Endings can be tricky. Especially those to series whose host broadcaster has already announced that a second series is in the offing. This normally means, unless it’s an anthology, that the series finale will be used as nothing more than a bridge to set things up for the next season. Fortitude, which has been intriguing and (mostly) excellent throughout its debut run fell into this trap, and even then came up short. It was neither a satisfactory ending nor a bridge episode to the next season. So what exactly was it?
Finales should, at least, tie a few things up before they look ahead to the next series. But this final episode sort of hithered and thithered and went by in a flash, revealing a few things but ending so suddenly and strangely it felt like nothing of a muchness.
It started promisingly enough. Vincent, trapped inside a hospital room full of regurgitated wasps, had slumped, stung and bitten raw by these presumably deadly things. In a scene redolent of the ending from Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan, where Spock was trapped, dying, inside a room flooded with radiation, Natalie rushed to the window unable to help her colleague. The scene ended with Vincent setting alight a gas valve.
Natalie, with Vincent now in an isolation room nursing nasty burns and waiting to see if he had been infected, had found that the wasps were of an ancient, parasitic variety, who lay eggs in their host and devoured them from the inside out. During this gestation period they sent their host insane, making them desperate to unload the eggs within them to another host.
Strange Markus made an unexpected return to the fore, when he (pointlessly) made a trip to the hospital to engage Natalie in conversation. When she told him that the wasps had been recorded by Darwin as things so hideous that he doubted that a good God could have created them, he scoffed and took umbrage with the science saying: “It is not the wasps that make us doubt the existence of a benevolent God, it is us, his children.”
And this, to me, was the whole point of Fortitude in a sentence. In that moment it revealed itself as an environmental horror story, where humans have, in their lust for commerce and profit, disturbed things that have been left undisturbed for centuries and shouldn’t be disturbed. The plague was human in the making.
As the action continued, we became more aware of the consequences of this theory. Elena had become the latest to become infected and, after strangely smearing her face with jam, clubbed young Carrie Morgan in her viral reverie. Dan, bursting in on the scene, had to shoot the woman he loved.
Hildur and Dan then went about the town razing anything that had come to contact with the mammoth bones. Dan, the prideful sheriff of Fortitude, in his own way succumbing to the madness that swept through the town, trudged solemnly up to the top of a hill and watch as his town burned.
And that was it. Ronnie was still locked up in the cupboard, Vincent was still in isolation, Elena was clinging onto her life, the Sweary Russian was trapped down in the putrid cavern where the mammoth bones and the virus lived… nothing resolved and it ended all so suddenly and with a bit of a whimper.
Which is a shame because Fortitude has been a fine series. It started off like a western, then a murder mystery and a procedural and then took a turn for the dark and moved into horror territory. It was skilfully written, acted and directed, managing to keep us guessing and keep the story moving and evolving right until this final episode.
There were some memorable characters, none more so than Sheriff Dan Andersen (Richard Dormer), whose kind face was studded with a pair of feral eyes that gave him a menacing edge. A seemingly kindly sheriff, we were left in no doubt that Fortitude was his town. Anyone who fucked with it, fucked with him. This dynamic with the town was straight out of the wild west, and even though he was the law he made up his own rules as things went along, content to break them if it meant he and the town continued along (relatively) peacefully. And then there was DCI Eugen Morton (Stanley Tucci in superb form). A direct challenge to Andersen’s emotional, impulsive sheriff, he was the voice of reason and our eyes and ears as he first entered the town. When he died on the glacier, I was crushed. Please give Eugene Morton a prequel spin-off series, based in the UK and Europe, where he goes around solving crimes in usual droll, wry way.
So what started off as a crime drama grew into something else. A zombie western; an environmental horror; a doomed love story. The end of the world.
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