October 22, 2013
The British psychological procedural, The Fall, stars a mesmerizing Gillian Anderson as Detective Stella Gibson. She is the latest in the imposing lineage of female British sleuths. Most like Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, she is smart, dedicated, ballsy and tenacious. Thanks to Helen, Gillian's role parries fewer misogynist barricades. Her male peers give her space and respect for her expertise. She earned it by a job well done. As for her social and sex life, she surprises by dismantling a few manly mores.
For four and one half hypnotic hours of the five episodes, you are watching intelligent captivating turn-on TV... admittedly punctuated with off-putting violent crimes. We, the audience, know the predator but the authorities do not. Will they find him before he strangles again? The series is a race to discover, stop and arrest the warped killer who, by day, masquerades as a grief counselor and loving daddy. Or is he a grief counselor and loving daddy who, at night mutates into a masked murderer?
But by the final 30 of this 305 minute series you realize you've been both beguiled and betrayed. All the delicious foreplay promised a satisfying payoff...but time ran out before reaching a gratifying climax or closure. The coitus-interruptus scripting leaves you feeling jilted - not hungry for more.
Luther should be the model for stand-alone seasonal DVDs. The crimes are resolved, but the engaging complicated sensual leading actors, Idris Alba and Ruth Wilson, are the allure for next year's production.
The private lives of the characters are byzantine charismatic cliff hangers in their own right. You yearn for John Luther's returning series to see how he navigates a brand new mystery in tandem with his personal demons and temptations.
Sadly, Gillian Anderson's magnetic appeal was tarnished after viewers were seduced and abandoned in Season One.
The Fall's writer/creator/executive producer Alan Cubitt should know better. He wrote Mirren's Prime Suspect 2.
Except for the prostitutes and the stay-at-home moms, the many working women in The Fall live in a semi-liberated society of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The police women in this macho cosmos of sex crimes get mucho respect from writer Cubitt.
And kudos to casting director Carla Mercer. Archie Panjabi embellishes the production as a medical detective. The Good Wife transplant partners with the X-Files icon, Agent Dana Scully, to make The Fall an almost-must-see-mystery-TV.
The killer's baby daughter Olivia stands out as the only missy in the series who radiates love, laughter and levity - albeit under a red cloud of cruelty. The charming young actress (Sarah Beattie) - by herself - could be reason enough for your call-back to Season Two.
So will Stella return? Thankfully, yes. Will Jamie Dornan as killer Paul Spector pursue his escalating obsessive sexual pursuits? Yes again. Tune in. But please, Mr. Cubitt, give us a script that doesn't depend on the ethereal whimsy of renewal. All of your dissatisfying open-ended cliffhangers were irritating - markedly more so since you hadn't been renewed. Five hours of viewing deserves a modicum of consummation. Maybe in Season 2. And, yes, pissed or not, I will be there to see it.
(Editor's Note: Season 2 of The Fall began production in March 2014. And yes, Jamie Dornan is back. [He recently wrapped playing the titular Christian Grey in the highly anticipated movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey.])
The Behind the Scenes Featurette is 12 minutes - mostly mutually congratulatory, but a sincere assessment for the fine qualities of the personnel attached to the project.
It is both disconcerting and engrossing to see the intense Gillian and the malevolent Jamie in an out-of-character chatty setting.
What is remarkable and jarring in these Extras is to see someone smile. For five hours - you suddenly realize only the innocent unsuspecting children and victims-to-be have dared to smile. Basically five hours have passed without any humor or joy - except inside the shadow of pending brutality, mortality and murder.
Julian Stevens, producer of The Fall, helms the talking heads. Flemish director Jakob Verbruggen operates in the European tradition of a lingering camera and paused performances. Be forewarned: this is not your kick-ass roller-coaster car-chasing Hollywood-whodunit.
Studio: Artists Studio, BBC Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen, RLJ Entertainment
Director: Jakob Verbruggen
Cast: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Archie Panjabi, Niamh McGrady, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch, David Beattie, Bronagh Waugh, Siobhan McSweeney, Michael McElhatton
Length: 5 episodes, 306 minutes total
Rated: Not rated
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1