What You Should Be Watching: The Fall Seasons 1 & 2 (Review)
Notable Actors: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan & John Lynch
This past week I flipped through my VOD service catalog and landed on BBC’s The Fall. Not wanting to step on the toes of our newer binge-watching column, I’m going to say my wife and I power watched this series over the course of a few days. Although the show has two seasons out, the first season is comprised of five episodes and the second season six; each season having one feature length episode as well. The Fall is a short but sweet series worth watching for quite a few reasons.
Just to give you a short idea on what this show is and whether or not you should be interested, I’ll throw a quick plot summary here for those who haven’t heard of this show. The show is a psychological thriller that mainly focuses on two characters. Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) who is in Belfast to help put together a string of serial murders taking place there. The other character they focus on is the murderer himself Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). Before you scoff at my spoiler ridden article and post an angry comment about spoilers, this show makes no effort to conceal the identity of the murderer like a lot of these shows typically do. We see Spector do what he does, as well as DSI Gibson’s hunt for him unfold.
While the summary of this show may not sound spectacularly unique, rest assured, this show is quite unique in ways yet said. The first thing that intrigued me about this show was what I mentioned last paragraph… We see Spector methodically stalk his female targets, break into their homes and steal bits of their underwear and leave clues that he was there, then later systematically strangle them to death. The pull to most shows like this is discovering the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the murderer does what he does; The pull to this show is all about realism and suspense. We see DSI Gibson connect previously unrelated murders and begin to piece together a bigger picture. I think the hook in this show is simply “Will he be caught? Are the police smart enough to catch him?”. It really works well in The Fall’s case… no puns intended.
Realism is always something either praised or criticized by the pundits regarding crime dramas. In some crime dramas they don’t find evidence or a fingerprint match until the main detective happens to show up in the scene to ask if they’ve found anything. Or in some shows the police use illegal or unreal methods of ascertaining the info that solves the crime. The Fall really took the most realistic approach to how crime scenes are worked and the due process everything requires in order to solve complex murders like the ones Spector commits. As an American expat living in Europe, I see a lot more English, Danish and Swedish crime dramas than your average American, so although this takes place in Northern Ireland, I feel the way they show police work in this series is far more realistic than a majority of other shows out there. Not only do we see the police making false assumptions or mistakes but we see Spector himself screw up quite badly in some cases. The realism of this show goes a long way into why it’s a great watch. While a few of the supporting characters motives can be questionable or weak, the supporting cast does a great job filling out the side stories that involve us in the two main characters separate lives.
This brings me to the characters themselves. Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of DSI Gibson really proved to me that she’s in her acting prime right now. Whether you’re a fan of Agent Scully or not, Anderson does an incredible job making DSI Gibson an intriguing character. She is flawed in obvious ways, some ways become revealed later in the show, but she’s also incredibly smart and independent. DSI Gibson brought an obvious message of pro-feminism to the show, which gave her a lot of charisma over the course of the show. Jamie Dornan’s Paul Spector on the other side of the aisle was pretty much GSI Gibson’s equal (or more) in intelligence. A really well matched competition happens between them throughout the series. Spector’s personal life makes the character human while his hidden life shows that he’s the monster we all see him to be, but the strangest thing happened to me throughout this show… I was desperately wanting Spector to get away with it! What the hell? Why am I cheering on this murderer? This isn’t Dexter! Not to say I wasn’t cheering on the police as well, but Spector becomes such an interesting and positively eccentric character that you can’t help but want to see more of his world and where it leads. I feel that having such a character behind bars would make them far more boring than they deserve to be, and it’s quite odd, but I really did enjoy his character. I’m not sure who did the magic on that trick, the writers or Jamie Dornan, but they did it well.
Lastly, the biggest difference between American crime dramas and European crime dramas is the pacing. While shows like The Killing and The Bridge (The Swedish version Bron is a thousand times better) have made a hit in American television for their slower pace, Europe has mastered the slow and steady suspense genre. The thing that makes this slow pacing so potently worth watching is due to the cinematography of this show. The show does an artful job comparing the lives of DSI Gibson to Paul Spector in a pure vision sense. Sometimes while you watch DSI Gibson walk up a set of stairs, it’ll flash over to Spector walking up a set of stairs, simply to just switch back to DSI Gibson. Sometimes they’ll just show Paul Spector’s wife walking around their house just to give us a glimpse of what she’s doing and possibly draw a parallel with the next scene or shot. The minor attention to detail in the editing and cinematography like that is what really made this eleven episode series stand out in a great way for me. It’s almost like the show runners want to send subliminal messages throughout the episodes.
If you’re a fan of criminal dramas, character driven stories or just have twelve hours to kill, I highly recommend this show. While a third season is coming next year, these first two seasons are really enjoyable and will certainly whet your appetite for more to come. If you’ve seen The Fall, let me know in the comments below or tweet me @GeeksWithWives with your opinions or thoughts regarding the series. If you haven’t seen the show and end up watching it, we’d love to hear your thoughts after as well!
Also, if you haven’t already seen Fifty Shades of Grey with Jamie Dornan, take into account that after watching The Fall, you will never be able to see him as anything but a sadistic serial killer again. You’ll end up watching Fifty Shades with the expectation that Christian Grey will eventually strangle Anastasia, which may or may not make that movie that much better in the long run. I almost wish he was playing Paul Spector in all of his movies!