Here’s a taste of chills to come next January with the second series of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude, starring Dennis Quaid (Far from Heaven) and Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing). Set to the music of Björk’s It’s Oh So Quiet, it shows a calm and collected Michael Lennox (Quaid) motionless in a frosted car and later, an anxious Governor Odegard (Gråbøl) standing alone in a snow-covered Fortitude poised with a flickering flashlight. Which new threats face the residents of the isolated Arctic town…?
DR1 (Danish TV), 2007 series one, 2009 series two, 2012 series three
‘Why do you insist on going to work, now you can have a proper life?’ – Sarah Lund’s mother
Sofie Gråbøl, Lars Mikkelsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Søren Malling, Nicolas Bro, Charlotte Guldberg
Identikit: In Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is about to begin her last shift before moving to Sweden with her fiancé when she becomes entangled in the disappearance of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen.
Four years after it was shown in its homeland of Denmark, The Killing turned up complete with unknown cast and subtitles on minority channel BBC4 in the UK – and sent a thunderbolt through television drama. Not since Prime Suspect had anyone realised just how engrossing and emotionally deep a crime series could be. The advantages it had were that 20 hour-long episodes were devoted to the story of Sarah Lund and her team investigating the rape and murder of Nanna Birk Larsen; the cast was superb, fronted by an enigmatic performance from Sofie Gråbøl, who single-handedly blew away the cliché of the Nordic blonde dollybird; and the writing (by Søren Sveistrup) focused on character and the impact of a violent crime on the victim’s family, rather than just the whodunit. Moving and engrossing, set in an alien Nordic world, this was a mature, fascinating drama. Series two and three were also a cut above your average TV crime fare, but the first instalment was a true classic. TV execs at the Beeb and ITV hate to hear it, but The Killing was far superior to just about every drama made in the UK in recent years.
Spin-off: The 2011 US copy fiddled with the story and failed to convince viewers, but somehow kept going for another couple of series.
Classic episode: number 18, in which Jan Meyer is murdered at the warehouse. Having spent the entire series trying to get Sarah to clear off and being rude to her, Jan had – without any verbal acknowledgement between them – become a partner with Sarah, a team that had begun to value each other, with Meyer expressing concern for Lund and addressing her ‘as a friend’. His death was a shocking, emotionally affecting twist. Lund almost cracks when she’s told the news.
Music: Soundtrack composed by Frans Bak.
Watercooler fact: Sofie Gråbøl had no formal training as an actor. Encouraged by her mother and having responded to a newspaper ad, she got the role of a young girl in a film about Paul Gauguin and that ‘summer job’ led to others and suddenly she was an actor. She’s done Shakespeare and appeared in a Danish romantic drama, Nikolaj go Julie, before achieving international stardom as Lund.
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
SKY ATLANTIC’S starry new thriller Fortitude is set to hit the small screen in January. Its international cast includes Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Grabol, Richard Dormer and Luke Treadaway. Set in an isolated town in the Arctic Circle, and filmed in Iceland and the UK, the series is a 12-parter and will be one of the biggest productions on Sky next year. The story will follow how the small community is shattered by a rare violent crime, the mysterious horror of which threatens Fortitude’s future… Anyway, here’s a brief taster.
|Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston|
|Michael Gambon; Richard Dormer|
AUTUMN SEES a glut of popular TV series, old and new, making their way onto DVD and Blu-ray.
Vera: series 1-4
Chasing Shadows: series 1
Chasing Shadows, the recent four-parter starring Reece Shearsmith as a socially inept detective chasing serial killers with the help of Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke, is also out today. Must admit, while Chasing Shadows had an interesting premise and a good cast, it didn’t click with me. This one costs £10.25 from Amazon.
The Professionals series 2 on Blu-ray
Going further back through the TV vaults, Network is releasing a digitally restored second season of the The Professionals, with Bodie, Doyle, Ford Capri, tight jeans and all. It does look wonderfully fresh here, a fascinating glimpse of late 1970s London that is sharp and vibrant. There is also the fun aspect of seeing Martin Shaw in his youthful heyday, and young up-and-comers such as Pamela Stephenson, here playing a dolly bird. Lewis Collins, who sadly died of cancer aged 67 last November, certainly looked the real deal as the former SAS man Bodie. The Professionals, which ran on ITV from 1977-83, specialised in all-action stories that were flimsy on character and plausibility, but it is a pleasure to watch some of them again. There are also out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage among the special features.
