Review: The Fall (S2 E6/6), Thursday 19th December, BBC1

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We were certainly kept waiting for the big face-to face encounter for Det Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), an encounter that has bubbled menacingly – almost taunting us – for two series now. Will they? Won’t they? There have been numerous occasions when the two could have met, but I was almost wishing for some sort of meeting in this finale. It had to happen, right?

The start of the episode felt a bit padded, despite the portentous music while Gibson searched Spector’s hideout trying to pinpoint the spot his smartphone torture footage was filmed. Whereas the first series made us jump in shock, this was steeped in a grim inevitability; the eerie mood music pointing up the squad’s move into the wood while searching for kidnapped Rose Stagg was a veritable anthem for doomed youth.

And the finale in so many ways was a damp squib compared with series one of The Fall. It looked promising – but the slow build-up of the close eyeballing of protagonist with antagonist fell under the wheels of a plot point dropped during the last series and only revived in a rather tacked-on way last week.

In a contrived pick ’n’ mix of storylines, psycho wife-beater Jimmy Tyler somehow was still out on the loose after his attempt to murder Spector last week and it was his revenge rampage that inexorably moved towards an armed endgame. The Monroe crime family story has obviously run out of steam and been jettisoned ­­– even though it was still being waved in front of Jim Burns (John Lynch) as a disciplinary matter by his superior DCI Matt Eastwood (Stuart Graham) in episode three.

Given a tip-off that his estranged wife is in a women’s refuge, Jimmy takes a car and phone from a dodgy reporter from the Belfast Chronicle and sets off to find her in Bangor. After trying to beat up every woman in the place, he flees as the police respond to the panic button.

Luckily, Dolan, owner of the fleabag hotel, has been spying electronically on his guests – and police see video of Spector leaving a trussed-up Katie left to untie herself.

Gibson tried to get her new young deputy Tom Anderson (Colin Morgan) off with comely teen Katie (Aisling Franciosi) in the interview room, presumably because he’s a dead ringer for Spector and she thinks she’ll open up to him. Oddly enough, she does after a fashion. God, Stella – pervy or what?

Many reviewers – particularly women – feel the Katie infatuation storyline is irritating and unconvincing because of its unpleasant overtones of underage sex, and dismissed it as just a male fantasy. All I can say is they can’t get out much or it’s been a long time since they associated with teenage girls – it has actually seemed all too credible. And yes, very unpleasant along with the overwhelming mood of violence against women in the series.

No doubt this series has gone some way to putting the cause of feminism back a few years – but it is set in Northern Ireland, where sexual mores are different and even laws on matters like abortion vary from those in the rest of the UK.

Indeed, Gibson’s laissez-faire attitude to casual sex has caused consternation among her colleagues; when her inevitable sexual encounter with Anderson is over and the couple arrive at the station in the same car, Eastwood’s eyebrows rise perceptibly. And suddenly, Gibson is Anderson’s boss again.

Gibson sends in policewoman Gail (Bronagh Taggart) tarted up to question Spector (obviously to save herself as the main event). It doesn’t hurt that she’s also the physical type he prefers – dark-haired, slim and gorgeous – but he sees through the ruse straight away. Spector wants no lame imitations; he demands to talk to ‘Stella’ only. How intimate.

In the end, the interrogation is an intense but strangely cold affair. Spector, because of his mother committing suicide and being passed from home to home as a child, is dead inside, so eaten up by hatred that there seems little left. Even though they try to anger each other – he goads her as a barren spinster – neither rises to the bait in a way that makes the match compelling. With this pair all emotion seems spent.

OK, so series two was always unlikely to reprise the triumph of the first acclaimed run, but writer-director Allan Cubitt’s repetition of the anticlimax of the first series finale by leaving so much up in the air is guaranteed to sour a large section of its audience. No, we’re not talking about the confused outrage US viewers felt about The Sopranos’ denouément; British audiences are generally a bit more sophisticated than that. But it would have been good to get some satisfactory conclusions to at least a few of the plot strands rather than a US-style who-gets-to-live-or-die desperation to leave a door open for a possible further series. But of course with British TV’s desperation to copy US network series and the bid to have more transatlantic co-productions this cliffhanger tendency is likely to grow.

There is no word on whether The Fall has been picked up for a third run. However, Anderson says she’s up for reprising her role and she is a name in the US so there’s always the chance that a streaming company there will drop the BBC some cash to recommission it.

So if and until that happens we can only take a guess about who lives and who perishes.

Deborah Shrewsbury

For episode one review go here

For our episode two review go here

For our episode three review go here

For our episode four review go here

For our episode five review go here

2 thoughts on “Review: The Fall (S2 E6/6), Thursday 19th December, BBC1

  1. Completely baffled by this comment: ‘And yes, very unpleasant along with the overwhelming mood of violence against women in the series. No doubt this series has gone some way to putting the cause of feminism back a few years…’

    Many reviewers have repeated similar sentiments, need I say that it is possible to depict misogyny without being misogynistic? The show depicts a woman-hating serial killer, forcing the viewer to understand and even emphathise with him. It refuses to make him a cookie-cutter deviant, even depicting him as a family man and a seemingly sensitive and compassionate counselor.

    A lesser writer would have doubtless written a creepy, woman-suit wearing stereotype, and this would have been comforting in its strangeness. What makes Paul Spector so unnerving is his ordinariness, his apparent pleasantness, his deep-seated and inexplicable misogyny, rather than the misogyny of the show-runners.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The ending wasn’t a cliffhanger.

    The final shot of Stella cradling a dying Paul Spector in her arms was very deliberate but it wasn’t done to create a sense of ambiguity. Spector is dead and Rose was saved. I don’t know why critics are misreading this so badly (see also the Guardian’s blog).

    This story is done. Any third season will need a new plot, because the current plot-line came to an end last night.

    Like

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