The Fall (2013) is a dark television series out of the UK that should appeal to viewers of Wallander (2008), Broadchurch (2013), and True Detective (2014). Its degree of ‘disturbing’ fits right in there between Broadchurch and True Detective; so while the impulse may be to binge-watch season one, the content is hard to take in such heavy doses. That said, episodes end with that tantalizing effect of “I need to see what happens.” Just, if you have to binge, begin really early in the day and find something cheerful before bed.
Alan Cubitt created a series in The Fall that follows a talented investigator’s hunt for a serial killer. There is another storyline that I failed to mind early on, nor did I actually care to retrace it as the series was racing toward the finale. I would apologize, but you’ll understand how transfixing the serial killer storyline is if you decide to watch—and how transfixing Gillian Anderson is as Detective Stella Gibson.
On loan from the MET, Gibson is a highly educated investigator who negotiates her surroundings with what I hate to call out as startling confidence. She demonstrates a kind of self-possession that will excite feminist viewers. I’m still giddy over her encounter in the washroom with Jim Burns (John Lynch) where she refuses to take the traditional sexual burden of the female. A great article takes shape: How Stella Gibson Leans-In at her Workplace.
The pacing is cinematic in the narrative scope of the show. The series is very much about the crime-drama, but the characters and relationships develop and unfold slowly. It is very much a domestic drama as well, and the violence paired with the domestic translates into some fantastic social commentary.
The Fall tackles a lot of mythologies regarding women, men, and sexual predation. Often the show uses our cultural expectations to its advantage. For example, if you think that had the woman not lived alone, she wouldn’t be such an easy target (invitation). And this is where I caution as to the brutality of some of the sequences. Although, a great deal of the terror in tension is in the quiet invasions, the contemplation of the horrors waiting just beyond a child’s mobile, a dark corner just off the bathroom….
Other unusual facets to anticipate? The serial killer of single young career women is a very attractive young male, loving husband, and father of two—one of whom is a little girl. Jamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time) as Paul Spector creates a gorgeous conflict; physically he is well-cast, but his acting is better than I’d anticipated. Anyone completing a dynamic with Gillian Anderson has to be excellent. After all, Anderson is the show maker.
That series one spends its entirety on the case of the serial killer (and the other surfacing line I forget), contributes to the sense that the show is driven by character over plot. They are not actors coloring within the lines of a plot. We learn not to anticipate the crime or the investigation, but the criminal and the investigator in our wondering how the show might progress. In other words, the psychological drama remains and is played out in the characterization; e.g. how they negotiate the intrusions on their primary occupations. The success is in how disturbing the results are. Whether good-guy or bad-, the characters are terrifying because of such an emphasis on realism.
As the series began to close, the pacing was heart-thumping and well, I might have flat-lined in a bit of a shock there at the end. I both love and hate The Fall for its series 1 finale. Most of the hatred is directed at the wait for series 2 now.