Note: Mild spoilers are discussed in this review.
With Fifty Shades of Grey coming out soon, I figure now is the best time to recommend one of my favorite TV series, The Fall.
The first season of The Fall is great television. It’s tense, smart, absorbing and completely horrific. At a time when TV is saturated with an increasing amount of crime shows, The Fall manages to not just be another serial killer drama. It takes you into the twisty, complex lives of both the serial killer and the detective bent on catching him. With its newly premiered second season, The Fall reaches new heights of television greatness.
We spent the first season getting to know Belfast Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and serial killer Paul Spector (Fifty Shades’ Jamie Dornan) as they tried to discover each other. Season 2 is all about bringing them together: the anticipated face-to-face standoff. Stella discovers that Paul is the serial killer early on, but capturing him isn’t that easy. He’s managed to build a façade of innocence around him. But as we see in his own life, that façade is unraveling quickly.
Season 2 delivers on what we want, but it’s hard to know if it’s an end or a beginning of something different. Arresting and questioning Paul has not been an easy feat. However, once he’s in custody, you see Stella get in the zone. She has him where she wants him, and now it’s her turn to play the game. Yet, Paul knows what she’s doing, and ultimately, it comes down to her and Paul sitting across each other in the interrogation room. This is the scene that the show has been building up to, and man, is it good to see these two battle each other in psychological warfare. It’s easily one of the most memorable interrogation scenes I’ve seen on television.
While there are moments like the one I just mentioned that are great, it’s not the only good thing about the show. For one, The Fall treats its female characters as more than caricatures. Stella is a complex woman, and Gillian Anderson is phenomenal in the role. Stella’s smart, sexual, driven and flawed. When a superior makes an aggressive and unwanted sexual advance toward her, she fights back and doesn’t let it go. We also see this depth in several of the other supporting female characters. They’re given the screen time to get their own stories out there; they’re not just one-note plot devices but real, full-bodied characters that add something to this show. It’s not something you typically see in a crime show, especially a detective one like this one.
Speaking of women, the show heads into some darker, even more uncomfortable territory, when Paul’s teenage babysitter, Katie, becomes obsessed with him, despite knowing that he’s a murderer. It would be one thing if Paul dismissed her, like he initially tried to do, but he gives in. He wants someone who is somewhat knowing of his plans and motives. Katie is all too eager to serve him. She’s the kind of character that makes you want to reach into the TV screen to shake some sense in her. By the end of the season, her obsession with him seems at a point of no return, and instead of being angry with her, you just feel sad.
As for Paul, Dornan is haunting and clearly at the top of his game. He’s cold and brutal, but he gives Paul flickers of softness, which we briefly see in the scenes with his daughter. He’s equally as complex as Stella, and that skyrockets the tension of the show.
There’s a point in the second season, where it gets pretty predictable. It wasn’t hard to guess how the show was going to end, and what precisely that cliffhanger would be. The dynamic of the characters is so strong, I found it easy to overlook the plot’s descent into predictability.
Both seasons of The Fall are currently streaming on Netflix. Each season is no more than six episodes long; it’s a perfect choice for a weekend TV binge. While it won’t always keep you guessing, the characters and performances are sure to keep you absorbed and intrigued.
The Fall Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.