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

Fortitude: “Episode 5”

Nicholas Pinnock, Sofie Gråbøl, Stanley Tucci
Nicholas Pinnock, Sofie Gråbøl, Stanley Tucci

The problem with Fortitude is the same as any other show built around a mystery: until you find out where you’re going, it’s difficult to know what to make of where you’ve been. Now, this sentiment runs counter to some critical wisdom you’ll find, which contends that the journey is what really matters and the destination, merely a single thread of an overarching tapestry, but if we’re honest with ourselves, the truth lies somewhere closer to the middle.

So at this point in the show’s existence, each viewing experience is a rough recreation of Homer Simpson watching Twin Peaks. (“Brilliant! … I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”) It’s like putting together a puzzle of a Magic Eye design. You may make progress, you may even get it finished, but until you lock that last piece into place, you’re not going to have any idea what it is you’re looking at. And perhaps the most ironic thing about that is that in Fortitude, the only thing you can trust are the things you see with your own eyes. Perhaps this is only natural, considering that town is bursting so much intrigue, it’s practically backing up the sewers. Thankfully for the townspeople, “Episode 5” had plenty for them to witness firsthand. But the problem with being party to the truth, however, is that often the things you see aren’t matters that you ever wanted to bear true witness to, an occurrence that repeated itself time and time again this week.

Take Hildur who spies husband Erik and grieving widow Trish, previously established as embroiled in an adulterous relationship, in a lingering embrace. It’s clear that she’s not entirely sure what the implication of the hug is, but it unsettles her all the same, likely all the more because of her own sketchy actions involving Trish’s voicemails. Then there’s Dan, who, after beating the living bejesus out of Frank upon arresting him, witnesses Elena’s interrogation, wherein she speaks at length about her intimate relationship with Frank and lack of significant relationship with Dan himself, further confirming the facts that threw him into such a violent rage originally. Finally, there’s Jules, who after spending the entirety of the series so far begging her husband to admit where he’d been when Liam got frostbite, got to witness his confession, his words too confirming all her worst fears.

Seeing is believing in this town, but seeing comes with a price. Just ask Henry, who still pays daily for being present and culpable in the death of Billy Pettigrew. Or Charlie Stoddart, whose body still lay in the morgue, who almost certainly gave his life for something he saw. And that’s how it goes for the audience as well. We take in everything that the characters tell us, but it’s only what we witness with our own eyes that we can trust. Moreover, it’s these bits of meaty evidence that are doled out piecemeal that keep Fortitude from becoming a swirling miasma of pointless red herrings and dead-ends and instead knit together in a delicate, inescapable spiderweb that keeps the characters trapped until they can be consumed, by whatever is lurking, wholesale.

As it stands, however, “Episode 5” introduced any number of new details that make little to no sense and incur far more questions than deliver answers. It’s revealed that Elena is actually a murderer who spent time in jail for a crime that she and/or her lover committed, that Frank was discharged from the military for spontaneous blindness while flying a plane, and that Frank’s shirt was covered with Charlie Stoddart’s blood. But so was Liam’s. Maybe. Liam’s shirt was definitely covered with blood, but whose? Also, there are the hermaphroditic, spontaneously-aborted, pickled reindeer fetuses. And the surprise feederism relationship. And, as always, suspicious doctor who, after this episode actually seems like one of the more down-to-earth residents, her disdain for whale meat notwithstanding.

These are all bizarre developments and, admittedly, the idea that they may all successfully explained by season’s end seems to strain credulity. But as bizarre as each twist gets, the show maintains some sort of grounding, if only in the reality of surreality of their universe. Fortitude may be off the wall, but it doesn’t break its own rules. Even if it’s not entirely clear yet what all of those rules are.


Morton’s Corner:

Basically at this point, Eugene Morton is in his own tangential detective show and it’s essentially the greatest thing ever. Thanks to Dan’s beatdown, Morton manages to convince the Governor that in order to maintain the legality of the investigation, he must be the one conducting the interviews. Episode by episode, Morton seems to claw his way into a more central position in the overall investigation and yet manages to keep himself encased in a pristine bubble that nothing and no one can touch. As much audience antagonist as audience surrogate, Morton often feels like he’s racing viewers to the end of the investigation and everyone’s trying to see who can complete the puzzle first.


Stray observations:

  • Probably going to start a new feature counting Morton’s self-satisfied smirks.
  • Meanwhile, on another show, Carrie and Ronnie are still kickin’ it on the glacier. Just hangin’ out. Chillin’. Not having a bunny.
  • Also, I’m all but certain she wakes up in the middle of the night and tells her dad there’s a snake outside. Which, I’m not even sure how that would work.
  • Pretty sure it wasn’t a snake. But I still don’t know what she said. But it obviously wasn’t a reindeer. And was probably a bear. Except how would a bear bite his hand but not make any noise? Tell me that.
  • So the doctor has a daughter. And the daughter has a boyfriend. And they’re the weird couple from earlier. And he’s a feeder. And she was in the shed with the mammoth carcass, I think? Those are all pieces of information.
  • Erik has literally the worst poker face in the world. Every time he tries to obfuscate with Morton he looks like a dog who just shit on the rug. How has this man been successfully stepping out on his wife for so long?
  • Pretty sad that the plural of fetus is not feti.
  • Elena’s testimony, abridged: “I was going to break up with him but we fucked instead.” Oh. Okay. Cool.
  • “A bit too… chest cavity.” It’s also going to be a long time before I eat ribs again, probably.
  • “The point is, there’s so much blood and then the bleeding ceased, just out of the blue, which is unusual. So he was hemorrhaging and then it just stopped. And then he was fine. And then he ate macaroni and cheese. That’s unusual.” Indeed.