When the third series of Northern Ireland set The Fall was announced there was some worry that it might not be necessary. The end of series two of the show seemed a perfectly satisfactory conclusion – although that may have been down to a degree of hedge-betting by the production company in the case that it wasn’t recommissioned.
But here in the box set containing all three series of The Fall we discover the complete arc, which although may not have been the original intention, works very well as a trilogy.
Jamie Dornan, before he reached worldwide fame as the sadomasochist sex game playing Mr Grey in 50 Shades of Grey, first came to prominence as Paul Spector in The FalI. Spector is a grief counselor in Belfast, with a happy family nuclear family. He’s also a psychopath. Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, played in astonishingly superb and elegantly measured performance by Gillian Anderson, is from That London and has been brought over to head up the team investigating The Belfast Strangler, as Spector has become to be known.
The show is a cat-and-mouse psychological thriller and to say any more about the specifics of the storyline would be to give the game away to those who haven’t seen it. Needless to say, the murders come to an end. At some point. And Spector gets caught. At some point.
Dornan isn’t wooden, as has been suggested; he’s creepily blank. The performance is continually unnerving and there is real skill in the telling of story in just a glance from his eyes. Gillian Anderson is the absolute star of the show however. The character of DSI Gibson is needfully tough, still in a man’s world which she is attempting to dismantle with some success. Her psychological understanding of criminals in sexual crimes, and empathy and tact with victims make the investigation very different to your usual cop show. Her compulsive connection to the perpetrator, and his criminal obsession with her is nothing new in crime drama – but manages to drive this story for three series which in total only cover a few weeks of dramatic time during in 2012.
And it is creepy. The very first episode of series one will make you want to check under the bed before you turn out the light. Shocking, surprising and compellingly horrible.
The one downside with the programme is that there is sometimes an over reliance on the low-budget art film trick or extending the running time by having prolonged shots of light shining through rain on windows, or slightly out of focus cityscapes, or people staring vacantly at objects for no discernible reason. As a result there is a tendency for the pace to seem slightly glacial. It’s not the case very often, and more often than not the effect is cumulative and gets under your skin – particularly if you’re binge watching a few episodes in a hit. But on occasion you do just want something to happen. However the programme is filled to the brim with excellent supporting performances, with not a single bum note in the cast. It’s also beautifully shot, particularly those prolonged moments where nothing seems to be happening.
Written and directed by Allan Cubitt ultimately The Fall is a programme about obsession. The DSI’s obsession with catching, punishing and understanding the perpetrator of these horrific crimes – but also the ego of the psychopath being bolstered by the knowledge of the people leading the investigation, and his obsession with the figure at the front of the team. Our understanding of this character, this proper psychopath, is constantly being reassessed. And in a single scene we can find ourselves having the carpet completely pulled from under us, which remains a surprisingly satisfying way to watch a thriller.
Being a thriller there are twists, turns, shocks and loud, violent moments. But The Fall is for the most part a very quiet and creepy cop show.
The Fall: Series One – Three Box Set is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday 31st of October. Just in time for Halloween.