Do you love breathtaking thrillers that lead you through a labyrinth of clues, fake outs, intrigues and gory, gratuitous murders? Well, that’s fine, but don’t look for any that with this show. That’s not to say it’s boring, because I didn’t once lose interest while watching this five episode series.
Set in Northern Ireland, The Fall is probably the most unusual police procedural you’ll ever see. Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Crown) plays Stella Gibson, sent from London to figure out what’s going on with the police department which doesn’t seem to be handling a politically sensitive series of murders. They don’t twig to, or will not acknowledge, that the murders are the product of a serial killer. Jamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time) is Paul Spectre, a methodical and vicious killer who has a real thing for pretty, brunette professional women.
It’s not a spoiler to give away who he is in a review, because we see him at work right off the bat. Not actually murdering a woman, but grooming her for it. He breaks into her house and rummages through things and stages a warning on her bed. Spectre is in no hurry, this is part of the thrill for him. Showing every bit of his research, grooming, and murder rituals is something you don’t see typically on television. Stella Gibson is a middle aged woman who is sexually attractive and very self aware. She knows what she wants in a partner and invites him to her room. When that comes out later she doesn’t so much defend herself from the charges as she matter of factly explains she was looking for sex and took it. She’s just as pragmatic professionally.
That sort of unusual storytelling goes even deeper with small, unsettling moments of shock that get under your skin. The one that I think affected me most was the necklace. Spectre is a family man, wife and kids, a regular job. His young daughter is acting out in ways that baffle her mother, but we know that she’s somehow picking up on her daddy’s weirdness. He treats her well enough, at one point giving her a really nice necklace. The last time we had seen it he was picking it out at the home of a woman he had just murdered and posed naked on her bed.
We also really get to know the victim. Instead of a small time actress who is hired for a day to have blood splattered all over her and lay without breathing for a few moments of camera time, we see her life, meet her family, and see how the growing menace in her life makes her miserable with a lingering dread.
There are a good number of women characters besides Stella and the victim. A local woman cop begins working for Stella, the killer’s wife is a neo-natal nurse, the motorcycle mamma coroner is more than leathery eye candy. They all deal with death on a regular basis, though not because it excites them like it does Spectre. The sleazebag reporter is played by a man. Just sayin’.
The Fall is the slowest moving crime drama I’ve ever seen. Reaaaalllly slooooooow. This works to emphasize what an emotional cyper Detective Gibson is and remains. She works methodically, shows almost no emotion, even during her matter of fact tryst, and lets the facts of a case lead her. It was great to see a woman who holds up under some bullying without sad looks or heated comebacks or wine soaked reverie. She’s totally cool and not defensive. I don’t think I’d be interested in spending a lot of time with her, but watching her was fascinating.
I recommend checking out this series if you’re into a crime drama that is different from anything you’ve ever seen. The British/French version of The Tunnel series one comes close, but this is slower still, more quietly wrenching and with more women characters.
The Fall | Trailer [HD] | | Netflix