BBC Two’s The Fall has never been famed for its impatience with regards to reaching the next plot point. It wasn’t until the end of the second series that DCI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) caught Belfast strangler Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). When she did finally have her man, he was shot in the chest and concluded the series clinging to life in her arms. Spoiler alert: he lives. And that’s where we start series three.
Regardless of any merit it may have, it is a defensible argument that this series did not need to exist. Declaring that nothing happened in the first three episodes is not a flippant insult, it’s an honest and indisputable observation. Spector lay in hospital getting friendly with a nurse he would have happily killed if it weren’t for the bullet wounds and Gibson ran around looking for evidence to convict a man who had confessed already. And filmed himself. And lead them to a victim he’d left in the boot of her own car. But he said he forgot it so apparently that made everything irrelevant.
Nevertheless, you do find yourself hoping for Stella to find more evidence just so she can write it onto a flannel to wipe the smirk off her adversary’s face. She does but it takes her a while. The first half of the series is more focused on the recovery because, as it turns out, bullet wounds are not nice things and the body doesn’t take kindly to an invasion of them.
For those first three episodes, there is a lot of attention paid to red herrings. These are the source of the tension which has been so pivotal to this year’s offering. Somewhere in Scandinavia, a team of writers are wondering when they wrote this. Nordic influence is embedded into every extended pause. Looking back, you realise you were so concerned about someone who just faded away and nothing happened at all to them. They’re probably at home with a cup of tea and packet of custard creams right now.
The series’ second half is stronger, giving some purpose to the amnesia angle adopted by their antagonist. There’s a stronger narrative that finds its place within the series as a whole. Series one showed sick and perverse crimes with a strong female detective on the heels of the ultimate misogynist. Series two was the consequence of being cocky. This was an attempt to make the viewer question their morals and see the sympathetic side to someone capable of some truly heinous acts. With a little bit of attention to how families are affected.
It is precisely that sympathy which allows for a false sense of security before the finale. The ending was inevitable and predictable but, undoubtedly, the satisfying conclusion many were hoping for. The sympathy is gone in a flash. An alarming and violent flash. Seriously, he’s right back to being a git and Stella is the queen of law enforcement.
Series three was not appalling television. It could have you on edge at times and raging at others, but it struggled with its own redundancy. So much focus was put on inserting facial flickers and ambiguous line delivery that it was like a distraction from the lack of movement in the story. The feelings towards each character reverts to how it was at the end of series two but with a much more solid conclusion. Still, there are many shows which are fast and usher themselves off-screen with little fanfare. And that finale was certainly memorable.
Dir: Allan Cubitt
Scr: Allan Cubitt
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Colin Morgan, Aisling Franciosi, Bronagh Waugh
Music: Keefus Ciancia, David Holmes
Number of Episodes: 6
Episode Runtime: 60 mins
The Fall series 3 will be available on DVD from 31st October, courtesy of RLJ Entertainment Ltd.