Right. Okay. This review comes well beyond the realms of what’s reasonable, but frankly, when one is squeezing two semesters into one, said person (aka me) becomes quite single-minded during finals. But fear not! Finals are over, at least until early August, and here I am, ready to gush about The Fall’s first season finale.
Firstly, Stella. You knew it was coming. Stella Gibson is the culmination of all my storytelling dreams, and I’ve made this abundantly clear all throughout my reviews of this series. “The Vast Abyss” did nothing to detract from her status as one of the most incredible characters I’ve come across in quite a long time. She’s more determined than ever to catch the killer, just as passionate about tearing gender stereotypes down, and just as disdainful of incompetency. She’s also aware of when it’s time to back down: I absolutely adored the scene Paula and she shared, in which Paula told her to stop pestering the doctor in charge of Spector’s latest victim’s recovery and let her do her job and take over. Stella, although obviously not happy, did just that – and it gave Paula the opportunity to shine.
Now, Paul. Quite a few questions I had regarding him were answered this episode, such as the purpose that Kaylee served in this arc. When it turns out that a surveillance camera put him in the same spot as Sarah Kay the day before her murder, his wife tells him to offer his help to the police, obviously not realizing the irony. Paul, not knowing what else to do, does just that – but asks her a pretty big favor that almost sends his cover tumbling down: he asks her to verify that they were together the night of Sarah’s murder – but he has to make up an excuse for that. In the end, he tells her that he has been having an affair with Kaylee, but couldn’t say anything to the police officer who interviewed him because she’s underage. Sally does lie to the police, but leaves him on the spot. Not wanting the child they’re expecting to grow up without his father, however, she ends up granting Paul’s pleas for a second chance and they decide to move the family out of Belfast in order to get a fresh start.
But. We’re getting to the best part. Stella and Paul finally, finally met. Not only face to face – they had a phone conversation during which he readily identified himself as the killer they’re after. (Well, not ‘himself’ himself. He obviously didn’t tell her his name.) He tells her that he’s going away, that she lost. She doesn’t quite let him end it on this note, though. In a scene that definitely did meet with every expectation I had (and boy, did I have a few), she systematically and completely tore every single one of his arguments apart. She let him know that they’re far closer to catching him than he first thought, and promises to get her hands, metaphorically speaking, on him eventually. She also delivers this gem: “You try to dignify what you do, but it’s just misogyny. Age-old male violence against women”, by which point, I was alternating between ripping out my hair and howling into the night with pure unadulterated delight, because yes. Enough with the glorification of abuse in media. Obviously what Paul does would have been fairly hard to romanticize, but nevertheless, so many other shows would have placed the focus on how the victim could have avoided being attacked rather than on, you know, the responsibility of the attacker.
One thing I did not like, however, was the revelation that Paul grew up in foster care. (Everyone who thinks that he’s punishing these women for his mother’s actions, please say “I”.) It makes sense from a narrative standpoint, I suppose. But I dislike the implications that being a victim of the system will inevitably turn a kid into a victimizer. I’m of the opinion that there would have been better, more engaging and less alienating ways to gain entryway into Paul’s head and explain (from his point of view alone, obviously) why he does what he does.
One last thought: someone give Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan an award for starring The Fall already, alright? Their acting in this episode was impeccable and I’m already going through withdrawals. But hey, it’s only a one-year wait, right?
… I’m not crying, I have a hiatus in my eye.