Tag Archives: fortitude

What Have I Enjoyed Watching in 2015?

This year has been a really busy one — hence the paucity of posts from TVClaw Towers. Apologies to anyone who’s missed me.

last kingdom

The Last Kingdom | Episode Two © Carnival Film & Television Ltd Photographer: Joss Barratt Alexander Dreymon (as Uhtred)

What have I enjoyed watching in the rare moments when I haven’t been working? Here’s what. And if you haven’t seen the good stuff yet, then pull up a comfy chair and get ready to watch some really, really excellent TV shows.

In no particular order, here’s what’s grabbed my attention in 2015:

Ripper Street: the perfect ending to the whole H Division saga. The very end even had a cheery little nod to Spooks. *Sob*

Game of Thrones: gory, sad, frightening. Utterly compelling.

Fortitude: clever plot twists and a knock-out cast. Some completely bonkers moments. Can’t wait for Season 2.

Penny Dreadful: utterly bananas, but Timothy Dalton + stunning production design = a must-watch in the first half of the year.

No Offence: Joanna Scanlon is terrific as potty-mouthed DI Vivienne Deering. Rocking the heels-and-leather combo she turned in one of the most memorable performances of the year. Brilliant scripts from the “Shameless” team.

Pointless: best host banter. Ever.

The Last Kingdom:  in the mood for some Anglo-Saxon Chronicles action but fed up with Vikings‘ insanely violent torture porn? Watch this instead. Clever and well-written, with a winning lead in Alexander Dreymon. A breakout role for superb Ripper Street alum David Dawson.

Man Down: still funny, but I found myself pining for Rik throughout.

Les Revenants: t’inquiete pas — it’s still brilliant.

Yonderland: talc my downstairs! The hilarious Season 2 paid homage to Star Wars and Sherlock among other things and was chock full o’ family-friendly nudges, winks and smutty asides.

30 Degrees in January: have to admit, I loved the first half but found the second half heavy-going. Too many annoying, poor decisions.

University Challenge: obviously I have no idea what Paxo’s asking most of the time, but it’s an oldie that remains a goodie. (Cough, looking at you Doctor Who, cough…)

Last Man on Earth: if I was the last man on earth I would so steal all the great art from every museum and poo in the neighbour’s pool. This makes me laugh out loud every episode. Boris Kodjoe steals every scene he’s in.

River: unbeatable combo of Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgard aided and abetted by most of the ex-cast from last season’s Game of Thrones and a Sixth Sense-y vibe. Is River totally batshit crazy, or is he the ghost whisperer?

Great British Bake Off: ’nuff said.

 

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The New Northern Exposure: Fortitude and 30 Degrees in February

Zombie polar bears. Just putting it out there…

If you’re not watching Fortitude and 30 Degrees in February, start now. They’re both really good. You can thank us later. (Warning: spoilers ahoy.)

Both dramas are centred on the long, bleak winters up north (that’s Arctic Circle north, not Macclesfield), and how people deal with them.

30-Degrees-In-February-01-16x9-1

Sky

In 30 Degrees, urban Swedes, fed up with the incessant snow and cold and looking to kick-start their miserable lives, head to Thailand in search of happiness. In Fortitude, a multinational community stays put and staves off polar bears and the effects of the grim Norwegian winter with copious amounts of booze, cigarettes and sex.

As they have progressed, both shows have steadily become darker and taken viewers down several unexpected rabbit holes.

The Swedes in 30 Degrees soon discover that Thailand is not the promised land they thought it was. It’s as full  of violence, misery, poverty and exploitation as anywhere else.

Those girlie bars and topless massage joints? They’re built on the twin foundations of grinding poverty and sexual abuse.  Something that schlubby Glenn (Kjell Wilhelmsen) finds out to his cost when his bar girl fiancée empties his bank account and runs off. Only after she’s arrested does he find out that she’s got three children to support, but does he care?

We’re never really sure what Glenn thinks as he moves from girl to girl via a botched suicide attempt in search of a wife and children of his own. But just as we start feeling sorry for him he lets slip that he’s a homophobic bigot, so no more Mr Nice Glenn for Oh, the sympathetic kathoey trying to help him.

Turns out that Bengt (Kjell Bergqvist) was always an unrepentant bastard to his cowed wife Majlis. He didn’t turn to the dark side after he was tragically confined to a wheelchair, he was always like that. Watching Majlis blossom in the sunshine after she escapes from Bengt has been brilliant. Subtly played by the excellent Lotta Tejle, Majlis tentatively stretches out her hand towards independence and decides to stay in Thailand and become a dive master.

Just don’t mention the fact that she’s using Bengt as a towel rail in the hotel bathroom.

Fellow escapee Kajsa (Maria Lundqvist) is recovering from divorce and a stress-induced stroke by building a holiday bungalow empire on the beach with her two daughters. Teenager Joy (Hanna Ardéhn) is miserable and anxious, and little Wilda (Viola Weidemann) does nothing but play on her DS. It looks like a disaster waiting to happen but Kajsa is oblivious. She’s too focussed on beating Chan (Thomas Chaanhing), her competitor next door. In turn, he is most definitely not Mr Nice Guy any more.

Fortitude-KeyArt-FINAL-LB-1

Sky

Fortitude is Cicely, Alaska as reimagined by  Edgar Allen Poe and Irving Welsh.

Stanley Tucci plays DCI Morton, the Joel Fleischman of the show, initially sliding around the icy streets in his lace-up dress shoes clutching his notes. Only after he’s convinced the locals that he’s a buffoon does Morton reveal himself to be something of an ace detective.

Although Tucci’s brilliant in this it still feels odd to have him there. The plot contrivance that explains why Morton of the Met is an American ex-FBI officer is not terribly convincing.

Murder most foul occurs in the first episode but since then what seemed initially like a rather self-important, dreary Scandi crime drama has careered straight into left field. What lies beneath the ice? Why are people murdering each other with cutlery?

For a place where it’s actually illegal to die, the body count is really starting to rack up. Does creepy science teacher Markus (Darren Boyd) have anything to do with it?

And are the victims going to stay dead?

Zombie polar bears. Just putting that out there… Again.

Holding the town together (just) are Sheriff Dan (Richard Dormer) and Governor Hilde (Sofie Gråbøl minus the sour face and woolly jumpers, but with some killer accessories and an interior design scheme to die for). With fingers in just about every pie, and hopefully not in any people, together they are the Maurice Dubois of Fortitude.

But why is Dan always on the verge of hysteria? And just how corrupt is Hilde?

Tavrani (Ferdy Ramon Tikaram) and Henry (Michael Gambon) are this show’s Ed Chigliak and Holling Vincoeur. Turns out that the laid-back taxidermist is also a shaman. He knows something wicked their way comes and has agreed to help Henry protect a suspected killer against… well, what remains unclear. But their plan so far involves a lot of blood and string.

So many questions, such an unnervingly twisty unexpected drama that just keeps on getting better.

30 Degrees in February airs on Sky Arts 1 HD, Fridays at 9pm

Fortitude airs on Sky Atlantic, Wednesdays at 10pm

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