Looking for a series this "fall"? The Fall might just be the thing...
Demand on viewer: mild to moderate - story line is easy enough to follow but it is thematically intense and the serial killer element may be too strong for younger viewers.
Overall: Highly Recommended
Overall: Highly Recommended
In the "less is more" mode of British TV series, the five episodes of The Fall accomplish a whole semester of viewing most American series. There is an economy and density of story here that makes each episode like eating fine chocolate. Attention to visual and auditory detail, along with restrained and finely crafted dialogue, makes this series linger in the memory long after it is viewed.
Serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) is wreaking havoc in Belfast, choosing a similar victim each time for sexually charged strangulation. A cold, independent, and powerful Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is called in as detective superintendent.
The series departs from the norm in allowing us to get deeply into the life of the killer, as husband, father, and man with a kind of moral compass. His wife works in the birthing unit at the hospital (in diametric opposition to Spector's shadow career as a killer). His daughter can see things in dreams. She renders a drawing of a woman dying with blood all around her, and says she saw her above her room, where Spector keeps his murder diary hidden.
Sexual tension strides through every scene. There is the babysitter for whom
Spector seems genuinely to care, but after she discovers a lock of hair he kept in a drawer, things become dark between them quickly. But the best sexual tension comes from Gibson, as she reacts and relates to the male dominated police and investigation system. One of the most interesting aspects of this film is the way that Gibson's choices as a woman are questioned and brought under scrutiny by her male supervisor (John Lynch).
Eerily, Paul loves to steal into his victims' homes and savor the feeling of control he has by being there, being in the presence of his victim, taking pieces of her, clipping bows off her underwear. He masturbates to drawings and macabre scrapbooking of these images once he gets back home.
Quietness can sometimes hide a deep well of darkness. This is never more apparent than in Spector's
introverted, black-hole eyes. But the same face shows empathy in counseling and we see him in tender scenes with his wife. Is he only a force of evil? We are confronted with our own lack of understanding, even as detective Stella labors to understand his every motive and confront it.
It is a shame that many of the issues dealt with in this series would not likely find as much interest on their own. They have to be set within a crime drama, which makes it seem as though these problems only occur "on TV," or for those who lead lives of extremity.
Primal desires, especially sexual in nature; the double standard women face when it comes to making independent decisions about their sexuality; the uncanny ability of children to perceive what is happening in their parents lives--these issues are well worth exploring on their own merits. Still, the Fall and writer Allan Cubitt deserve kudos for weaving profound and relevant topics into what could have been merely escapist fiction.