Fortitude: Season Two, Episode One

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(Original post at Cultbox)

“Life is hard in Fortitude,” says series creator Simon Donald, and after the events of Season 1, it’s difficult not to agree with him.

Sky Atlantic’s Arctic horror series Fortitude returns for its second season, revealing the aftermath of the prehistoric wasp attack that threatened to tear the town apart and setting out new threats to Fortitude’s fragile peace.

Under an ominous blood aurora, a series of grotesque crimes are uncovered, proving that life in Fortitude is as gory as ever. Thanks to a decapitated body, a mutilated dog, and a cannibalistic nomad, there was no shortage of gory scenes in this week’s opener.

Blood and guts have always been the heart of Fortitude, but Season 2 treads new ground with its depiction of the town’s trauma. Whatever veneer of respectability Fortitude had was destroyed by the grisly murders of last season, and the citizens are driven to desperation by food and fuel shortages.

Government official Erling Munk (Ken Stott) is already butting heads with Fortitude’s Governor Hildur. Stott has had little to do so far, but after Hildur defies orders from Oslo by giving the sailors their fuel, Munk will surely have a greater role to play.

New arrival Michael Lennox (Dennis Quaid) is a fisherman hunting king crab, all to fund his dying wife Freya’s (Michelle Fairley) expensive treatment. Their troubled teenage son Rune (Edvin Endre) has already assaulted Hildur, and the blood on his clothes makes him a prime suspect for the recent murder.

The absence of Stanley Tucci and Michael Gambon is keenly felt, particularly as the new cast are yet to make a real impact. The Lennoxes are intriguing characters, but Fortitude is yet to introduce Parminder Nagra or Robert Sheehan. Luckily, a show that can successfully kill off its A-list stars in one fell swoop isn’t reliant on star power to be interesting.

After Vincent’s near death experience, he and Natalie admit their feelings for each other, but Natalie’s scientific instincts threaten the new relationship as she secretly studies the wasps. Eric’s search for Dan Anderssen’s body leaves Fortitude police without a leader and Hildur without an ally to lean on. Their reconciliation on the glacier (and a very satisfying speech from Hildur) offers a glimmer of hope that the couple could stay together following Eric’s infidelity.

Though missing for weeks and presumed dead, Dan Anderssen reappears at the end of Episode 1, with a little more than “stubble and a story.” Dan bites Eric’s leg when his colleague tries to subdue him- perhaps Dan has succumbed to cannibalism to survive the arctic? Given the history of transmitted diseases in Fortitude, Eric should probably get that bite looked at.

Fortitude’s return balances the horror, crime and personal drama that made the first season so gripping.

The audience is left with more questions than Fortitude cares to answer, but what lies beneath the surface of the town is sure to horrify and fascinate audiences in equal measure.

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