Posts Tagged mystery

‘Fortitude’ Season One Finale is Hardly a Buzzworthy Finish

Caution: This post contains spoilers. “Fortitude” is for mature audiences only.

After such a gain of momentum throughout the first season, “Fortitude” descends into quite a lackluster series of events in its finale. Many of you who have stuck with each installment may also be mourning the loss of arguably the best character, DCI Eugene Morton (Stanley Tucci), in the penultimate episode. I’d been dreading that outcome, too, yet it was expected that Henry Tyson (Michael Gambon), another fantastic character, would eventually crack entirely and wreak havoc. When these characters, particularly the former, are not present, both are greatly missed. Meanwhile, the scientific investigations have led to another dissection, showing that the psychotic and murderous tendencies of some townspeople could be traced back to parasitic wasp larvae.

The finale picks up here, with Vincent (Luke Treadaway) in a desperate situation as wasps emerge from the body of Dr. Allerdyce. (Phoebe Nicholls of “Downton Abbey” never gets a break in this series, does she?) He formulates a plan of triggering a gas explosion to destroy the wasps. It’s a laughable scene though: how does he survive a huge blast that knocks Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer) off his feet? Also, it appears that the Ichneumon wasps did not infect Vincent, but we’ll know for sure later on. Is it possible to develop a better weapon to use against the wasps? Flamethrowers are neat, but it doesn’t seem wise to set fire to all of Fortitude.

Unfortunately, Elena (Verónica Echegui) has been infected and acts strangely by smearing jam on her face. Her decision to handcuff herself is also unsettling; was she trying to protect Carrie (Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips)? It’s not enough to stop her from attacking the young girl. Dan arrives and he is forced to shoot Elena to thwart her psychotic intentions, despite his vow in the previous episode that he would never hurt her. Will he ultimately kill himself for harming Elena? When Elena wakes up, will she try to harm herself for hurting Carrie? The cycle just continues on the downward spiral, as seen with Jason (Aaron McCusker), who couldn’t deal with the violence replaying in his head from what he unleashed on Ronnie (Johnny Harris).

The other relationships in this series do not feel as strong. There’s a bit of a happy ending for Hildur and Eric when he returns with the drill. It’s debatable whether that fits the tone of the show or if it’s believable, given how set Hildur (Sofie Gråbøl) was on cutting ties with Eric (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson). It’s possible that she’s holding onto whatever she can, because the glacier hotel has slipped from her grasp. Her control over the town has also loosened as fear and panic have crept in.

The wasp explanation was not particularly astonishing in itself. (The actual wasps emerging from Dr. Allerdyce is an entirely different story.) There were hints dropped nearly every episode in everything from the repeated shots of the mammoth to the soundtrack complete with fluttering and buzzing noises.

More importantly, what makes “Fortitude” compelling and amazing to watch is the superb camera work that is used to bring the town and Arctic region to life as well as to make us squirm in our seats with trepidation. On the one hand, there are so many sweeping shots of the landscapes; Dan’s last words about his obsession with Elena might easily describe what one might say about the majestic mountains around Fortitude.

Photo Credit: Pivot

Photo Credit: Pivot

At the same time, there are also repeated sequences wherein nature dwarfs man and even isolates him from civilization. Take for instance, one of the last frames at the close of the finale. Even though Dan stands above the town, the haze and smoke almost seem to taunt him. Despite being in a position of authority as sheriff, he is still rather powerless to get things under control.

Dan surveys the damage in Fortitude. Photo credit: Pivot

Dan surveys the damage in Fortitude. Photo credit: Pivot

Such imagery also appears to be a play on the ruckenfigur, a visual trope made popular by the Romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich. We’re invited to join Dan in his state of powerlessness, shock, and horror at what’s transpired in the past 12 episodes. In spite of its name, Fortitude has not weathered these storms well.

With the news of another season for “Fortitude,” one wonders what will come next, since many of the characters have died already. Richard Dormer is perhaps the next strongest actor in the cast, but I don’t think he can carry an entire season on his own shoulders. Both Hildur and Morton have said that others will come from London or the mainland; that casting decision may be pivotal in determining whether the second season will succeed. (Naturally, I couldn’t resist using the word “pivotal,” considering that distribution rights are held by the Pivot network!) Or will we end up with a situation like “Broadchurch,” where the first season was stellar overall and then the second season just left everyone scratching their heads? I am hoping that the creative team behind “Fortitude” will come through and deliver more surprises and “fun” next season.


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New ‘Sherlock’ Photo Shows Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman Seizing Their Victorian Side

Caution: This news piece contains speculation and spoilers about “Sherlock.”

As Benedict Cumberbatch fans reel from the news of his recent engagement, there are more promising developments coming out about the “Sherlock” special. This promotional photo was released just hours ago today, showing Cumberbatch with a top hat and formal clothing that seems reminiscent of the attire sported by the late Jeremy Brett. Likewise, Martin Freeman’s bowler hat and brown suit call to mind Edward Hardwicke and David Burke from the same Granada TV series.

