‘The Fall’ – Episode 1 Review

Sleeping with the light on never looked more appealing!

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BBC Two’s original drama The Fall, created by Allan Cubitt (The Runaway, Prime Suspect), is a psychological crime drama about ‘how to catch a killer hidden in plain sight’. As I begin watching the first of this five-parter featuring the hunter and huntee each in equal measure, I feel certain I’ve seen this before. Except that when Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns (John Lynch) welcomes Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) to Belfast saying, “things are different here”, it’s not long before I begin to see what he means.

DS Gibson is on secondment from London’s Metropolitan Police Service (the MET), brought in to review a murder investigation after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is unable to make any progress. The serial killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) is a married family man, by day a grief counsellor who sketches topless pictures of his female clients in mid-session. He unmasks himself in the first five minutes so ending the mystery in the usual whodunit. The story unfolds as we follow the killer through the stalking and murder of his chosen quarry amidst his ‘normal’ family life with his wife (Bronagh Waugh) and two young children. Simultaneously, pencil skirt clad DS Gibson attempts to unravel the crime and begins to see a connection between two earlier murders.

The Fall is well paced and builds tension throughout with great acting from its lead characters and engaging dialogue. In scenes with the serial killer and his 8 year-old daughter I keep expecting his darker side to suddenly surface. He cuddles his daughter on a park bench as he calculatingly sits next to his victim, eavesdropping on her conversation the day after he broke into her flat. It’s as if he wants to get caught. His black bag of paraphernalia including his scrapbook of his victims is hidden in the loft under a child’s hanging mobile as a testament to his brazen confidence.

Spector’s unblinking, guarded eyes are perfectly juxtaposed against the icy manner of DS Gibson. She who munches her way though a juicy beef burger while reviewing photos in the murder files and casually tells a journalist to “fuck off” is not one to be messed with. Even the tone of their voices is equally matched and chilling in effect.

I’m a fan of the horror genre so perhaps it’s The Fall’s treatment of the banality of murder that brings home with astonishing clarity the vulnerability of the ‘independent’ woman. As the killer removes his masks (yes, it’s a balaclava) while straddling his latest victim, I realise I forgot to lock my doors and windows. It is now pitch black out and my curtains are not yet drawn. Never been more scared to go to bed. Fingers crossed there’ll be no night terrors. May need to watch a sitcom or something to take the edge off. This is truly hair-standing-on-end stuff.