Country of Origin: UK Network: Amazon Prime (Also available YouTube, Vudu, Google+)
Fortitude is a tiny fictional town set on a Norwegian island in the arctic ocean. Although it’s close knit, the town has an internationally diverse population, as there is a major research station there in addition to some Russian owned mines.
The plot kicks off with a pair of financially desperate locals finding what appears to be a frozen mammoth under the ice. They dig it out and attempt to sell it at the research center. A well-liked researcher, played by Christopher Eccleston, tells them it’s illegal to sell things of scientific value that are found in the ground, and that they need to turn over what they have immediately. Instead, the men take it and hide it in a shed. That night, Christopher Eccleston is found brutally murdered in his home. There are plenty of suspects right off the bat-the locals who tried to sell him the specimen, the governor of the town who would want to keep it a secret that a mammoth was found under the ice because it would mean that her new Ice Hotel project would be canceled, etc.
The show gets much more complicated from there. It takes its time and introduces a lot of seemingly unrelated characters as the action of finding Eccleston’s killer simultaneously unfolds. The main protagonists are the aforementioned governor, the pugilistic police chief, a mysterious beautiful woman who works at the Inn, and a DCI from London, played by Stanley Tucci, who comes to Fortitude to help solve the murder, since Eccleston was a British citizen. From there, we meet about 10 more people around whom the plot will eventually turn. What’s nice is that the show doesn’t have the “red herring of the week” feel, where a character is introduced just as he’s about to be a suspect in the murder. The con is that the show can feel draggy mid-season.
The stunning but forbidding landscape is also a character. Somehow when you set a crime show in a town where everyone has to bundle up and steel themselves against the weather, it ratchets up the drama. But the ice is more than just scenery. It also preserves everything under it, to the degree that no one can be buried in Fortitude, lest whatever kills them lives on to infect others in future generations. (ahem)
Interesting subplots abound. There are some infidelities, some crushes, some mysterious illnesses, a troublemaking elderly photographer, a greedy Russian miner who lends some comedy, and some Norwegian politics woven throughout the murder mystery, not to mention the “What the hell was that thing under the ice, anyway?” question. These stories make for a rich viewing experience, although as I mentioned above, can also feel like filler sometimes.
Overall, I give the show an 8.5. The cast is fantastic, and includes some heavy hitters-Michael Gambon, Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion in Game of Thrones), Sofie Grabol (The Killing), plus Luke Treadaway and more. I really enjoyed it, and didn’t abandon it midway (which happens a lot due to the abundance of good TV choices out there), but the ending gets a little silly. Nonetheless, it did make my top 30, and I do recommend it. If you have seen it, what did you think? (No spoilers in comments, please!)