“There is a visible and an invisible world – that’s why people get hurt,” says Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). And he knows more about hurt – both as giver and receiver – than most.We head towards a predictable denouément with a sick foreboding because events, although absorbing – have been travelling at a sclerotic pace. Physical action has also slowed; everyone has been moving around at a leisurely gait (partly dictated by Spector’s incapacitation) as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) stares gauzily into the middle distance in the same way that Amanda Burton used to in Silent Witness.
NB: SpoilersIt contrasts with the tempo of the previous two series – the cops falling through the Spector family’s bedroom ceiling was a particular highlight – and at times this final series has skirted dangerously close to pretentiousness. However, it has remained on solid psychological ground as the poison in Spector’s soul seeps out.
Spector tells the police and his counsel about the Susan Harper killing in London, saying he invited her to play in what he claims was a consensual sex game of autoerotic asphyxiation (pretty explicitly outlined – don’t do this at home, folks!) that went wrong.
His childhood friend David Alvarez had assumed the blame. Stella knows it was payback because Spector had protected Alvarez from paedophile Father Jansen in the boys’ home, but when he says he doesn’t remember telling her this, Stella, tired of the charade, goes on the attack. “Have the courage of your convictions; admit that you remember it all.”
And this has to be where the ‘switch flicks’ in Spector’s head. Goading her, he says he’s been intrigued by what he’s been told about ‘Paul Spector’ during his treatment.
Throughout the interview, lawyer Healy (Aidan McArdle), with mounting alarm, appears to regret taking the brief, and as Spector and Stella begin to stalk each other in the interrogation room, he jumps in to warn Spector not to speculate about things he can’t remember and wreck his defence. On a roll now, Spector ignores him, goading Stella with details of his sordid kill preparations and provoking her about her feelings for him – “I want to know the real me.”
She meets his anger, talking of his infantile desire to have a “captive and captivated audience” and his desire to “be the centre of attention”.
”It is all just a performance for everyone; all just one big performance.”
When Spector erupts you need your TV’s surround speakers on; the bone-snappingly visceral soundfield is particularly good here.
It’s been coming for so long, so why is there so little security surrounding such a high-profile interrogation with a tangential paramilitary link? This is Belfast after all, where eternal vigilance is a way of life.
Shaken, but ever the doughty defence counsel, Healy sees pleas of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ or ’guilty but insane’ within this grasp. This stuns Wallace (Ruth Bradley), who has witnessed hell unleashed on her new heroine and realises that this isn’t the career-making case she had hoped for. Tearfully, she tells an angry Healy he’s on his own.
Stella gets checked over and, amazingly, despite a fearful kicking, the damage is minimal. The woman is made of steel. She stays overnight in hospital having a respectful discussion on Life with Dr O’Donnell (Richard Coyle) – ostensibly to keep her awake to lessen the chances of PTSD setting in.
Larson (Krister Henriksson) has his work cut out for him now, but God, is his ‘secure’ unit lax! Hospital analyst Dr Walden (Denise Gough) confers with him about Spector’s state of mind. She echoes Stella’s lay diagnosis that he’s feigning memory loss, aided by his training as a bereavement counsellor, and advises Larson that there is no neurological reason to think Spector is on the level. “He’s proved how dangerous he is.”
Not only is Spector’s psyche scarred – he now feels alienated from himself by the livid splenectomy scar on his abdomen. Slightly misdirected by Spector’s affectionate discussion of his daughter as an infant, Larson is stymied when he queries him about the attack on Stella and DS Anderson. Spector asks if he is treatable. Larson weakly concedes that he might be.
“Curable?” from one so intractable it is clearly a rhetorical question.
His family is now distanced from him. Daughter Olivia tells her caseworker she still loves her father but “probably won’t see him until she’s grown up or has a baby”. Sarah Beattie as the resourceful Olivia is a cracking little actress and has been an unexpected treat throughout the series.
Katie (Aisling Franciosi) doesn’t strike us as a survivor, though. Detained in juvie, she is dementedly self-harming. Stella finds common ground with her, confiding that she too self-harmed out of anger when her father died. “When times are tough we need tough dreams, but real dreams, not [Spector’s] lies,” she tells Katie. She warns her not to let her anger destroy her the same way Spector’s has. It may be too late for the desolate teenager.
Spector’s new acolyte Bailey (Connor McNeill) falls even deeper in thrall to him. Although Spector doesn’t exactly pose with his pinky finger to his mouth, there is a palpable Dr Evil-Mini-Me moment between them in the clinic rec room as the arch-manipulator authors his end game.
When Spector recites The Man of Double Deed, the anonymous poem unleashes Bailey’s own unhinged reason.
“And when my heart began to bleed,
‘Twas death, and death, and death indeed.”
His manipulation of Bailey is pitiless, but the coup de grâce is almost one of love. He sees himself within this unrehabilitable, tragic lifer; is he putting him out of both their miseries?
Larson pays the price of hubris, Stella is cheated out of her avowed intention, and Jim Burns (John Lynch) bows to the inevitable and resigns after the carnage.
For Milton geeks, the episode Their Solitary Way takes its title from the closing lines of Paradise Lost.
‘They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”
Will we meet Stella again? Let’s hope so. It would be interesting to see her operate on home ground rather than on this alien territory, where she has been frustrated for so many months by small-minded and officious men at every turn.
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