Fortitude (2017)

The Arctic Circle is ‘the one place on Earth where we’re guaranteed a quiet life’ said Sofie Gråbøl’s town governor at the start of Sky Atlantic’s 2015 sub-zero blockbuster. Politicians’ promises being what they are, there then followed a demented 12-week orgy of bloody murder and mayhem that was subsequently traced to a swarm of reanimated prehistoric wasps escaping from a frozen woolly mammoth. True story.

Though that particular problem appears to have been neutralised, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any let up in the visceral carnage – at least not judging by this week’s second series opener, which kicked off with a zombie cannibal eating a baby, closely followed by a headless corpse being dug out of the snow. ‘I don’t recognise him,’ said Gråbøl of the victim – which wasn’t entirely surprising, given his lack of a head. (Never mind whodunit, let’s start with whoisit?) To further add to the gore factor, someone strung up a husky and stripped out its spine. I expect that will be the one they’ll get letters about.

Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon and Christopher Eccleston are just three of the big names who didn’t survive the first series (indeed, Eccleston didn’t survive the first **episode**), but there’s new Hollywood firepower this time around with the addition of Dennis Quaid as a weather-beaten fisherman.

The real star, though, remains the scenery. Set in Arctic Norway, the world’s most northerly human settlement (but filmed in Iceland), it’s a way more exotic location than, say, Death in Paradise – a widescreen, genuinely unearthly landscape where it’s easy to believe the normal rules of civilisation – or even physics – don’t apply. (Where else, for example, do bodies not decay?)

This week, the alienness of the environment was enhanced by a blackout caused by a rare ‘blood aurora’ – the whole of Fortitude lying in darkness beneath the canopy of a spectacular crimson lightshow. It was really quite beautiful, provided you could put the relentless slaughter and baby-eating zombies out of your mind.

A supercharged Twin Peaks on ice, Fortitude is utterly bonkers – but weirdly compelling.

TV extra:



This adult spin on children’s teatime classic Jackanory has a slightly misleading title, as it’s not really designed as a wall-to-wall gag-fest. Instead, an impressive list of guest readers – Sheridan Smith, Anna Friel, Bob Mortimer, Mel Giedroyc and Miriam Margolyes among them – relate a series of blackly comic modern morality tales from the comfort of a slightly moth-eaten armchair. It’s a nice idea, but may leave viewers of a certain age pining for the more authentic charms of proper telly legends like Bernard Cribbins, Kenneth Williams and Brian Cant. Or is that just me?


Further Back in Time for Dinner

The Robshaws continue their time-travelling culinary experiment through ‘the Downton years’, in the reality TV show even Giles Coren can’t spoil. This week, the family enjoyed a last, idyllic summer picnic before the age of Edwardian excess was brought to an abrupt halt by the arrival of the First World War. Worse still, they lost their brilliantly capable maid, Debbie, forcing mum Rochelle back into the kitchen to make ration-friendly ‘fish sausages’ (don’t ask) and experiment with ‘paper bag cookery’ (warning: highly flammable). Best food show ever? I think it might be.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 2, 2017

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