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Fortitude: “Episode 4”

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The further Fortitude proceeds into its first season, the more clear it becomes that one of the most interesting things about it is the way it deals with its hero. As mentioned in earlier reviews, by all rights Fortitude should be about the adventures of hero DCI Morton and his attempts to clean up the messy Nordic town that no one can make sense of. And as much as the series feints towards this purpose, it’s true blueprint is for something much more subversive.


This is perhaps best represented in the opening scene of “Episode 4” which features Stanley Tucci’s character skulking around the late Professor Stoddart’s house, looking for undiscovered clues as to his murder. It’s not just that Morton is undertaking this investigation alone, without help from Fortitude’s police force, it’s that he’s doing it in the dead of night, the only time he can reliably get away with such actions without being blocked by whoever (or whatever) is pulling the strings behind the scenes. But that’s not the whole of Morton’s meddling in this episode, not by a long shot. He purposely sets Stoddart’s widow Trish and Hildur against each other, informing the Governor that Trish suspects that she’s had her husband killed, thanks to the message she deleted from Trish’s voicemail. Trish is unimpressed when she realizes that Morton has informed Hildur of her suspicions and even less impressed when Hildur tries to dismiss them with the suggestion that Trish is merely suffering from grief-driven paranoia.

Morton also pays a visit to Henry’s apartment and tries to get him to speak about Pettigrew, the man Henry accidentally killed in the series’ opening scene. Henry tries to beg off from speaking but Morton reveals that the drunken call that he made from the bar, accusing the Governor and Sheriff of killing people in Fortitude had been recorded, hoping that the information will force Henry into being more forthcoming, but instead Henry balks and claims the voice isn’t his.

It’s not just that Morton is conducting his own investigation, that’s necessary. It’s that his methods for conducting that investigation seem wholly based in turning the townspeople against each other after the show has taken pains to look at the burg as its own person. Watching Morton play townspeople against each other, like last episode when Natalie is instructed by both he and Hildur individually to bring her mammoth results directly to them and no one else, is like watching a person try to rip itself apart at the seams.

Fortitude is a single entity and DCI Morton a cancer, a threat. The town will do anything to dislodge him from their midst even if it means destroying itself in the process. And destroy itself it will, if this episode is any indication. Trish and Hildur are clearly on the outs, both over the death of Professor Stoddart but also because Trish is/has been sleeping with Hildur’s husband (though Hildur isn’t aware of that. Yet.) Jason was freed from police custody after his claims that he was with his brother the night of the murder and seems wholly unconcerned that suspicion has been laid wholly at the feet of his former partner in mammoth stealing Ronnie. Dan has come to the realization that Elena is sleeping with Frank and is livid over it, using the discovery of Frank’s bloody shirt as license to beat the shit out of him, as well as making Frank the police’s prime suspect in Stoddart’s murder.


And yet for all of the internal sturm and drang, things seem to be falling into place with regards to why things keep happening in the town. (That said, there are a lot of episodes left and surely a lot of twists left to reveal themselves.) In his opening scene investigating, Morton found a report that Stoddart had in his possession that seems to have been done by Pettigrew that suggests that there’s oil beneath the glacier, yet another complication to the construction of the new hotel and likely enough motive to implicate both the Governor and Sheriff in one, if not two, murders.

That said, there are plenty of complications that still don’t make any sense. The two strange men (the ones without the rifle for polar bear protection) from the first episodes are back, but it’s completely unclear what their connection to anything is. They injured the Governor’s husband (despite his claims that it was a bear trap) yet he doesn’t recognize them. They watch Morton snoop around Stoddart’s house and know he found Pettigrew’s report, even going to far as to steal it out of his hotel room, but there’s no indication of what any of it means.


Then there’s the matter of Ronnie and Carrie, who gave up their boat expedition from last episode and have taken to land. Ronnie has Carrie hole up at a cabin where someone appears to be raising huskies while he sneaks back to town to steal more of the mammoth carcass so they can sell it and continue running. Ronnie maintains his innocence in Stoddart’s murder but the police find antipsychotics in the home and are increasingly convinced he’s committed the murder in some kind of psychotic rage, despite him not showing any signs of such erratic behavior so far.

As it stands, Fortitude remains at its best when it manages to keep all of its cogs moving at once. Because it doesn’t allow itself to follow just one red herring down the proverbial rabbit hole, they feel all the less like red herrings. And because it sticks to its design of hero as invading presence, the audience is all the more unclear as to who they should be rooting for, if anyone. The clearer things become, the messier things get, the more it becomes evident that the ultimate explanation has something to do with a were-polar bear.


Stray observations:

  • Okay, those antipsychotics are clearly for Carrie and not Ronnie, right?
  • Apologies as last review I believe I mistakenly identified Ronnie as Jason’s brother, when in actuality Jason’s brother was the guy that Ronnie assaulted before fleeing by boat.
  • Those were either dried fish, lampreys, or the worst wind chimes ever at the Husky Hutch.
  • Stanley Tucci stirs his coffee as he stirs shit in town. I see you, Fortitude.
  • Carrie calling the mammoth “the monster” freaked me the fuck out, as did the huskies being so disturbed by its presence.
  • I can’t believe they left the bunny behind. Unacceptable.
At least it didn't end up in a casserole. Yet.

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