Fortitude makes good progress in reinvigorating itself after a muddled first series.
Despite an A-List cast and stunning visual aesthetic, by the end of its first season, Fortitude was a bloody mess. The series as a whole was a tangle of far too many plot threads rounded off rather unceremoniously in a mad scramble over the final hour, leaving many viewers feeling unsatisfied after the hype brought about by Sky’s aggressive marketing campaign. Doubt shrouded the possibility for a second season, but it would seem that lessons have been learned, leading to a much cleaner season two premiere. But be under no illusions that cleaner means there will be any less blood splattered up the walls and over the carpet.
Opening with a flashback to 1942, viewers are subjected to the disturbing cannibalism of an infant under the hellish light of a red aurora. This section may not mark more cohesive storytelling, but it certainly reminds us where we are. This is Fortitude. Where dreams turn to nightmares and good people come to die. Taking place nine weeks after the horrific events of the first season (which saw prehistoric wasps infect the town turning even the most docile residents into murderous raving lunatics), the town is beginning to heal, but a new string of murders puts everyone at risk once again.
Culling much of its biggest names (Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci to name but two) in the first season seems to have led the series in a much better direction. Space has opened up for some immediately compelling new additions. Heading up the new additions is Dennis Quaid’s charismatic shanty-singing crab fisherman, Michael Lennox, who is struggling to earn enough money to help care for his ailing wife, Freya, played by the brilliant Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones). Quaid and Fairley have instant chemistry, and if tonight’s tender scene is any indication, this will be one of this season’s more compelling narratives as Freya’s illness will likely put a target on both their backs. Ken Stott, though loveable in The Hobbit, is somewhat distracting as a poorly accented bureaucrat sent from the mainland to assist Governor Hildur Odegard (returning star Sofie Gråbøl) to bring order to an island missing its sheriff.
Whilst this opener still has all the horror and thrills that made the first season so tantalising, the introduction of a headless corpse and two untested police officers places this series in more straight-up ‘whodunit’ territory, for a much more interesting and gripping watch. The tone hits a couple of bum notes though, with multiple moments upsetting the building tension; for example, when new cop Ingrid smashes her partner’s window and climbs into the kitchen sink to report the murder when the latter refuses to open her door.
The aesthetic is still stunning, the drama brilliantly acted, and now, thankfully, there is just enough going on, rather than way too much; indicating that this will be a much more watchable and captivating series. Viewers impatient to see what happens next won’t have to wait too long to find out. In a bold move, Sky has released the remaining nine instalments as a digital boxset, allowing subscribers in possession of a Sky+HD/SkyQ box or NOWTV to stream the series in its entirety. If you’re a viewer with a soft spot for weekly schedules, you will still be able to watch the show episodically, as a new episode airs every Thursday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.
Fortitude continues next Thursday at 9pm.