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'Fortitude' is Best New Show You're Not Watching



While cannibal polar bears and millennia-old wooly mammoths are the prey here, Fortitude has captured an even more important creature: my imagination.

Fortitude is like no other town on our TV landscape and, yet, it is like every other town from every other show we’ve been obsessed with. If only we knew then, we could have forgone some of those shows: Lost (supernatural polar bears), The Killing (gloomy atmosphere), Broadchurch/Gracepoint (smalltown mystery), True Detective (enigmatic lawmen), Fargo (SNOW!), The Vikings (ICE! and accents), the low winter sun of the short-lived desolate Low Winter Sun (same creator and writer, Simon Donald), The Affair (slow-paced tone and…affairs), The Strain (something evil’s lurking), and the otherworldiness of the brilliant The Returned (the French Sundance channel version, and a show I will not forego). It's a Nordic noir gem.

First off, Fortitude is absolutely gorgeous. The spacious, picturesque Arctic landscapes are breathtaking. Even a boat momentarily sludging through an iceberg-filled body of water is breathtaking—and not just visually. There’s the gentle sound of the water juxtaposed with the frantic search in which the boat is partaking.


I never dream about TV shows, even though I watch everything. (Really, everything.) I fall asleep after Rick Grimes and his gang lob off walking-dead heads, and not one drop of blood or rotten limb shows up in a dream. But the night after my first viewing of Fortitude, I dreamt about that polar panorama, frustrated because I couldn’t get my camera to work to capture the gorgeous scene. All is ice—white, blue, light green—glistening, with thick snowflakes often flickering through windows.

It’s a cold and desolate town, rife with corruption, and as the “governor” likes to proclaim, “the safest place on earth.” And that’s even after this gentle and deliberately paced gem of a 12-part series has introduced us to a horribly butchered, murdered, bloody mess of an inhabitant. 

Filled with mystery, suspense, cinematic beauty, slow-churning action, Nordic accents, the amazing Stanley Tucci, sense of foreboding, alienation, danger lurking at every snowblind curve, red herrings (and I’m sure many other types of herrings), mysterious women, guilty-seeming men, weird children, animals you just can’t trust, the scariest T-shirt on TV and the nicest hotel this side of the Defiance’s NeedWant.  

Four episodes in, I still don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t care, because I have bought into this show big-time, and I am in for the ride.  Fortitude is this year’s best show. 




  • ·      A show highlight actually happens in my home and not on the screen. It’s when my wife, throughout, warns, ”If that ‘thing’ moves, I’m outta here.”


  • ·      As if all these Arctic types aren’t enough to satisfy me, along comes…Stanley Tucci, whose wry character, DCI Morton, a methodical British inspector won me over from his first scene, but whose lightweight wool coat and beret-like hat (that doesn’t cover his ears!!!) that he wears while he skulks around on frigid polar nights, drives me crazy. He’ll catch his death. 


  • ·      With 20 compelling characters, it’s a mystery wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a mystery.  And maybe no mystery at all.


  • ·      Governor Hildur Obegard (The Killing’s Sofie Grabol) is a great female lead character. Unique and complexly drawn.


  • ·      Whose been taking care of those beautiful huskies at the abandoned hut?


  • ·      Sheriff Dan Andersson (Richard Dormer) is one of the most complicated principal characters on any show. I particularly like that he talks like he’s being dubbed.


  • ·      How can you not love a show whose sets and actors' names feature alphabet letters with little circles over them and slashes through them?


  • ·      Elena (Veronica Echegui) is a bit creepy. I think she’s hypnotizing everyone. But she certainly is a beauty…and. I. will. do. as. She. commands.


  • ·      The homey Midnight Sun Hotel looks like it could be in Cabot Cove on Murder She Wrote.


  • ·      Oy, the Sutters.


  • ·      For the record, I don’t trust Markus, the Sutters’ neighbor.


  • ·      Best scene so far: Markus Dexter-ishly staring at his plump dining companion as she eats a hamburger.


  • ·      Ingrid and Petra, the best Scandinavian cops on TV.  Hello? Spin-off!!!


  • ·      “If that thing moves. I’m outta here.” 



Fortitude airs Thursdays on Pivot at 10 p.m. Missed episodes are available On Demand.

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