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
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?