Sky Atlantic’s much-anticipated new crime series is a slow thaw, but it has a great cast and a terrific setting
|In cold blood – murder comes to Fortitude, with Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston. Pics: Sky|
Sky Atlantic: starts Thursday, 29 January, 9pm
Story: In the close-knit community of Fortitude in the Arctic Circle, a murder touches everyone and the unsettling horror of the crime threatens the future of the town itself.
AN AVALANCHE of hype has accompanied Sky’s Arctic thriller. At a rumoured £25million it has cost more than the entire budget of the Sky Arts channel, apparently. It’s meant to pitch Sky Atlantic into the HBO league of major drama creators. It’s the network’s most ambitious series ever etc etc.
|Sheriff Dan doesn’t think the town is big enough for him and Morton|
With a terrific international roster of actors including Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Dormer and Sienna Guillory, it certainly grabs the attention. And devotees of recent dark mysteries such as The Killing and Broadchurch will also be intrigued by an unusual 11-parter set in an almost surreal frozen setting.
But, on viewing it, how does Fortitude measure up? I thought it got off to a slightly bewildering start.
Sofie Grabol is Fortitude’s governor
|Wildlife photographer Henry makes a horrid discovery|
The opening feature-length episode is stunningly set in an Icelandic town, but it hurriedly throws so many characters and storylines at you that the first hour leaves you a bit, well, cold.
It begins with Michael Gambon’s Henry stumbling on a savage scene on the seafront, which is immediately disconcerting. Then a young lad is stricken with a mystery illness and is left by his father, who’s having illicit sex with a hotel receptionist.
Meanwhile, the discovery of a mammoth’s remains by two chancers threatens the plans of the governor, Hildur (The Killing‘s Sofie Grabol), to redevelop Fortitude.
We also meet the town’s odd but charming PCs Ingrid and Petra, and new arrival Vincent (played by Luke Treadaway), who’s here to help Professor Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston).
Stanley Tucci as DCI Morton
There’s more, but the blizzard of plotlines comes to a halt when a grisly murder is discovered, and the town with no crime is abruptly revealed to actually harbour very dark undercurrents.
|Ingrid and Petra|
It is when Stanley Tucci’s character, DCI Eugene Morton, arrives from London that the drama gels and we get our bearings (though how an American with FBI credentials happens to be working for London’s Metropolitan Police is again confusing).
Morton is confronted by the antagonistic sheriff (Richard Dormer), which sets up the juicy prospect of a running battle between the pair.
After what is a messy opening episode, Fortitude could well develop into a sharp and intriguing drama. Created by Simon Donald, who wrote C4’s gritty crime series Low Winter Sun, it is certainly original, with a savage but beautiful setting.
Sofie Grabol shows her versatility by throwing off her strutting detective Sarah Lund from The Killing to play an under-pressure politician with an agenda. Tucci is very watchable as the outsider poking his nose in, and there are certainly enough murky goings-on to keep viewers guessing.
|Newcomer Vincent (Luke Treadaway) meets Natalie (Sienna Guillory)|
I’ve seen it compared to Twin Peaks, which is misleading. But Fortitude is in the rich vein of contemporary dark crime series full of compromised heroes.
Sky will be anxious that it snowballs into a bigger hit than its previously acclaimed series The Take (2009) and Mad Dogs (2011), but, while refreshingly bold, it doesn’t put them in the same league as HBO and True Detective just yet.
Cast: Richard Dormer Sheriff Dan Anderssen, Stanley Tucci DCI Eugene Morton, Michael Gambon Henry Tyson, Sofie Grabol Governor Hildur Odegard, Christopher Eccleston Professor Charlie Stoddart, Luke Treadaway Vincent Rattrey, Jessica Raine Jules Sutter, Nicholas Pinnock Frank Sutter, Johnny Harris Ronnie Morgan, Veronica Echegui Elena Ledesma, Sienna Guillory Natalie Yelburton, Darren Boyd Markus Huseklepp, Mia Jexen PC Ingrid, Alexandra Moen PC Petra, Darwin Brokenbro Liam Sutter, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips Carrie Morgan, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson Eric Odegard, Chipo Chung Trish Stoddart, Phoebe Nicholls Doctor Allerdyce