Fortitude‘s second season premieres tomorrow on Amazon Prime. If this news doesn’t excite you, that just means you haven’t yet watched the UK-made show’s first season (also on Amazon Prime). Let us give you this public service announcement: Go watch it. At least if you think you’d enjoy a totally gripping, incredibly acted, scifi/horror/crime-thriller-in-a-frozen wasteland TV series.
At first glance, Fortitude doesn’t really seem like much of a science ficiton series, but worry not. It definitely gets there. And this reveal isn’t a spoiler at all — it’s just one component (sometimes scary, often completely and fantastically gross) of the best dramas we’ve seen in a while. It takes place on the Scandinavian island of Fortitude, a place so far north it’s kind of beyond the purview of any one nation. The population is international, if not exactly diverse. And life is generally what you’d expect in an isolated, permanently snowbound community: everyone knows everyone, but there’s still plenty of stuff that goes on behind closed doors. Oh, and everyone is heavily armed at all times — there are three times as many polar bears as people in the area, and they’re hungry and often aggressive. Especially lately, for some strange reason.
A bear attack is initially blamed for the death of the town’s leading scientist in residence, Dr. Charlie Stoddart (Doctor Who‘s Christopher Eccleston). What else could have left behind such a savagely mutilated corpse? The murder investigation is led by prickly Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer, Game of Thrones‘ Beric Dondarrion), no-nonsense Governor Hildur “Hildy” Odegard (Sofie Gråbøl), and outsider Detective Chief Inspector Eugene Morton (Stanley Tucci, playing an American who happens to be a British cop, for reasons that aren’t made clear but don’t matter anyway). Soon, however, the mystery deepens and eventually touches nearly every one of Fortitude‘s unusually well-drawn characters, which also include Michael Gambon as a retired former policeman who’s become the eccentric town drunk as he waits out his terminal illness, and Verónica Echegui as the Spanish hotel keeper whose past holds more than one violent secret.
I don’t want to give away exactly what makes season one a scifi horror show, because as with any serial mystery drama — Broadchurch, The Killing, The Bridge — a big part of the fun is getting a new puzzle piece each episode that builds on what’s been previously revealed. But suffice to say that amid all the fiery personalities, greedy schemes, bureaucratic cover-ups, and horrific lapses in judgment in the name of passion, global warming also plays a part in the chaos that overtakes all of Fortitude’s residents, resulting in something emerging from the ice that should have stayed buried forever. (Before you say it, no — it’s not aliens.)
Fortitude season one ended in a fairly grim manner for a lot of the principle characters, but the story left more than enough unresolved glacial intrigue to make the second season a welcome prospect. Now that the show’s fully under the Amazon umbrella (season one originally aired stateside on the no-longer-in-existence Pivot TV), it makes sense that another big star has been added to the cast: Dennis Quaid, who’ll be playing a local fisherman desperately trying to save his ill wife.
Season two just wrapped up its run in the UK, but American audiences can tune in on Amazon Prime starting tomorrow. Really, if you haven’t given season one a spin, do yourself a favour and check it out. (And thanks so much to Blaise D. to alerting us to the show!)