By its finale, Fortitude’s first season was – to be blunt – a bit of mess. Even having offed a fair few of its principle cast in the preceding 11 episodes, it still felt like there were way too many plot threads to keep track of, and a subsequent mad rush to round them all off in the last hour. Add to this a number of scenes that felt too fantastical in the context of the gritty, Nordic noir-y aesthetics, and it was hard to escape the sense that this was a series that had prided cinematic visuals, an A-list cast (Stanley Tucci, Christopher Eccleston) and an aggressive, expensive marketing campaign (including a life-size polar bear roaming around London) over character development and storytelling.
Thankfully, in what you might term ‘reverse True Detective syndrome’, it feels like lessons have been learned from the first season and applied to the second. An opening scene that flashes back to 1942 might not suggest tighter, more cohesive storytelling lies ahead. But a couple of episodes in, with a headless corpse having been discovered buried in the ice out by a highway, it feels like we are in slightly more straight-up whodunnit territory. The new cast additions, too, are almost immediately compelling: as excitable crab fisherman Michael Lennox, Dennis Quaid has an instantaneous chemistry with both Game Of Thrones' Michelle Fairley (his wife, Freya, suffering from a mysterious illness) and the returning Sofie Gråbøl’s troubled governor: one of the few characters who made it out of the first season alive.
In truth, the rubbing out of so much of the cast – fantastic as they all were – may just be the making of Fortitude’s second series. It still looks stunning and is still brilliantly acted. But now, thankfully, there is just enough going on rather than way too much.