Plot: The remote town of Fortitude is often referred to as the safest place on earth, as there is little to no violent crime. But when a murder rocks the small Arctic Circle community, things might never be the same. Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) is on the case, but given his inexperience in the field of murder investigations, some help is dispatched to the small town. In fact, the arrival of Detective Eugene Morgan (Stanley Tucci) was so fast, it raises some eyebrows about his presence and almost uncanny timing. The authorities begin a town-wide sweep for information and clues, but the town is so small and close-knit, they tend to shut out outsiders. And since Morgan is indeed an outsider and one few in the town trust, he has to rely on unusual methods and soon, he and Anderssen begin to clash and even distrust each other. Everyone in the town seems to have a hidden past, but that’s why people come to Fortitude, to start over and leave the past behind. As people try to push their own agendas and protect their interests, can the truth be uncovered and at what cost?
Entertainment Value: This is one of the most crowded fields in television, but shows can find ways to spin things in new directions. In the case of Fortitude, the location feels fresh, as this isn’t an urban sprawl or even a typical small town, but an isolated, remote Arctic Circle locale. Given the isolation and harsh conditions involved, you know the folks who take up residence here aren’t going to be run of the mill townies, which also works in the show’s favor. This is an ensemble piece, so while we do have some leads, the supporting players are given ample screen time. This allows us to get to know even minor characters and in this town, everyone seems to have buried their past, so that opens a lot of potential threads. As quirky as the characters are and the hints at the dark secrets they harbor, the town itself is also a prominent character here. Or I suppose, how the locals view the town and how it can benefit them, from financial gain to power to just a place to hide out. The pace is a little slow, but I was never bored here and the show’s pace balances narrative and atmosphere quite well. I think that the show could pick up speed in future seasons, as it won’t need to take so much time to introduce us to this assortment of folks.
I also found some of the narrative twists to be quite unusual, including some potential sci/fi horror type revelations. So if you want a straight laced detective show, this one might not be ideal, though it is by no means some off the rails twist fest, either. I should mention that Fortitude was produced with an HBO style approach in mind, as it involves frequent nudity, sex, and of course, violence. Not the kind of flashy distractions Game of Thrones offers, but still a punchier, more graphic spin on the genre than most detective shows. Fortitude also boasts a dynamic, impressive cast with such names as Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Richard Dormer, Sofie Grabol, Sienna Guillory, and Christopher Eccleston, among others. So even when the slow burn is especially slow, the performances make sure you remain invested. Tucci is featured in a lot of the promotional materials and he is prominent, but the show doesn’t revolve around him by any means. I like that the show gives each of the primary players plenty of chances to showcase their talents, while also allowing the minor characters to shine and have their moments as well. I had fun with these first twelve episodes and look forward to where the show goes next. If you appreciate detective shows but want something a little darker, give Fortitude a shot.