For­ti­tude Richard Dormer talks to Dar­ragh McManus about the fi­nale of this chilling drama

A cult favourite since it landed in 2015, Sky TV’s For­ti­tude is com­ing to an end with four shock­ing and puz­zling episodes. Dar­ragh McManus finds out what star, Richard Dormer, thinks about the end of his stay in the high Arc­tic

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When it be­gan in 2015, drama For­ti­tude was an icy blast of thrills, vi­o­lence and mystery, di­rect from above the Arc­tic Cir­cle. Cre­ated by Si­mon Don­ald, the mul­ti­mil­lion pro­duc­tion was set in the epony­mous town, a multi­na­tional set­tle­ment mod­elled on Longyear­byen in Nor­way’s Sval­bard ar­chi­pel­ago.

The land­scape was mag­nif­i­cently bleak.

The weather was un­end­ingly mer­ci­less. And For­ti­tude, the self-styled “100% crime-free town”, was af­flicted by the first in a se­ries of mur­ders.

Over two sea­sons, we ca­reened along with a show which was some­times crazy, some­times be­wil­der­ing, but very def­i­nitely unique and al­ways grip­ping. At first, For­ti­tude felt like a stan­dard mur­der-mystery or cop-pro­ce­dural with ro­man­tic and dra­matic el­e­ments, al­beit one set in an un­usual lo­ca­tion.

As the show pro­gressed, how­ever, it deftly in­tro­duced all sorts of un­pre­dictable weird­ness. We had an­cient killer wasps, par­a­sitic viruses which al­tered per­son­al­ity, a de­ranged shaman, self-mu­ti­la­tion and a host of gory killings.

Was this a crime thriller? Was it sci-fi? Or fan­tasy? Or all three, and more? Half the fun was try­ing to work that out. For­ti­tude was dif­fi­cult to de­scribe be­cause we’d never seen any­thing quite like this.

Now Sky brings us the third and fi­nal sea­son, a con­clu­sion that is only four episodes long. Af­ter the chaos and vi­o­lence erupted in For­ti­tude at the end of sea­son two, Oslo has despatched two po­lice of­fi­cers to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened. Ir­ish ac­tor Richard Dormer, who stands out in a bril­liant en­sem­ble cast as the men­tally tor­tured law­man Dan An­der­ssen, de­scribes this new short sea­son as “com­ing to the end of the jour­ney.” Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Den­nis Quaid, who plays grief­stricken Michael Len­nox, reck­ons that sea­son three is “about love and death. Ev­ery­thing is com­ing to a head.”

Dormer added, “Each sea­son has been very stand-alone. In sea­son one, you’re in­tro­duced to all these char­ac­ters and this world. In sea­son two we hit the ground run­ning and it was bonkers, mad and vi­o­lent. And sea­son three is just as mad, if not mad­der, than the pre­vi­ous two.” Think­ing about his own char­ac­ter, Richard com­ments, “The ac­tion takes place nine weeks af­ter the end of sea­son two, and Dan is not the full shilling. He is strug­gling to re­main hu­man.” The Por­ta­d­own na­tive has had a long ca­reer on stage and screen since a first ap­pear­ance in the BBC soap Ca­su­alty way back in 1991. He played Belfast record com­pany leg­end Terri Hoo­ley in Good Vi­bra­tions, has per­formed Shake­speare and Beck­ett on the stage, won awards for his writ­ing and is a mem­ber of the very select club of ac­tors who have ap­peared in Game of Thrones (Beric Don­dar­rion in sea­sons three, six and seven). Dormer clearly holds the creative minds be­hind For­ti­tude in high es­teem, say­ing, “It’s orig­i­nal writ­ing, and the char­ac­ters are very unique.” The dream­like Arc­tic land­scape, he adds, “is re­ally one of the main char­ac­ters; we’re just ants crawl­ing around this vast wilder­ness. Longyear­byen is where Si­mon (Don­ald) orig­i­nally had the idea to set For­ti­tude, but we didn’t film there at first be­cause it’s very, very, very cold.”

He also notes how, in For­ti­tude, you have to carry a hunt­ing ri­fle by law (all the po­lar bears, you see). Richard smiles, “It’s the Arc­tic Wild West. What’s not to love about it? This bleak, white, beau­ti­ful land­scape, this danger­ous place. It re­ally is bloody and bru­tal, and you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next.”

That’s a theme picked up by cre­ator Si­mon Don­ald, who ob­serves, “West­erns are where you find these per­sonal en­mi­ties com­ing to some kind of all-or-noth­ing con­clu­sion. That’s where we are with this last se­ries.”

So will Dan An­der­ssen find re­demp­tion – and find him­self again in the process? Dormer’s per­for­mance is so sub­tle, so pow­er­fully am­bigu­ous, that we are left un­sure – does An­der­ssen even want a happy end­ing?

In one scene in the new sea­son, Dan tells a room­ful of peo­ple that some­one has asked him, “Are you a good cop or a bad cop?” He pauses and adds, “You know what I’ve dis­cov­ered? I’m both.”

It’s the Arc­tic Wild West. What’s not to love about it?

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