The Hour of the Lynx on DVD
Fans of The Killing may interested in this slice of Nordic Noir. This feature-length thriller reunites Sofie Gråbøl and Soren Malling for the first time since The Killing series 1, and it’s a fairly dark affair. A 45-year-old priest, Helen, is approached by scientist Lisbeth in a plea for help. A young man, who has been sent to a high-security psychiatric ward after killing an elderly couple, has attempted suicide while rambling about God. The twist is that he has been the subject of an experiment to ‘humanise’ inmates… The DVD is released on 6 October.
• Montalbano and Young Montalbano may have said arrivederci to their BBC4 devotees for now, but anyone who’s salivated over Salvo’s lovely beachside house may be interested to know it’s a bed and breakfast for holidaymakers when filming stops. Ivana Micciché has contacted CrimeTimePreview and tells me she had the idea for the B&B in 2004. She sends these pictures of the detective’s house, and says anyone interested in stopping by should check out this site for La Casa di Montalbano.
• So the Crime Writers’ Association has just celebrated its 60th anniversary by voting for its favourite novel, series and author. Here’s the result:
Best Ever Novel: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Best Ever Series: Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
Best Ever Author: Agatha Christie
Personally, I find Agatha Christie pretty dull – which I know is sacrilege. As a CWA member, I voted for Elmore Leonard (best author), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (novel) and Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor books (series).
So, I’d like to ask anyone reading this – what’s your poison (so to speak)? Comments welcome below…
|Shooting star – Sarah Lund. Pics: BBC|
|Reinhardt and Zeuthen|
The devotion of British viewers to The Killing will be cut tomorrow night when the third series concludes and we say Hej hej to Sarah Lund and what has been a memorable TV drama. As Lund’s cowboy strut takes her off into the sunset (or, as this is Denmark, into the gloom), will it end happily for Sarah, the obsessed but shrewd detective? Will she be reconciled with her son? Seems unlikely she will end up with Borch, the man she loves, after that visit from his wife last week. But surely writer Søren Sveistrup won’t be cruel and kill her off… Oh, and then there’s the investigation. We now know it was Zeuthen’s right-hand man, Reinhardt, who seemed to have provoked the whole killing spree and kidnapping of his daughter. Will the killer get Reinhardt, or will Lund stop him? Will Kamper win the election, and what has been Karen’s game? This series has had its slow stretches (anyone care if Kamper’s party forms an alliance with the Centre Party?) and its implausibilities (how did the killer vanish after Lund shot him from a few feet away, and then again when he limped away from his pursuers at the government HQ?). The Killing III may not have matched the superb first series, but it has still been a sophisticated, emotionally charged thriller. And in Sofie Gråbøl (Lund), Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Mathias Borch), Morten Suurballe (Lennart Brix) and the rest, the series once again gave us a gripping display of ensemble acting. It’s about time UK broadcasters tried to match The Killing‘s depth and quality. The final two episodes of The Killing are on BBC4 tomorrow night (Saturday, 15 December), starting at 9pm
|Sarah Lund at the murder scene that launches the third series. Pics: BBC|
BBC4: starts Saturday, 17 November, 9pm
Story: Detective Sarah Lund has found some peace in the form of a new home, hopefully a move to a less front-line job, and the impending recognition of her 25 years police service. But homicide again gets in the way of her plans…
Sarah Lund returns in the third and final series of the acclaimed Danish crime drama – but with a difference. She’s let her hair down, has new jumpers, a garden, is cooking proper meals, and half-smiles at one point.
That the uncommunicative, obsessive detective is trying to reclaim her life will catch her many devotees off-guard. This is the woman whose compulsion in series one to solve the Nanna Birk Larsen case led her to lose sight of her boyfriend and her son.
