There must be something in the chilly Scandinavian air that is directly proportional to the pace of television dramas.
‘Scandi-Noir’ has delivered us some of the most hypnotic television in years: The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen, Lilyhammer -but they’re not exactly known for their ripping pace.
The latest is an Arctic mystery that actually hails from the UK, but it too is a slow burn, where the icy backdrop seems to have slowed the momentum enough for you to admire the scenery while waiting for the next plot point. At least it works as eye candy.
Fortitude, a new series from SKY Atlantic, is an unassuming town in the Arctic (the series is filmed in Iceland) where the local governor (Sofie Gråbøl) is announcing development plans for a new eco-hotel to be built into a glacier for lovers of Northern Lights, or just lovers wanting something different.
But this town, that has never had a murder, is about to undergo a major crime.
The set-up for this is quite involved with a cluster of townsfolk introduced to us. There’s the elderly photographer (Michael Gambon) who stumbles upon a polar bear ravaging the carcass of a man; there’s the gruff local sherriff (Richard Dormer) who ominously tells him he will ‘take care of it’; there’s the scientist (Christopher Eccleston) who is presented with a potential historic archeological find and is determined to protect it; there’s his young scientist recruit (Luke Treadaway) who is new in town; there are the young parents (Jessica Raine, Nicholas Pinnock) of a boy who falls sick to a mystery illness, and one of whom is having an affair; and more.
But worlds unravel when a man is found attacked in his home. Enter a British detective (Stanley Tucci) summoned to solve a crime, but ruffling plenty of feathers along the way.
The setting and the cast are the best of Fortitude, with former Killing star Sofie Gråbøl now out of her jumper and with a more forthright character. Finding likeable characters is a bit of a challenge too, although Jessica Raine (pictured) as a young mother with a son hanging by a thread is hard to ignore.
Stanley Tucci plays the ex-FBI agent turned London detective, who arrives in the second episode but finds himself at odds with the local constabulary. None of which fazes him. But there are questions about how much he already knows about the crime.
The sum of the parts falls just short of this being comparable to other Scandi-dramas. Sure it’s great to have a top-notch cast and the exterior shots of glaciers, mountains, wildlife and even a dash of nudity, but it’s important to also care about the individuals and relationships.
So far Fortitude may leave one a little bit too cool.
Fortitude airs 9:20pm Sunday on ABC.