An international cast, including Dennis Quaid and The Killing’s Sofie Grabol, face a chilling Arctic threat in the second series of this ambitious, big-budget thriller…
A first look at Series 2 of the chilly Arctic drama featuring Sofie Grabol from The Killing.
When the creepy Arctic thriller Fortitude launched in 2015, it was reportedly one of the most expensive British dramas ever, costing a reputed £25 million. Featuring Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Grabol, Stanley Tucci and Michael Gambon amid epic frozen landscapes, it seemed like money well spent. The only problem was that, when it came to filming in the Icelandic town of Reydarfjordur, which doubles as Norway, the production had to buy in fake snow. But not for Series 2…
“The weather was much more helpful,” creator, writer and executive producer Simon Donald says. “But they got stormed off on a couple of occasions. For the opening sequence, the encampment got blown away in the middle of the night and they had to rebuild it. It was fiercely cold when they were shooting that – we got a lot of snow this year.”
The second run begins 60 miles north of Fortitude, which is the fictional version of the real-life Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. A sinister prologue, set in 1942, sees Russian soldiers charging into a camp of Sami travellers and their reindeer, on the track of a bloodthirsty murderer. But even after he’s gunned down in the snow, the fiendish flesh-eater proves impossible to kill.
“The explanation for that isn’t supernatural,” says Donald. “As a principle, I don’t do that. But I love those various genre spaces, where you can give the audience the option of thinking it’s supernatural for a length of time. Lots of my favourite films and telly shows do that – even David Lynch does it, to an extent.”
Twin Peaks is an obvious comparison, as the Arctic hideaway features a curious collection of characters, a twisty plot and dark secrets. And then there’s the skyborn phenomenon of the ‘blood aurora’, which may be a harbinger of bad things to come.
“Fortitude is sort of at the edge of civilisation and of rescue,” Donald says. “It’s history is hidden under ice. Ancient cultures have myths that have explained things like the blood aurora, a meteorological occurrence at the opening of the season.”
Back in present-day Fortitude, a headless body in the snow may be the gruesome work of this same monster. It’s already a dangerous place: the polar bears outnumber humans by four to one, and everyone carries a rifle for their own protection.
“In reality, the police aren’t investigating brutal murders very often,” Donald says, of the real-life Svalbard islands. “They tend to be investigating wildlife crime and violations of territorial regulations, so we give them a bit more to do.”
Bearing the brunt of this effort is Governor Hildur Odegard (Sofie Grabol), whose husband, police officer Eric Odegard (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson), is off on an Arctic mission to try and find missing sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer). There’s also pressure from a Norwegian official (played by Ken Stott), who is wary of the costs of maintaining the settlement.
“She can tell they’re trying to shut this place down, and she’s fighting to resist this,” says Donald. “The sparkling opportunity of Arctic tourism that she was flying with in Season 1 has been sort of shot down by events.”
Donald is full of praise for Grabol, though he admits that her high standards can be exacting.
“In the first season she gave me quite a hard time,” he says. “The very first time I went in to meet her, she was charming but it was kind of chilly. She was just asking me lots of really difficult questions about the limits of her authority as a governor. She is formidable, and if you gave her a scene where she didn’t believe what you were asking her character to say, she was right on it. More than anybody, she kept me on my toes in the first season.”
Dennis Quaid ( Inner Space), who brings some Hollywood heft to Series 2 of Fortitude, plays a fisherman struggling to make a living. And apparently the actor enjoyed his Arctic experience.
“He wants to come back and do the next season, if I let him live to the end,” says Donald, who’s already working on Series 3. “I think there’s enough madness generated by the end of Season 2 that it’s fair to say that the world gets more psychologically intense in Season 3. We always have a desire to find the horror in what’s available in the landscape, and that’s coming back into it in a pretty shocking way.”
“FORTITUDE IS AT THE EDGE OF CIVILISATION AND OF RESCUE. IT’S HISTORY IS HIDDEN UNDER ICE…”
The Arctic’s wide-open spaces only provide half the chills in Simon Donald’s tightly-plotted creation.