We’ve stuck with The Fall (Thursdays, 9pm, BBC Two) through three long series with very little being revealed. We know that Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) is a serial killer and that DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is the only one who can catch him. This scenario obviously doesn’t work as a whodunit – we see Spector do it several times – so all that matters is why he did it, yet The Fall refuses to say. And even when Gibson finally gets her man and has a chance to ask, an unforeseen tragedy lands him in hospital with amnesia. Or is he faking it? Who knows? Who cares? Just lock him up anyway.
Anderson and Dornan’s sexual magnetism elevates The Fall into a study of human desire. The clue is in the title. Spector is a predator who catches his prey in part through seduction, while camouflaging himself as a husband, father and social worker. Gibson – portrayed flawlessly by Anderson – dares to play men at their own game. She likes sex. She pursues men, even if they’re married. Her hunt for Spector feels like a case of setting a thief to catch a thief, although the show suggests that her sexuality makes her as vulnerable as it does alluring. The men she spurns hate her for it.
A senior officer she once went to bed with spits: “You have no idea what effect you have, do you?” It’s implied that Spector’s attacks are an attempt to punish and control women like Gibson. He has a hideaway full of mannequins – bodies he can manipulate, unlike those with mouths that dare to scream “No!”
Or am I reading too much into the little we see? I want to know, but my patience is wearing thin. The first episode of season three was an hour of Spector in A&E; the second was an hour of Spector waking up. That’s two hours of precious screen time wasted. I welcome slow-moving, textually dense drama – but there is a thin line between thoughtful and comatose.
Silence of the Lambs said everything The Fall wants to say in 90 minutes. That included the time it took for Hannibal Lecter to have dinner.
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