Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Fortitude: “Episode 6”

Richard Dormer, Stanley Tucci
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

In Irish folklore, there exists a creature called a pooka. They are shapeshifters, often taking any number of animal forms and most often spotted in a rural or marine communities. These creatures, could make for poor or positive luck, malevolent or benevolent, good or evil. Perhaps the most popular pop culture reference to the beings are in the 1950 film Harvey (or it’s modern day pseudo-equivalent, Donnie Darko) in which one man can see a giant rabbit that is invisible to everyone else.


It feels safe to say that it’s not a pooka that’s plaguing Fortitude, but perhaps what is running amuck isn’t that far off. There is something malevolent and mystic at work beneath the town’s surface, something dark and unyielding, but completely unseen. Whatever is at work is so foreboding that it spurs Henry to seek out a part-time taxidermist/part-time secret shaman to craft some kind of arctic golem to protect the Sutter family. And the show itself has no interest in letting us forget about what’s lurking around each corner unseen by most, by revisiting the film that Charlie Stoddart was watching the night he was killed, Harvey, time and again.

As much as everyone loves a sprawling mystery, full of unexpected twists and turns, Fortitude is perhaps never as good as when it settles down and focuses on telling one specific story, with only occasional meanderings for side characters. In “Episode 6” the show finally reveals what really happened when Liam climbed out his bedroom window on the night of Charlie Stoddart’s murder and how exactly he acquired that frostbite. As Liam traipses barefoot through the night, arriving at Stoddart’s house only to stand on the patio and stare in, it’s as unnerving as anything the show has ever done. We also see more of what Charlie himself was up to before he died, specifically preparing dinner and, you know, snorting cocaine which was a fun surprise that I, for one, was not anticipating.


The brilliance of Fortitude is that it’s impossible to know what details are for color and what have some greater significance. Did recreational drug use have something to do with the Charlie’s death or the distance in his marriage or was it just a fun little indicator that there’s even more going on behind closed doors than we previously expected? What we do know is that Liam attacked Charlie with a cutting board and then, apparently, hacked into him with any number of kitchen implements before leaving part of his fingernail EMBEDDED IN HIS RIB. Thankfully, we didn’t see much of this, either because things didn’t play out quite that way or because that would be far too disturbing to witness. Either way, things seem to have proceeded in a fucked up fashion.

That fingernail bit newly discovered in Charlie’s body is what led Morton, Dan, and the governor to the research station in an attempt to speak to Liam and find out what happened that night. The doctor reluctantly brings Liam to consciousness enough for them to confirm that he “PUT HIS HANDS IN THE MAN” before he starts screaming about his frostbitten feet and is returned to unconsciousness. Jules, is unsurprisingly upset at the fact that she’s now mother to a rabid wolf boy, intent on disemboweling men with his hands, and may finally be seeing the advantages to having him cryovac’d for the long haul. She also takes this opportunity to begin her long, slow descent into alcoholism.


Frank is released from prison as his explanation for his blood-stained shirt checks out, thanks to the aforementioned wolf boy. This, also unsurprisingly, is cold comfort to him. He returns to his broken home to find his estranged wife passed out in a drunken stupor and dissolves into sobs because this just hasn’t been the best week for him.

As for the rest of the town, well it’s behaving just as a small town does. News of Liam the Ripper spreads like wildfire, even as it’s impossible to determine where the information springs from. Marcus pontificates about it loudly in the grocery store, lecturing anyone who will listen, in this case Shirley and Henry and the information is enough to send Henry running for a supernatural solution to a seemingly supernatural problem.


Trouble has been lurking in the shadows of Fortitude for ages. At this point, it’s all going to come down to who can see it first.

Morton’s Corner

Ah, Eugene Morton. Hardest working man in Fortitude. He has a particularly productive episode in managing to not only trace the murder to Liam Sutter but even get a pain-addled confession from him. Not a bad day’s work when it comes to nailing a 10 year-old for murder.


But Morton’s accomplishments don’t stop there. He also managed to track the missing Pettigrew document to a chap named Max who tells him that the man who stole it is named Yuri and is the head of security at a nearby Russian mining town, surely the mysterious handcuffs guy from previous episodes.

But wait, there’s more! Morton decides to try to finally make peace with the sheriff and the two set about to drinking. Eugene speaks frankly of his time investigating the aftermath of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie and Dan calls him on his attempt to exchange war stories. But after Morton plays for Dan Henry’s message accusing the sheriff and governor of orchestrating the murder of Pettigrew and Stoddart, Dan tells Morton what really happened to Billy Pettigrew. Sort of. He tells Morton a version of events that have Pettigrew being eaten by a bear and the sheriff mercy killing him. Morton, rightly, calls bullshit before retiring to his room to vomit scotch and lutefisk. And then discovering that Billy Pettigrew was almost certainly killed in his hotel room. All in all, not a bad day’s work.


But did he smirk?




…on a completely different show. Carrie and her father (one of whom is psychologically unstable) continue their numbingly inefficient arctic wanderings. Carrie wants to go home and refuses to help her father hotwire a snowmobile and gets cries, telling him she’s only 10 and wants to go home. Her father shows her how blubbering is really done and in order to end the interminable outpouring of emotion, she hot-wires the snowmobile and, shockingly, does not ride away on her own, determined to find her rabbit and a bit of peace. An arctic room of one’s own.


Stray observations:

  • Also, mammoth juice is leaching into the water supply, so.
  • Shirley is ill this episode and Marcus is VERY UNHAPPY she refuses to eat. Also, stellar background work showing the weight she’s already gained with the mirror pictures.
  • So does Shirley have a cold or what? I feel like there was a scene last episode where she was mysteriously in the mammoth shed for some reason but it’s entirely possible I misinterpreted that.
  • Which reminds me I should apologize for forgetting that Ronnie hurt his hand a few episodes earlier in the encounter with Jason’s brother.
  • Elena was a real piece of work all episode. Telling Dan to stay away seems reasonable but visiting the comatose child of the dude you’re nailing seems like a bit much. Also, just snooping around Morton’s room in case he needed sex or exposition or something? Who knows.
  • Also, if you would like to take pity on me in comments and explain the bloody shirt they found under Liam’s bed that would be swell.
  • Oh my God, Morton, this is why hotels insist on taking security deposits.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter