DVD Review– The Fall, Series 2
Late in the second series of The Fall, a serial killer looks into a video and asks, “Why are you watching this?” A good question, I told myself. The Fall has a lot going for it, particularly the magnificent Gillian Anderson in the lead role, and a palpable atmosphere of foreboding and menace. Ultimately, however, though the show devotes itself to exploring the nature of human darkness, it never really says anything fresh or profound about human evil, preferring to wallow in its characters’ own twistedness.
In the first series of the show, which is required viewing before watching Series 2, DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is tasked with tracking down a brutal serial killer who preys on women. The viewer knows—but the police don’t—that the villain is Paul Spector (Jamie Dorman), a seemingly benign counselor with a lovely family. Over the course of the short first series, Spector’s apparently ideal home life crumbles, and Gibson zeroes in on her quarry without catching him.
As the second series opens, Spector has fled, and Gibson’s investigation is at a standstill. The cat-and-mouse game quickly resumes, and the police hurry to catch their villain. Meanwhile, other dysfunctional relationships unravel, violent and damaged people wreak havoc, and other characters ruminate about human nature. There’s a lot of potential for intense drama here, but the series is so bogged down by all that is wrong with the world and humanity in general that I was reminded of the circle in Dante’s Inferno where certain sinners are trapped in a pit full of excrement. Here, nearly all the characters are stuck in a metaphorical septic tank, even if they’re not aware of it. Oscar Wilde once quipped that “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” In The Fall, everybody’s in the gutter, and most of them have their heads down the storm drain.
The series’ handling of the investigation is certainly skillful, but its handling of sexual politics and psychology is heavy-handed, and the dialogue serves mainly to score points rather than to illuminate why the characters believe and act as they do. Of all the characters, the only ones I actually felt sorry for or cared about were Spector’s children—no one else manages to be likeable, even Anderson, who is always excellent but never nearly as compelling as she was in her iconic performance in The X-Files or her marvelously mysterious turn in Hannibal. Pretty much everybody else is distasteful to some extent.
The big disappointment is Dorman’s performance in a late episode. He was particularly unsettling in the first season because his ordinariness and seemingly benign nature stood in powerful contrast to his horrific deeds. As an average guy hiding terrible demons, Dorman is impressive. Later in the series, when he tries to intimidate by flaunting his evilness, he tries to play Hannibal Lecter but comes up short.
There are a lot of people who are big fans of the show, and I can see why they might be drawn to it, but personally the darkness of the series obscured all of the positive aspects for me. When Spector asks, “Why are you watching this?” I reply, “I’m only watching this so I can give it an honest review. I wouldn’t willingly keep watching this series otherwise.”
The Fall, Series 2
$39.99 DVD and Blu-Ray