February 21, 2017

The Fall (Season 1 & 2)

Allan Cubitt, 2013 & 2014
There is certainly a variety of serial killer related dramas across the Television landscape. A lot of them are quite good: Dexter (until the awful final season), Hannibal, first season of True Detective, first season of Fargo. But there are of course some duds - like The Following.

The Fall, created by Alan Cubitt, is an offering set in Belfast Ireland. The film focuses on both sides of the spectrum. Gillian Anderson (widely known for her role in the iconic X Files) plays Stella Gibson, the reserved but dedicated investigator leading the hunt. Jamie Dornan plays Paul Spector, the man they are after. Paul is a family man who moonlights as a serial killer. He seeks out a particular type of woman and plans a meticulous strategy to sneak into their home and kill them. He is a man living two lives. During the day he is employed as a grief counseler. He gets his two kids ready in the morning and sends them off to school. He kisses his wife goodbye. It's not until his family is in bed that his nocturnal murderous side comes out. He has his wife convinced that he is working a suicide hotline when he is out filling his savage needs.

One interesting feature right off the bat with The Fall is the fact that you are introduced to Paul quite quickly. Once you are introduced, Paul and Stella get equal screen time. You learn quite quickly that Stella fits into the workaholic investigator trope that we've seen so many times. Strong-willed female. Sleeps at her desk, never really taking any time off, married to her job. Completely wrapped up in whatever case she's on. She's that person that can get into the mind of the serial killer. She knows how he thinks. She can predict his behavior. This concept is nothing new, we've seen it many many times.

This is where the series gets conflicting for me. You have two central characters, neither of which are very likeable figures. Stella is a very cold woman; she doesn't offer much in terms of vulnerability and openness. Paul is equally cold, and the lack of history provided just has you spending time with a distant man with no real sympathy for his evil compulsions. So it becomes a situation where you can tolerate Stella because she is dedicated to hunting down a guy that you just don't like because he continues to kill beautiful women for whatever reason. This decision to not reveal much of Paul's backstory may have been a deliberate decision by the show's creators, but that doesn't mean it was the right choice.

We discover more about Paul's past in Season 2 which does shine some light onto his dark proclivity. But this could have been done in the first. They could have even had some flashback sequences to provide more of a complete illustration of Paul. The lack of these elemnents were something that constantly troubled me watching the first season, but the series clearly was doing something right because I couldn't resist watching more even with those frustrations noted. The series without a doubt is better in the second season. Most notably the extended-length season 2 finale. That is without a doubt the best episode of the series thus far. Multiple story threads come together so remarkably and the balance of tension and delivery is outstanding.

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