Series Review: 'Fortitude' S2 gets off to a gripping start

The malevolence is building up in the second season of the unmissable sci-fi/horror series, 'Fortitude', writes Andrew Donaldson

30 September 2017 - 00:00 By ANDREW DONALDSON
It's impossible to tear yourself away from 'Fortitude'.
It's impossible to tear yourself away from 'Fortitude'.
Image: EndermolUK

There was a time when the (admittedly fictional) town of Fortitude claimed to be the safest, most crime-free place on Earth. But then it was a clubbish, multinational community of scientists, fisherfolk, prospectors and other reclusive, introverted types in an isolated and remote Arctic outpost on Norway's Svalbard archipelago.

It was just too bloody cold for anything lousy to happen up there.

Then came global warming - just a degree or two, mind you, but enough to spark a series of cataclysmic events and one of the more gripping sci-fi/horror series in recent years.

Season one of the British-made Fortitude unfolded slowly; it was as much a finely detailed character drama as a mystery chiller. But it was steeped in such malevolence, thanks to creator Simon Donald's excellent script and the show's brooding cinematography, that it was impossible to tear oneself away.

The first season's resolution was truly shocking: prehistoric wasp spore released by a thawing mammoth carcass would seek out human hosts and, in so doing, set in motion a chain of grisly murders as the parasites sought fresh entrails to inhabit.

In a terrifying finale, a doomed, infected woman vomited up a batch of wasps that had been feeding off her body while the room around her was torched - along with a young scientist trapped with her.

Earlier this month, Donald told the Radio Times that he came up with the concept for the series after a chat with a parasitologist about ichneumon wasps, which lay their eggs in hosts.

WATCH the Season 2 trailer for Fortitude

There are no wasps in the second season of Fortitude, which started on MNet this week and in which the story resumes about two months after the first's finale. But climate change continues apace and an environmental disaster looms as science and superstition slug it out.

In the opening episode, a blood aurora, a rare crimson form of the northern lights that is a mythologised harbinger of doom, appears to unleash all manner of fresh hell on this ice-bound town. All too soon, a headless corpse is discovered, a dead dog is found with its spine ripped out. In later episodes, there are more beheadings, cannibalism and reindeer killing and eating polar bears.

No doubt some scientific explanation for all this will emerge as the series progresses. But, for now, the town has other problems.

The Norwegian authorities appear to have abandoned the now beleaguered settlement, which, in addition to bare shelves in the local general store, has had its population drastically reduced, thanks to events in the first season.

There are several newcomers, however, to this large and talented multinational cast, most notably Dennis Quaid, who plays a genial fisherman, Michael Lennox, who finds himself trapped in Fortitude after a mysterious fire on board his vessel and who is otherwise intent on finding a cure for his terminally ill wife, Freya (Michelle Fairley).

Those who survived the first season include police chief Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) and local governor Hildur Odegard (Sofie Gråbøl), star of the hit Danish TV series The Killing).

In a brief indicator of things to come, Odegard greets a young shop assistant who's busy studying poetry. The work in question is Yeats's The Second Coming. That's the one about the blood-dimmed tide, the drowned ceremony of innocence, and a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.

In other words, there's something unknown and dreadful out there in the ice and snow; we're not moving for the next 10 weeks.

This article was originally published in The Times.