The Fall: Episode One - Review

Last night on BBC Two saw the debut of The Fall, a new five-part crime series set in Belfast. Gillian Anderson (of The X-Files) plays Stella Gibson, the London Met detective brought in to solve a murder after the local police don't manage it. So, yes, outsider detective, local community murder - this can definitely fill the gap in my schedule created by Broadchurch finishing.

But is The Fall anything like Broadchurch outside those superficial points? No, not really - it's much grimmer, slower, potentially even better. You can see the first episode on iPlayer if you're worried about spoilers, although I don't intend on leaving many.


The Slow, Careful Thoughts Of A Killer

So The Fall is framed as a creepy, suspenseful depiction of this murder investigation, not just from the perspective of our main detective, but also that of the killer. Obviously, I don't know how this will develop in future weeks, but Jamie Dornan, playing murderer Paul Spector, does a great job of being creepy yet normal at the same time - his mask of sanity is well honed, but the slight darkness under the surface pokes through.

Meanwhile, Gibson arrives in Belfast, glances briefly at the city for a few establishing shots, then begins to tug together strands of past killings - at this rate, she'll be knocking on Spector's door by the end of part two. Nonetheless, this is slick, clever stuff, including some well-directed moments where the subtle movements of each character open them up a little. Yes, it's quite ponderous - there isn't much quickfire banter, just normal people exchanging dialogue, with only few terse police moments, and many wordless sequences perked up only by brief strains of music.

Cut Glass String Instrument Edges

In fact, if you enjoy people gazing at stuff while string instruments sound in the background, The Fall could be your favourite television programme ever. Also available: Gillian Anderson's very brittle, cut-glass English accent, which sounds particularly sharp next to the softer accents of most of the cast. (The Fall was a co-production with RTE1 and apparently aimed to use local talent where possible.) Nonetheless, she's good as this distant, businesslike detective - time will tell whether she grows attached to these strange local police, or sticks to her guns and stays aloof.

So far, The Fall is a very careful, tense crime show, and I'm interested to see where it goes now they've done the set-up. Will the focus on the murderer become less of a novelty in the later episodes, and just lead to us losing interest without a whodunnit to solve? I suppose that's possible, but cleverly, they've stuck to only five episodes for The Fall, which seems about right. About time we had a mystery on TV that wasn't stretched to death. Looking forward to the next four weeks.

The Fall airs Mondays at 9PM on BBC Two. More information available on the BBC official site, see the first episode on iPlayer too. I remember when murderer Jamie Dornan was the handsome sheriff on Once Upon A Time...

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