We get reacquainted with lonesome Lund as she is about to be rewarded for 25 years of police service. So eager is she to pursue some happiness in her personal life that she is trying to get a transfer away from the crime scenes to the analysis department, and also tries to duck out of investigating a mangled body found in a junkyard by the port.
|Lund is pushed into investigating by Borch (right)|
The audience knows the Lund enigma so well
Then comes a painful scene. Lund has invited her teenage son to dinner with his girlfriend, whom Sarah has never met. She has prepared a meal for the couple, got her new home ready – but then the lad calls to blow her out.
It’s sad for Lund, who starts apologising to her boy for having failed occasionally as a mother. But while doing this, she absentmindedly flicks through some crime-scenes photos of a dismembered corpse. A tattoo on a severed arm offers her a clue, and she begins to ignore her son, once again working through the possibilities of this clue.
Sarah Lund is back, her son forgotten again. In a moment, sadness switched to laughter when I saw a preview of this opening episode at the BFI in London on Friday. The audience now knows the Lund enigma so well, they could only laugh when she reverted to her murder-immersed old self.
Sarah Lund’s old flame is on the scene
The global financial meltdown is the backdrop to this 10-part story, and the apparently random death in the scrapyard turns out to have links to the crisis.
|Lund with new partner Juncker and Brix|
It’s a rich mix of a story, with the strands including Sarah Lund’s old flame, Mathias Borch from the National Security Service, reappearing in her life, while Prime Minister Kamper is facing re-election and trying to avert the disaster of having Denmark’s oil giant Zeeland pulling out of the country and moving operations abroad, costing many local jobs.
Zeeland’s boss Robert Zeuthen is facing a boardroom coup, and there’s a shocking development concerning his family. It’s a tense opening episode, kicking off with chilling murders on board a tanker ship, but one containing a lot of the political machinations of the kind we saw in The Killing 1.
The Killing was the TV drama of 2011
The original series was only shown in the UK last year, a remarkably short time in which Sarah Lund – the awkward, silent, puzzling heroine – has become a much-loved leading character in the crime genre. Having been around since 2007, the subtitled Danish series with no household names in it was a word-of-mouth sensation, clearly catching BBC4 completely unaware.
|Is there a link between the sordid murder and corporate powers?|
We’ve watched Lund’s decline into loneliness, particularly in series two, where she found herself in uniform on border duty. This second outing lacked the emotional power of the first, which was a heartrending portrayal of the impact of the kidnap and murder of teenager Nanna on her family.
Will series three be a fitting send-off? Some of the novelty has inevitably worn off what was initially an exotic drama for Brits, but the opener is packed with intrigue and Sofie Gråbøl is again very strong and sympathetic as Lund.
Sofie Gråbøl: ‘I cried all the way home’
It should also keep us guessing. The actress was at the BFI last week and said that for the third she had guessed wrong who the writer Søren Sveistrup had made responsible for the crimes.
She also acknowledged that finishing her role as Lund had been emotional. ‘It hit me like a hammer,’ she told the audience. ‘I had three big emotional scenes on the last day and it was stressful.’ Having been given a bottle of champagne, she said, ‘I just ran off because it would be pathetic to cry at work. I cried all the way home.’
|Sofie Gråbøl at the BFI. Pic: Robin Jarossi|
Sveistrup was also at the BFI and emphasised that series three is definitely the final one. ‘It’s been great,’ he said. ‘We agreed from the start that it would not be a neverending story. I’d hate it to become just another mass-produced show.
‘So much television stinks. It’s important to reinvent yourself. Do something, be proud of it and finish it.’
He’s surely right. But Sarah Lund will be much missed.
Cast: Sofie Gråbøl Sarah Lund, Nikolaj Lie Kaas Mathias Borch, Morten Suurballe Lennart Brix, Sigurd Holmen le Dous Asbjørn Juncker, Anders W. Berthelsen Robert Zeuthen, Helle Fagralid Maja Zeuthen, Stig Hoffmayer Niels Reinhardt, Olaf Johannessen Kristian Kamper, Jonatan Spang Kristoffer Kamper, Trine Pallesen Karen Nebel, Tammi Øst Birgit Eggert, Peter Mygind Tage Steiner