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Fortitude: “Episode 12”

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Like many individuals, religion was a matter that Charles Darwin gave much thought to over the years. It makes sense given his contributions to evolutionary theory and the science therein. Never one to fervently deny the very existence of God, Darwin himself saw himself as an agnostic, one who does not believe in an Almighty but doesn’t disbelieve either. And as it turns out, it may have been his commitment to the study of varied species that contributed to his faith, or lack there of. Because upon being faced with the grisly, unforgiving nature of the ichneumon wasps and their cannibalistic larvae, he wrote to American naturalist Asa Gray saying that he could not believe that good and loving and all-knowing God could create such a monstrous creation.


Horror fiction loves the concept of the Old Ones, those primordial gods who bide their time until the moment is right for their return, at which point they will exterminate those who inhabit the earth like so many Orkin men stamping out a lingering pest problem. So when it is revealed that what’s been ailing the town of Fortitude since the season began is that same family of wasps that Darwin found so damnable, whose larvae have been slumbering, frozen inside extinct mammoths for some 30,000 years, it feels reminiscent of the rage of the Old Ones, slowly leaching into the world to extinguish the flickering flame of humanity.

At one point about halfway through the season finale, Markus visits Natalie and a recovering, isolated Vincent, inquiring what their latest hypothesis is about the infection. Natalie tells him about the wasps, about how they spread and how they feed on a host from the inside out, taking them over, body and mind alike. But Markus refuses to be comforted by this conclusion, brushing it off, asking Natalie what happens if her hypothesis is wrong? Asking her if maybe what happened to Shirley wasn’t actually his fault or her mother’s fault and informing her that there are always consequences for actions, whether they were made with good intent or bad, whether we are able to justify the decisions to ourselves to sleep at night, there are always consequences.

What Markus can’t see through his pain is that the wasps are a consequence. They’re a consequence of the way we live off the land, taking more than we give back. Of the disregard we pay to the well-being of the planet and the slow (but picking up speed) destruction of the arctic through global warming. And though the people of Fortitude may not be solely responsible for the ultimate fate of the world, they are culpable in their sins against their own little world, debts that must be paid in full, one way or another.


In the end, it’s fitting that the only way to exterminate the foul infestations is by fire. Fortitude, a frozen, desolate wasteland, its permafrost slipping away, exposing the world to a biblical plague. The way to cleanse the town of the blood, of the poison, is through fire, meaning that in order to release the hamlet from the grips of hell is to embrace the flames. Nothing could be more appropriate for a town full of sinners.


But what else?

Well, technically, everything. The episode picked up right where last week’s left off, meaning that Vincent was getting his ass handed to him by Doctor Allardyce’s homemade prehistoric wasp swarm, but quick thinking on both his and Natalie’s part led to a DIY explosion that miraculously preserved his life (give or take an emergency tracheotomy.) Shortly thereafter, Natalie is able to finally nail down what exactly the genus and lifecycle of the attacking agent and plans are able to be made about testing and quarantining any remaining infected.


Meanwhile, Yuri and his li’l buddy Max are off with their stolen ice drill to look up the coordinates of Pettigrew’s treasure, only to have Eric crash their party shortly after they complete drilling. Max flees and Eric and Yuri have the greatest dick punching brawl of all time, as scored by Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” I try not to throw the word perfect around willy-nilly, but… that was perfect. Anyway, Yuri eventually knocks Eric out cold and proceeds to descend into the literal underground elephant graveyard before an equipment malfunction unceremoniously strands him there for the rest of his (admittedly) short and miserable life. The buzzing sounds that accompany his arrival likely means that nothing good is going to come from his excursion.

Eric, upon waking, takes the ice drill back to town, reminiscent of another old country classic, “Eric, Don’t Take Your Ice Drill to Town” and delivers it to his wife with lots of apologies and groveling and smooching. So there’s at least one happy ending.


Jason, finally captured, tells them where to find the mammoth carcass for prompt incineration, while mumbling, inexplicably, that Ronnie is in the house. He then promptly kills himself.

Elena progresses through the stages of infection while taking a picturesque walk around town. She runs into Frank who apologizes to her, which is nice, considering, but doesn’t mean that his wife and child aren’t getting the hell out of Dodge and going back to England. Eventually Elena ends up back at the house where, with the handcuffs stolen from Dan’s office, in all likelihood those handcuffs, she restrains herself to the bed. Carrie, being the dumb stupid baby that she is (kidding)(kind of) unlocks Elena thinking her merely ill and is rewarded for her efforts with a club upside the head and a knife to the gullet. Which is just rude, if you ask me. Luckily, Dan hears about Jason’s weirdly out of place comment about Ronnie and rushes to the house, though not quickly enough to save Carrie from some inevitable stomach stitches, and shoots Elena before she’s able to progress to the vomiting portion of her mating ceremony.


There is much burning in the aftermath but Elena survives her gunshot wound with Dan sitting by outside of her isolation, clearly suffering from the worst case of oneitis of all time.

Morton’s Corner

Well that’s just mean.


…on a completely different show. Holy shit, you guys, we never even see Ronnie again. This ended even better than I could have possible imagined. It’s like even they knew this plot was complete extraneous. As much as I love this show, this was the definition of a non-starter. Lesson learned: never get rid of the rabbit.


Stray observations:

  • Most importantly, it was announced early Thursday morning that Fortitude has been picked up for a second season!
  • Honestly, who is caring for all of these seriously ill people at this point? Natalie? Is she even qualified to do that?
  • Vincent probably isn’t infected and will probably live.
  • So we saw Elena unintentionally vomiting her larvae after she was shot. Is that all it takes to get uninfected? If not, how did they heal her?
  • I just can’t help but wonder what happened to that pig.
  • What do we think happens in season two? I mean, obviously I hope it’s a prequel and it just follows Morton around another creepy town but I have to imagine that’s a nonstarter. Can they really set another season in this town?
  • Maybe they should do season two as a stealth reboot of Northern Exposure. I mean, the town does need a new doctor.
  • Thanks for joining me for what turned out to be a terrifically fun, pulpy ride. Let’s meet back here next season and do it again.

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