too good in the role. It’s an appropriately odd performance, somewhere between comedy and drama, albeit with the comic elements tuned to a very dark setting. He would not appear out of place in the League of Gentlemen or in some of the more wilfully strange sketches from The Fast Show. Refreshingly free of tics and external signals, Boyd makes Markus all the more sinister by playing him utterly straight creating a contrast with the oddness of his behaviour that lends him a calm hideousness.
Quite where he fits into the wider picture remains to be seen. At the moment he seems a little ‘odd for odd’s sake’ but that too fits the pattern. Bit by bit, revelation by revelation, things are emerging from the darkness. And they’re not at all pleasant.
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