The Fall - Series One
Agent Dana Scully is older, wiser yet still as wonderfully erudite and astute as ever. She’s borrowed some of the skills of her ex-partner, Fox Mulder, and is more than capable of approaching a serial killer case by utilising psychological profiling alongside her observational skills and forensic analysis.
Ahem, right. Having gotten that out of the way we can start talking about The Fall, a new psychological thriller which aired recently on BBC 2. It stars Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, a Metropolitan police officer, who is seen travelling to Belfast to aid in a review of a troubling and unsolved murder case. Whilst on secondment in Northern Ireland she immediately links the existing murder to an earlier female death and soon enough a third murder occurs with a similar MO, giving life to the serial killer term awarded once the crimes total three or more (ironically enough). Her bête noire is a seemingly normal, loving man who plays the roles of grievance counsellor, husband and father (the latter pretty poorly from the start it has to be said) but of course his finest role is the one we see grow and grow throughout the five hourlong episodes on show here, i.e. that of the killer.
What makes this different to many of the multitude of serial killer dramas or police shows on our screens from across the world is its focus on these two characters above all else, even at the expense of the investigation and most definitely ahead of any crude action sequences or tedious romance. The creative team have made a conscious choice to make this a double header with a supporting cast. By spending time with Paul Spector - our killer - and DSI Gibson we learn about them, what drives them and how they behave. This allows us to get into their minds and hunt the killer as per Stella; evade the police as per Paul. We can relish in the hunt rather than worry about the distractions going on around us.
Gillian Anderson really is excellent here, building a suitably strong and unique character right from the get-go. She’s a cleverly drawn person who by the end of episode one viewers will be able to differentiate versus many similar fictional folk of television past. Her dominant behaviours, assertive attitude and vibrant intelligence is made very aware and there’s never any doubt that what happens to her and how she drives things forward isn’t exactly what would happen. Within a few hours she’s done what an entire police force couldn’t; within a few days she’s leading the case despite being in the employ of the London police force. At one particular point in the series we’re told by a supporting male character, the Assistant Chief Constable, that she has a particular effect over men that is unusual and very, very strong. We don’t doubt it at all.
Alongside such a well played goodie you need the baddie to work, too. Jamie Dornan does this with aplomb. His turn is one that throughout the five hours is on an upwards curve towards complete and utter pyscho, a scary man whom you start to worry about when near his wife and kids let alone the poor women he preys on and ultimately kills (or tries to kill). It’s all very unsettling and pitched near-perfectly in terms of progression. By the end when he and DSI Gibson have their conversation - the endgame of season one - you are convinced that this man is completely and utterly past the point of no return and is going to be a tough ask for Stella to hunt down, yet, of course if we believe anyone can do it it’s her. Something she evokes by telling the killer what she knows - things he’s visibly surprised that she knows.
There are other people in this show and there are even other plot strands - one about a dodgy cop (or cops) which also links into some shady goings on at the top of the Belfast tree; another to do with past relationships and current ones but really it’s all just a slightly prettier envelope into which to post the main story. In fact by the fourth and fifth episode such things are left trailing by the wayside such is their lack of importance to anything that might interest the viewer.
Perhaps the worst part of the whole series though is that you never know until the end whether it’s all going to be wrapped up or not. It isn’t, and thankfully a second season was announced just before the first ended - a good thing for the producers given internet murmurings were concerned things were going to be left open-ended with no resolution defined in the future. It’s no surprise we have a second load coming though - this was BBC 2’s biggest launch in eight years. The DVD and Blu-ray are available now and have a recommended retail price of £19.99 and £25.99 respectively.
With The Fall, viewers can expect to be enthralled and focussed for five hours straight. The main characters are brilliantly pictured and watching their paths twist and turn and cross is an intelligent way to spend some time. With the promise of an even more intense one versus one battle in season two the expectation is that things will only get better.