Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Fortitude: “Episode 3”

Sofie Gråbøl
Sofie Gråbøl

There are many thing plaguing the town of Fortitude. There’s the active polar bear population and the weird cursed mammoth remains, the polar clime, to say nothing of the sudden rash of murders. But with this week’s episode it’s really starting to feel like the root of most of the conflicts within city limits revolve around pu…tting your penis in someone.

As established previously, Fortitude operates with a sort of “open door/don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to fidelity, a system that seemed to work pretty well for its inhabitants until the town started belching up secrets (and prehistoric carcasses) like so much bad sushi. But with the walls of confidentiality rapidly eroding it becomes clear that as complicated as citizen relationships are in the streets, they’re exponentially more complicated in the sheets.

Last week’s pilot showed us what terrible things can befall you when you decide the sex the mysterious Spanish waitress in the shed behind your house: specifically, your child could get frostbite. But that hasn’t stopped Frank and Elena from continuing their digital probing in the comfort of her hotel room, while his wife sits vigil next to Liam’s cryovac (not really) tube. We also learned last week that Natalie and Jason were shacking up, leading to a manhunt to find them as they were both, at least nominally, suspects in Professor Stoddart’s murder. But what we didn’t know is that Jason has a wife and daughters at home who are left to answer questions about his whereabouts while he gets his freak on. And were that not enough extramarital tomfoolery, it’s also revealed this episode that Professor Stoddart’s wife Trish and Governor Odegard’s husband Eric have been knocking boots on the sly.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with the sexual escapades, no matter how extensive, of consenting adults. The problem, however, is when these escapades lead to situations that leaves everyone’s feelings hurt and plenty of motive to go around. For as swinging a city as Fortitude allegedly is, there seems to be a lot fear centered around significant others finding out the truth, underlining what the show has gone out of its way to establish for us already: A secret isn’t a problem. A secret getting out is.

In the opening scene we see DCI Morton working in the restaurant before being swooped in upon by two friendly locals. The man, the local schoolteacher, informs Morton of a few unbeknownst factoids about the environs that Fortitude inhabits. People can’t die here (as we knew already from poor Henry’s plight) but more than that, people can’t be buried here because nothing buried here ever decays. In fact, there are bodies in the cemetery still rife with the plague, a fact that is not only horrifying (Chekhov’s plague?) but again reminds us of the inherent problem with the town of Fortitude.

People have flocked to this town in the middle of nowhere to hide from things. They flocked to Fortitude to be left alone and to start fresh because that’s what this place was built for. Don’t ask questions. Keep your head down. Mind your business. But a town full of people with skeletons in their closets (or, in this case, it would be more accurate to say plague-ridden corpses) isolated in a remote town in the middle of nowhere is just asking for the curtain to be drawn back and all that they are hiding from to return full throttle. These pasts that they’ve run from are chickens coming home to roost and the irony is that it may never have come to be had they not come to lay their head in this particular town.


Beyond the secrets festering in the background, other things became incrimentally more clear in the episode, with Trish hearing her husband’s last message only to have it erased by Hildur, making her look all the more guilty. This also leads to perhaps the greatest dinner party since The Office in which Trish, Hildur and Eric sit the table and wordlessly chew without eye contact, everyone’s conscience guilty as fuck. Vincent is finally released from custody and Natalie and Jason are brought in. Natalie is only nominally questioned because the most important information they need from her is whether or not that mammoth tooth is the real deal, everyone still clueless that where there’s a tooth, there’s an entire mammoth.

And then there’s DCI Morton. The use of Stanley Tucci as Morton only gets more and more impressive. He meanders around the edges of the investigation and the town, wearing people down individually and soaking up information like a veritable sponge. He insinuates himself gently and the grudging trust he earns seems equally matched by unnameable fear. In other shows Tucci would be the unquestionable lead but Fortitude is more than willing to use him merely as the Other. An unknowable threat with whom people must decide whether he’s more dangerous as ally or adversary.


But that’s how everything is in Fortitude. It’s a delicate balance between friend or foe, love or lust. As Natalie tells Vincent (as she is wont to do) “Charlie knew this place was fierce, merciless. It’s neither good or bad. It’s vivd and unsullied. Wild.” And so it is all of those things, for better or worse, the problem is that there appears to be only worse to come.

Stray observations:

  • Also, Ronnie and Carrie were in this episode. I’ll be honest, I’m not super invested in whatever they’re up to (Including Ronnie robbing a store? Maybe?) but I’m about a thousand times more interested now that I know that Carrie has a bunny on her person somewhere. Too bad his awesome plane plan didn’t pan out.
  • I hope Anderssen and Morton end up besties.
  • Henry went to visit Liam in his tube for reasons, I guess.
  • Professor Stoddart had been watching Harvey when he was killed. Maybe polar bears are all in our heads, guys.
  • Or, I mean, second rabbit reference of the episode. Maybe this is a stealth remake of Night of the Lepus.
  • “Over matters of life and death you have discretionary power. You are a singularly powerful woman, Hildur Odegard.”
  • Ski-Doo is a funny word.
  • Whatever happened to the guy with the handcuffs?