Fortitude is back – in all its mad, gory, moody glory

The Arctic chiller is as atmospheric, gripping and bizarre as ever, says Paul Jones

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It left us hanging two years ago with the revelation that an outbreak of frenzied murders had been caused by the larvae of a prehistoric parasitic wasp freed from the thawing carcass of a wooly mammoth – and just one episode into its return it brings us a decapitated body, a dog with its spine torn out and the apparent cannibalisation of a baby. 

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Yes, Fortitude is back – in all its mad, gory, moody glory – and straight away I’m hooked again.

It’s as atmospheric as ever – even more so in this first episode, thanks to the rare ‘blood aroura’ that soaks the night sky crimson. Against the stark backdrop of the glaciated landscape, the town’s warmly lit bar looks as cosy as hell, providing a place for locals to drink, chat, squint warily at one another and occasionally break into a fist fight. Recent events have taken their toll on Fortitude.

We are approximately nine weeks on from the cataclysmic season one finale and police Sheriff Dan Anderssen (the awesome Richard Dormer) is missing, presumed dead, having disappeared after being forced to shoot Elena (Verónica Echegui), the woman he loved, who was under the murderous influence of those pesky wasps. 

There used to be no crime in Fortitude but that’s changed and the fact that Dan’s deputy Eric is out in the frozen wastes trying to find him has left the police department in disarray, with only fledgling cops Petra and Ingrid left to haphazardly investigate the murder by decapitation of an unknown man.

This does at least lead to one comedy moment at the morgue when Sofie Grabol’s Governor Hilde Odegard is told they haven’t yet managed to ID the victim. Looking down at the headless body, she responds, perfectly deadpan, “No, I don’t recognise him either.” In Fortitude, you have to take your laughs where you can get them.

We lost a lot of good men and women in the first series of Fortitude – Christopher Eccleston’s Professor Charlie Stoddart, shockingly hacked to death in the opening episode, then Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci, to name but the big names – and while we’re bound to lose some more before the end of this one, we have at least been given some replacements.

Can you be bluff and warm at the same time? Dennis Quaid certainly seems to manage it as trawlerman Michael Lennox, an old friend of the governor, whose current focus is his wife Freya’s (Michelle Fairley) illness and the red swathe of lucrative king crab that could help pay for her treatment.

In episode two, we’ll meet Parminder Nagra’s icy Dr Surinder Khatri who is looking after a comatose Elena but sneaking a peek at parasitic wasps when no-one’s around. Ulterior motive much?

You can decide for yourself right after the first episode airs on Sky Atlantic, because the whole series immediately becomes available to watch as one of their box sets.

At the time of writing, I’ve seen the first four episodes and I’m ready for the rest. There’s something clever about scheduling this Arctic chiller in the depths of winter, when the nights are dark and the days are short. It makes it easy to slip into – and hard to get out of your head.

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Fortitude season 2 starts on Thursday 26th January at 9pm on Sky Atlantic