The Fall: brilliant acting defies all critics

The Fall, BBC, Gillian Anderson, TV, drama, Alex Goode, Kettle Mag
Written by littlegoode

The Fall has been another marked series in a long line of dark, gritty and intense shows that we’ve seen on UK television recently – Broadchurch, The Missing and Remember Me come quickly to mind. Collectively, they have served to open the eyes of British audiences to some of the horrors and atrocities that occur in every day life, but have also opened the minds of the British public to some of the sterling work going on in screenwriting and television today.

Alongside the genuine chills that people have felt watching these shows, there are countless messages of commendment for amazing directing and oustanding acting, showing that British TV is pushing forward into a new era – one of artistic, and not just emotional, appreciation.

A serial killer is still just a man

The Fall has focused on Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan, an Irish father-of-two with a troubled childhood, but who leads a seemingly normal life as a counsellor. In the first series, Paul’s strong and violent sexual fantasies led him to murder several women in brutal and disturbing ways, attack another, and subsequently involve his young babysitter Katie (Aisling Franciosi) who has a fetish for Paul.

In the meantime, DS Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is determined to track him down, while struggling with her own demons.

The decision of the writers to leave Spector untouched and free at the end of Series One was ingenious, giving the characters time to grow and develop into Series Two. Despite the horrifying murder scenes in the first series, the second was even darker, right from the beginning, as the writers began to take us futher into the mind of a psycopath.

From the word go, this series was much more about Paul and Stella, their developing relationship and the sheer weight on both their shoulders because of the other’s existence. Whereas before we had only seen both characters as calculating, blunt and evenly matched, this series broke down both their hard exteriors, showing us a different side to the whole saga.

The writers were clever to work in other stories around Paul’s arrest in this series, including the kidnapping and abduction of Spector’s ex Rose Stagg, the worrying changes in the mental state of Katie and the way Spector’s young children begin to struggle with the breakdown of their parent’s marriage. The insertion of these other storylines instantly brought the second series to life, giving it a human touch that had been missing for some time.

At several points in the series we even saw the cold and precise Gibson shed a tear and we, as the audience, began to feel again.

Face to face

The climax of the finale was undoubtedly the moment where Gibson and Spector came face-to-face for the first time, in a twenty-minute long stand off that set the Internet alight. There is no denying the sheer brilliance of Anderson and Dornan’s acting, as they spoke like doctor to patient, lawyer to client, friend to friend and attacker to victim. There were short, sharp insults, including Spector labelling Stella as a ‘barren spinster,’ but mostly the exchange was ordered, calm and eloquent, making it impossible for viewers not to feel uneasy.

For many watching whilst on Twitter, the exchange was too long and the dialogue was too perfect and unconvincing, probably because they were half-watching while doing something else and were disappointed by the lack of swearing or attempted assault. But for those of us who were truly tuned in to the episode, we could hear the struggle between them.

While Spector tried to convince Stella that he was living life with an ‘intensity’ she could never understand, Stella was less willing to indulge him, telling him ‘it’s an addiction like any other,’ removing his self-assigned God-like status.

All about Dornan

Yes, there were elements of the final episode that could have been executed with more grace. People’s greatest frustrations seemed to be aimed at the sudden re-appearance of Jimmy in recent episodes, just to enable him to shoot Spector at the close of the final episode. True, once he had appeared conveniently eight minutes before the end of the episode, everyone knew what the final outcome would be, taking away the tension that had been building for weeks.

Similarly, Stella’s convenient night in with Anderson (Colin Morgan) made a clunky connection to her potential attraction to Spector, making the last half hour seem rushed and piecey. Although, I do defy you not to cry when little Olivia is brought in to see Spector for the last time.

But ultimately, the closing episode was all about Paul Spector, the Belfast Strangler, a man with such a handsome face and such an evil mind. The Fall has left us with the lingering question ‘why?’ which was finally answered by Spector in the finale.

‘I don’t hate women,’ he told Stella, expressionless, unmoving. ‘I hate everyone, including myself.’

This contempt and self-loathing dawns on us through the final minutes of the episode, as we watch Spector understand his position and the things he has done. He may believe himself to be some kind of other being, capable of taking away life at will, but the fact that he also disgusts himself is read clearly in his eyes. Dornan has been consistenly brilliant throughout both series, taking on the role of a mad man with the grace and dignity that such a killer needed in order to evade being caught for so long.

Special mention

Special mention must go to Franciosi as the dark and clever Katie, who’s character has really come into her own in this series. In her final scene she shows no remorse, which was a far better choice of ending than seeing her devastated, heartbroken and returning to normal life. Instead, we get a glimpse of the way Spector has impacted her life, altered her mind and given her sexual and violent tendencies of her own, leaving us with the chilling impression that she may go on to model herself on Spector and has lost her childhood for good.

What’s in store?

The finale left us with many questions – will either Anderson or Spector survive? How will Gibson deal with losing the man she’s hunted for so long? Will there be repercussions for some of Stella’s poor decisions throughout the case? Will Katie go on to continue Paul’s work in a strange Chucky-like sequel? Well, there has been no official confirmation as of yet, but The Fall will undoubtedly return for a third series.

While the country’s appetite for real murders and real people persists, quality writers and excellent actors will always have a place with dramas like this.

What did you think of the finale? What are your expectations for a possible third series of The Fall? Have your say in the comments section below.