FORTITUDE is a British psychological thriller TV series that just concluded its first season. It presents as a straight-forward murder mystery, combining elements of classic British crime drama and the new, popular sub-genre of Nordic Noir; calling attention to that second element by featuring Sofie Gråbøl – from UR Nordic Noir, The Killing (Forbrydelsen)– as the Governor of the town that gives its name to this series. Proving the popularity of this type of television, it aired simultaneously in the UK and US, Canada and shortly thereafter in Australia and New Zealand. It is also full of demons.
This is a show about people haunted by their inescapable past and a town slowly infected by the new face of an ancient evil. And these are the aspects I am going to examine in this review. As the show concludes, the who-dunnit aspect becomes immaterial, but the why and the how of it are more than just a cleverly constructed plot device, they’re a metaphor for the future of humanity and the planet.
Which is why I started with the opening paragraph of Eugene Thacker’s In The Dust of this Planet. What creator Simon Donald has delivered to his audience is part human mystery, part cosmological puzzle. Connections between events beyond the core plot line are rarely explicitly stated or resolved, and most are only obvious in retrospect. To the frustration of many casual viewers, much is left unexplained. Everything isn’t tied into a knot woven of simple causality. Instead, this is a drama about the ripples formed by one singular large scale event, which flows over each person in the town differently, affecting all elements of life, in fact all forms of life too. It is about how those waves are generated by a cold, uncaring universe completely dispassionately, that wash equally over the local citizens seemingly regardless of their character or past.
To paraphrase Thacker: “to watch FORTITUDE is to confront an absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all.” The innocent are made murderers, victims become killers, the flawed punish the corrupt, the wicked are left as witnesses seeking retribution, two tortured lovers come together only for one to be later shot by the other, and one hero’s reward is permanent disfigurement.
I really liked this show. Spoilers follow.