In crime dramas the hero, often a cop, is usually the main attraction: Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse, Hercule Poirot. Occasionally, the bigger draw is a colorful villain: Hannibal Lecter, or Gordon Gekko. What’s rare and remarkable about BBC’s The Fall is that the hero and villain are equally riveting.
Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a seasoned detective recruited by Belfast police to track down an apparent serial killer. (Yes, The Fall is yet another serial-killer procedural, but it’s much better than most.) Stella and the killer have at least one similarity: a cool detachment from most of the people they deal with. Gibson has little use for convention, especially the male-centric sexual politics at Belfast police headquarters.
She affects scant interest in anything so retro as traditional family life, and when her hotel tryst with a stud cop accidentally becomes part of an investigation, she pounces on a nosy male colleague: “That’s what really bothers you, isn’t it – the one-night stand? ‘Man fucks woman’: Subject ‘man,’ verb ‘fucks,’ object ‘woman.’ That’s OK. ‘Woman fucks man’: ‘Woman’ subject, ‘man’ object. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?”
On the surface, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) is much more conventional than Stella. A professional grief counselor, he is also a devoted father of two young children and a loving husband. Paul puts a premium on people – unless the people happen to be sexy, professional females who live alone and who attract his attention. Says Stella: “The media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores.” That’s Paul’s philosophy, as well. He wouldn’t dream of harming his wife or daughter. But single, bar-hopping women? Fair game.
Series creator Allan Cubitt deftly juxtaposes each episode (season two airs in 2014) between ice-queen Stella and “family man” Paul. Stella’s workplace challenges are topical and provoking, and Paul’s nocturnal campaigns of terror are genuinely chilling.
As Stella narrates her theory of the killer’s modus operandi, we watch as Paul indulges his dark fantasies, whether stalking a future victim or placing his latest kill (Laura Donnelly, below right) into a tub for a postmortem bath. And we realize that when Stella and Paul eventually cross paths, the result will be delicious. Grade: A-
Creator: Allan Cubitt Cast: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch, Niamh McGrady, Siobhan McSweeney, Michael McElhatton, Ian McElhinney, Laura Donnelly, Aisling Franciosi Premiere: 2013
Watch the Trailer (click here)
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