The ninth episode of Fortitude tied a few loose ends up but left us with one enormous, glacier-sized cliffhanger – before ending his own life Henry Tyson (Sir Michael Gambon) shot my favourite character, DCI Eugene Morton (Stanley Tucci) in the stomach for revealing that he had found proof of Henry and Dan’s involvement in the death of Billy Pettigrew (and because he had disturbed his plans for the perfect suicide). Before shooting himself in the head, Henry had radioed Dan, telling him what had happened. With Morton’s life slipping away, Dan had to decide whether to chopper out and save the life of a man who was hell-bent on taking him down or leave him to die and save his career. He wouldn’t leave Morton to die out in the wasteland, would he? Perhaps he would. OR WOULD HE?
The answer to this grave question came within the first act. Dan did indeed take a helicopter to the scene of the double shooting, and he found Morton barely clinging on, eyebrows frosted and his life ebbing away. “I hate this place,” Morton whispered with the weakest of his wry smiles, before asking – probably because he knew he was going to die – for the real truth about what had happened to Pettigrew, the man whose death he had been sent by London to investigate. Dan moved closer and he told him everything, and we were shown in a flashback sequence that was bathed in an almost jaundiced sepia tone.
We were back at the bar where we saw in a previous episode Pettigrew having an altercation with Eric Odegaard, after chiding him about his tangled love life. Billy The Kid had staggered back into the bar after his beating, and asked Elena to bring him up some ice to his room, to tend his wounds. It was a rouse. When she went up to him to fulfil his request, he promptly assaulted her by handcuffing her to the bed and forcing himself upon her. That is until she grasped for a knife sitting on top of a plate by the side of the bed and stabbed him in the back. She called Dan immediately, who came to her rescue her and drove Pettigrew out to the beach. On the way, Pettigrew taunted the sheriff, saying that he would have done the same if she had said no to him. This was enough to tip a man simmering with righteous nobility and the gnawing doom of obsession to boiling point. Refusing to believe that he was anything like the disgusting Pettigrew, he frogmarched him to the pylon and chained him to it, knowing full well what would happen to him.
In a place where strange and supernatural things were swirling around everyone, the murder of Pettigrew was a good, old-fashioned crime of passion, committed by a man who couldn’t bear (no pun intended) anyone harming the woman at the heart of his obsession, neither physically nor verbally.
And then we were back on the glacier. Morton whispered his final words, telling Dan that London would send more people. But for Morton that was his end, and he slipped away in the cold.
It was shocking moment, only because I really wished that he would pull through.
Killing off a main character is always difficult, but with Morton’s passing it somehow meant more – his had been an almost calming influence as the madness unfolded all around him. As an outsider he seemed untainted by the strange atmosphere of Fortitude, his lack of history with the incestuous community giving him a clarity and objectivity that suggested that he was going to be the saviour of the town. He was that favourite device of a lot of shows – that outsider who acted as the audience’s eyes and ears, seeing things for the first time as we did, finding out about the characters’ relationship as we did. Now he’s gone, all bets are off and the effect of his passing means that we, as an audience, are plunged into uncertainty.
Morton made a final appearance, in a brief and touching scene with Petra. The young officer had been friendly to Morton when he arrived in the town, and he rewarded her openness and inquisitiveness by showing her some tricks of the trade. He saw potential in her and now she was zipping up his body bag in the morgue. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said as his frozen, sleeping face disappeared into black plastic.
Another outsider who was being objective was Vincent. Aside from his wrongful arrest at the start of the series, he’s provided a chirpy presence as all around has gone to shit. His relationship with Natalie has been a pivotal one – together they have pieced together the mystery of what is turning the town into a no-go area. Not long after Jason had attacked Natalie in the lab, frothing through gritted teeth that he ‘has to get it out and put it back in’ they were back at work, testing out another of Vincent’s theories. Jason wasn’t talking about the hokey-cokey, and together they undertook a post-mortem on Charlie Stoddart’s dog. Sure enough they found larvae inside the animal’s windpipe, which indicated that something was growing inside the infected people and animals of the town.
The next stop was Margaret Allardyce, still lying in a hospital bed and barely alive. As Vincent checked her over, the pustules on her skin erupted, oozing black fluid and then acting as an escape for… flies. As one after the other crawled out from the geysers on her skin, Vincent look on in horror (as did I, to be fair). Soon, she vomited a swarm of flies, trapping poor Vincent in the room with her. What happens next to the cheerful scientist is anyone’s guess.
So again, there was a lot going on and it was another superb episode, cramming in a lot but retaining that sense of menace and space that comes with excellent writing, direction and acting.
No more so than a particular scene between Dan and Elena. Elena, who had already killed a man, listened to Dan as he confessed to the killing of Billy Pettigrew. She asked him how it made him feel, he said it made him feel complete. Elena, living on an island of isolation, guilt and perverse euphoria after her own murderous experience suddenly seemed to give the thing Dan craved – a connection. It took killing the killing of a man to make Elena finally look at Dan differently. They both knew that killing someone changes you at a base level, not understood by others. Now they were members of the same club.
What happens in the finale? The Sweary Russian and his sidekick have stolen the ice drill truck thingy and seem to be trundling off to look for Pettigrew’s treasure, which means they’ll be disturbing something they really shouldn’t be disturbing. Other than that it’s a testament to the quality of Fortitude that I have no clue what might happen.
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