Fortitude episode 5 review

Fortitude's mysteries are rooted in incongruity, and we've some distance to go before finding out how they all connect...

This review contains spoilers

Much of Fortitude’s sense of dread comes from the town’s terrible isolation. The extremity of its position, and of its conditions, makes it difficult to get in and out. While no one is genuinely trapped, well, not explicitly anyway, none of the residents have the option of just slipping off whenever they feel like it. From a social point of view, this makes for some very interesting relationships. It’s hardly suprising, for example, that Natalie Yelburton should have suggested that people hop in and out of bed with one another, or that so many of the formal relationships should have proven to be so porous. With a small pool of people, certain feelings can develop and when there is little opportunity for escape, it’s no shock to find that spouses should seek a little respite elsewhere. All in all, it’s a pretty remote place. And yet, the late Professor Stoddart had a cocaine connection.

It is handled very casually, a slight visual aside in the middle of a flashback but it works as one of those moments of incongruity that make the show palpably sinister. Just when we think we know what’s going on, a hint or a suggestion appears that makes us question everything all over again. It happens in the bigger moments as much as the smaller ones. Just as we’re told that Stoddart’s killer has been identified, however implausibly, the mystery deepens.

The question of Liam’s guilt is an unresolved one. The blood and the fingernail place him at the scene of the crime, while the bizarre hyperbaric chamber-seance scene confirm that he was almost certainly involved at some level, but there is still something missing. The assembled investigators (in which group I include the police, Liam’s parents, Dr Allerdyce and Hildur) seemed to accept Liam’s woozy ‘confession’ a little too readily, even if they didn’t want to believe it. Their reaction and Dan’s clumsy apology to Frank suggested that they took it as an immediate admission of guilt, ignoring the more plausible possibility that Frank (still the chief suspect and possessed of the physical heft required to have done the deed) was guilty and had somehow involved his son in the crime. Convenient? Yes. A little too convenient? Sure. Deliberately convenient? I’d say so.

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Further troubling incongruities followed. The conversation between Morton and his colleague in London began as we’d perhaps expect it to, with the detective offering agonised attempts to reconcile the Liam question. Was it ‘a profound psychosis’, this ‘inhuman savagery from a ten year-old boy’? Maybe, maybe not, but they were certainly very quick to move on, dismissing the Liam conversation as little more than a necessary but functional agenda item that had to be got out of the way before they could get to the main item, which was the death of Billy Pettigrew. The manner of the switch was telling. It’s long been hinted that Morton isn’t really interested in Stoddart, except for where his death provides further clues to the earlier killing, but his attitude suggests that the disparity in his concern is bigger that we’d perhaps thought. If that’s the case, then Stoddart, whose death largely removed one of the cast’s biggest names from proceedings, would be the red herring to end them all. Other elements, including the bloodstained carpet, the obvious cover-up and the dread involvement of the frightening Mr. Lubimov, are rather more straightforward, but it still remains tantalisingly uncertain. Even the plausible explanations, such as that offered by Dan’s description of the mercy killing, are dismissed. Something deeper is at play here.

We’re a while away from seeing it all connect. The show’s other mysteries, which include the source of the incredible pressure on Ronnie Morgan, whose flight is borne of obvious desperate necessity, the role of Elena, both as Frank’s lover and in her connection to Dan and the grim continuation of the Markus/Shirley relationship, are seemingly operating on their own tracks but in a town as isolated and remote as Fortitude, it is inevitable that they will eventually connect in some way. Would the departed Billy Pettigrew have something to do with this? Very likely, but of more immediate concern is Henry Tyson, who oscillates between world-weary cynicism and needy belief. We can forgive a dying man’s search for some supernatural succour, but his pleas to Tavrani have an even more immediate importance to them. And where would we find half a pint of murderer’s blood? Where indeed. You’d be surprised what comes easily to hand in Fortitude.

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, here