Today's tweet from the BBC. All rights belong to the BBC.

Today’s tweet from the BBC, first revealed by producer Sue Vertue. All rights and credit belong to the BBC.

Another tweet teased fans about the upcoming special with a photo of the cover page, which has evidently gone to a read through already. It’s set to begin filming in January 2015. CNET’s Bonnie Burton speculates that the period clothes indicate either time-travel or a costume party. As a third option, I think the production team could also be having fun with the fans, after a moment of “Say, what would they look like in the Victorian getup?” Though the popular series about the detective and doctor takes place in the present-day, it splendidly weaves together elements from many Conan Doyle stories at once.

What’s with the pointing by Sherlock there? Perhaps the gesture reminds you of the dramatic poses that would easily suit a Basil Rathbone or Peter Cushing promotional photo. Additionally, the “Sherlock” team could be taking a page out of another successful venture from Steven Moffat: yes, I’m referring to “Doctor Who.” Whatever the case, fans can look forward to seeing more of the devious Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), according to Mark Gatiss. As the filming commences in 2015, it’ll be exciting to see the other tidbits that will hit the Twitter feed about our favorite residents of 221B Baker Street.

“Sherlock” airs on PBS and “BBC America” in the U.S.

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TV Recap: David Suchet Returns for a Final Season of ‘Poirot’ in ‘The Big Four’

Caution: This review contains spoilers on “The Big Four.”

It’s hard to believe we’re going into the final season of the “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” with David Suchet as the beloved Belgian detective. The thirteenth season premiered last night on PBS MASTERPIECE with “The Big Four,” following Poirot as he unravels a series of murders, beginning with the death of a reclusive Russian chessmaster at a reception thrown by the Peace Party. The episode was written by Mark Gatiss, a name no doubt familiar to “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” fans alike.

The film differs markedly from the novel, adding an original character in the form of young pencil-pusher Lawrence Boswell Tysoe (Tom Brooke), who predictably wants an exclusive on Poirot’s investigation. Hugh Fraser reprises his role as Captain Hastings makes an appearance, but only in a couple of scenes. His role of sidekick has been given to Assistant Commissioner Japp, portrayed admirably again by Philip Jackson. Though she is not in the novel, Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) also returns. Check out their respective IMDb profiles and you’ll find that these three actors haven’t been on Poirot for about ten years. One might argue that the “Big Four” could playfully reference this reunion of actors (Suchet, Fraser, Jackson, and Moran) as much as the murder mystery itself!

The series has taken a darker turn since Poirot went on his own nearly ten years ago; the darker psychology is embedded in the Christie novels despite the light tone it takes up. Murder is a nasty business, as it’s often said in crime dramas. This installment leaves out the darker Catholic tones that have been so prominent in recent episodes like “Murder on the Orient Express.” While I am a Catholic, I found the references to be a bit forced and hardly a predominant part of the Christie novels, so it was a bit of a relief to see that “Big Four” focuses largely on stagecraft, deception, and identity.

Here, the threat of war and political conflict looms heavily, as the first killing takes place at the headquarters of the Peace Party, whose members continue to be connected to the crimes. There’s a brilliant series of shots with the newspaper headlines scrolling sideways along the screen, providing quick transitions from the murder scenes to Poirot’s investigations. The effect also serves to give the production a sleek, modern feel. It’s interesting how the murder plot finally gets tied to the strange gifts and notes being sent to fading actress Flossie Monro (Sarah Baxter).

While I disagree with Gatiss’ decision to change a number of elements from the novel in his adaptation (namely, what a disservice to Hastings), a few scenes stick out in their execution and build up in tension. Poirot’s examination of the chessboard was rather extraordinary in everything from the black floor mat and weighing scales to the final close-up of the electric current under the chess piece. Another stellar scene is the confrontation between Flossie and her once-spurned admirer, who is revealed to be Number Four. The third memorable scene is the replay of the flat explosion, which includes the audio of Poirot’s light and excited tone as he is setting the meeting over the phone. The conversation makes a wonderful juxtaposition to the action of Poirot’s realization that something is amiss and his decision to throw the cane and bolt. Indeed, it’s also a treat to see Poirot make a run for it, despite his expensive and tight-fitting patent leather shoes.

Splitting the Final Season: Free and Subscription Streaming

Poirot fans may (and should) take issue with one aspect of the release of this final season. Only two of the final five episodes are available on your local PBS station: “The Big Four” and “Dead Man’s Folly.” As the Wall Street Journal reports, the other three will only be available on Acorn TV. PBS has long been at the forefront of streaming quality and educational programming to audiences at a low cost, thanks to the generosity of donors. Viewers may remember A&E as the other network that aired episodes of Poirot. So why on earth does Acorn TV have the monopoly on most of the final season? It’s hardly a positive way to give Hercule Poirot his last curtain call when “Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case” premieres on August 25th.

Be sure to catch “Dead Man’s Folly” on August 3rd, in which we’ll see the return of the delightful Zoë Wanamaker as crime novelist Ariadne Oliver.

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