Have you ever watched Once Upon a Time? I have. Over a year later and I’m still not over Graham’s death. So when I saw that Jamie Dornan was to star in BBC The Fall along with former X Files star Gillian Anderson, I jumped at the chance to see him on my screen again. I didn’t think I’d need two glasses of wine to get through the first two episodes, but I was proved dead wrong – no pun intended.
The Fall, “a psychological thriller that examines the lives of two hunters”, follows the lives of Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and sadistic serial killer Paul Spector, closely paralleling both as Stella investigates the murder of, as of episode two, three of his victims. I found it hard to make it through the pilot – both because it was so gruesome and because the pace is extremely slow, quite fitting to the genre. It picks up eventually, so I found myself really looking forward to episode 2. But after watching that too I came away with mixed feelings about this series.
First of all, let’s get on to the good parts. The Fall has a very strong cast, which means extremely solid acting. Anderson does a great job at fleshing out Stella and showing all sides to her personality – the almost compulsive cleaner, the dedicated detective, the sexually confident woman – and Dornan’s performance of Paul makes him one of the creepiest characters I’ve seen on TV in a very long time.
The series hits all the right buttons a psychological thriller should: it made me think, it made me physically ill (I did mention I needed two glasses of wine to get through it, didn’t I?), and it had me wondering about the characters’ motivations. The parallels between Stella and Paul were everywhere, to the point where I cannot wait for the two of them to come face to face. That should be interesting.
Now, to the things I didn’t like. I know this is a psychological thriller and I know that Paul Spector is a sadistic sexual predator, so it goes without saying that there’s going to be sexualized violence if I’m supposed to get a glimpse into his mind. I know that, I expected that. But does the viewer really need to see shot after shot of Sarah’s abused, naked body in scenes that really serve no purpose whatsoever to the plot or characterization? The gratuitous sexualized violence was very hard to stomach.
Another thing that bothered me – though perhaps it would be more appropriate to say it baffled me – was the great deal of things happening. This series only has five episodes, how on earth are they going to wrap it all up in the next three? There is a drugs and murder subplot that has little or nothing to do with the main story – or so it appears thus far. So the only options are: they either relate the two plots or end the fifth episode on a massive cliffhanger.
I guess we will see.