Det Supt Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is feeling her ice-cool façade slipping. And her still-haughty demeanour is doing nothing to dissuade us from the suspicion that she is slowly unravelling in her duel with the killer who revels in hiding in plain sight. In fact, for someone who one would assume has a fairly sedentary 9-5 profession – that of a bereavement counsellor – Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) really gets around. Obviously his workload isn’t as taxing as one would expect in the sectarian pressure cooker that is Belfast and he seems to have no supervisor on his back. Now back in the city but still apart from his wife Sally (Bronagh Waugh) and their children, he sets about tracking down his next victim.
Hands up who thought it would be the incredibly dumb bottle-blonde he met on the train back to the city last week? He practically offered up his identity by drawing her attention to the photo-fit published in the newspaper – he even added his beard in pen for her. Well, maybe she’s been put on the back burner as a little entertainment later on in the series. After all, he knows she lives on his killing ground near the university – indeed, only a couple of roads away from one of his victims – and he knows her name because the daft girl showed him her driving licence.
But our rapist serial killer has other fish to fry first – three, in fact. Annie Brawley, who is still in hospital after his most recent attack, his ex-lover Rose Stagg – the sister of a victim from nine years ago, and Lolita-like Katie (Aisling Franciosi), the Spectors’ teenage babysitter, who is really cruising for a bruising by the end of the episode.
Rose is first to be abducted, mainly because he suspects it is she who provided the police with the fairly accurate likeness that they are circulating in the press. During the most terrifying car journey of her life, she assures Paul (whom she knew as Peter) that she did not shop him and had never considered him as a suspect in her sister’s death. She surely does by the end of it. She is bundled away in his lock-up for safekeeping; presumably because they had a prior relationship he finds her more emotionally problematical to kill than the strangers he has merely stalked.
His unbridled arrogance reaches a peak in his next ports of call. Wearing his caring professional face and laminated name-badge, he goes to the headquarters of the Alice Monroe Memorial Foundation (founded by the well-to-do family of another of his victims) and cons the dark-haired beauty in reception (another potential customer for his deadly attentions?) into handing over the file on Annie Brawley, then sweeps into the hospital, explaining that she could have had a female therapist, “But honestly, there’s no better therapist than me.”
Annie, caught like a fly in Paul’s spider’s web, is at first open with him about not recalling much (where is the police guard she should surely have?), but he’s leading his witness so strongly that by the time he leaves the room we can read her doubts about confiding in this gentle man.
“Too much history or remembering can ultimately destroy the past, the present and the future,” he tells her. If he’d whipped out a noose he couldn’t have made his meaning more chilling.
Meanwhile, Stella’s increasing stress is manifesting itself in nightmares in which she prowls round her office at night, gun in hand, looking like some sultry Lady Macbeth in an Agent Provocateur advert. In the dream she accidentally shoots and kills her late one-night stand Det James Olson in the dark – her guilt over his death is clearly getting to her.
In fact, we see quite a bit of well-preserved Anderson flesh in this episode as she goes for another nocturnal swim. How much these scenes are intended to represent her growing insomnia or just the actress’s desire to show how buff she’s become since her pudgier Agent Scully days isn’t clear, but boy, does she look great.
For our episode one review go here