The bulk of dramas existing on television today seem to revolve around a serial killer hunted by a talented detective. It is also true that in these dramas, the antagonists are portrayed as genius murderers who go about their crimes with finesse; turning each murder into a work of art – a piece that can only be understood by the detective on the job. From the outside, The Fall may look like just this, and on most accounts it is – but it contains specific differences that make it an exception to the norm.
It’s a psychological thriller that focuses on the lives of two people. The first is Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), a serial killer who stalks his female victims, kills them before conducting strange rituals, and the other is Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), a talented female Detective Superintendent from the MET who is brought in to catch him.
Read at Unsung Films: The Tunnel.
What is interesting here is that these two characters have similarities that you can’t spot from the very beginning, but that grow increasingly evident as the story develops. They’re both icy figures who look for pleasure and satisfaction in the wrong places and in inappropriate ways. What makes them both so interesting, what defines them, is not the kind of work they do – the fact that the one kills and the other chases – but the environment they live in, the way the series identifies with them and the emerging psychological portrait that growingly resembles the exact opposite of the traits you would usually attach to such characters. It is very scary to see someone who has such an ordinary life (wife, kids, job) being such an evil person on the inside.
This Northern Irish series maintains its high quality throughout. The acting, the writing and the whole production are far better than many of its American rivals. It’s dark and bluntly realistic, with no unnecessary details, located in Belfast – a dark and dreary setting – with real people and real issues. The script takes its time to explore the lives of all the main characters and not just present a quick and hollow image of them. The first season unfolds slowly, but this purposefully slow pace carries you away and makes you enjoy what’s happening at each given moment; it prevents you from anticipating what might happen in the future. The series becomes increasingly gripping with each episode. In season two, everything moves faster, revealing unexpected twists, and keeping you at the edge of your seat. In this season, we are introduced to some new characters, including Sergeant Tom Anderson, played by the very promising young actor Colin Morgan, whose role has a focal point in the story as it develops.
The acting of the cast is intelligent and to the point, without the exaggerations we’re used to from many equivalent American shows. It’s also very believable in that there are real police buildings, no unnecessarily high-tech gadgets or over-the-top theatrics. It gives off a purely European feel.
Gillian Anderson, in one of her best roles to date, is an excellent choice as lead detective; a dynamic, self-confident woman, cold but charming who has learnt to get whatever she wants at any cost. The same might be said about Jamie Dornan as the serial killer. He plays the happily-married man and caring father, effortlessly combining this character with an alter-ego or sorts: the dark, attractive, indifferent, and cold-blooded murderer. He manages, often within the same scene, to squeeze the monster and the family-man into the same character with extraordinary skill and remarkable wit.
The Fall: Launch Trailer – Original British Drama – BBC Two
The Fall Series 2: Official TV Trailer – BBC Two