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DVD Review: ‘The Fall’

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If the first series of last year’s thriller, The Fall, is anything to judge by, the staid genteel stereotype of the BBC’s dramatic programming has long gone the way of the rotary phone and the VCR. Mrs. Marple has become a modern woman unwilling to take a subordinate role to men in any area of life, and a sexually perverted serial killer is pursuing beautiful young professional women.

unnamedWritten by Allan Cubitt, The Fall, stars Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson, a hard-nosed detective sent to Belfast from the central office to review a murder case the locals have been unsuccessfully working on. Not only is she a no nonsense, demanding professional, she is smart and aggressive in pushing her opinions. Moreover, she is no less aggressive in her own sexual behavior. This is a woman who takes a back seat to no one. Almost immediately she ties the one murder case, to a second unsolved case, and then when there is a third murder, it is clear that she was right.

The Fall is not a who-done-it. Viewers meet the killer from the very beginning. Paul Spector, played by The-FallJamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time), is the father of two young children married to a nurse who works in a neo-natal intensive care unit. He works as a grief counselor, and he likes to strangle young women, pose their naked corpses, and take photographs of the bodies. On the surface, he is a model citizen. We are shown him washing his little daughter’s hair. We are shown him packing his kids’ lunch for school. We are shown him counseling a couple who have lost their young son. Of course we are also shown him doodling a nude picture of the woman as he pretends to take notes. We are also shown him breaking into a victim’s house and stealing some of her underwear. He is a perfect candidate for a chapter in Krafft-Ebbing.

Cubitt’s script tends to alternate scenes of the police investigation and some of their outside activities with scenes of the serial killer stalking his new victim as well as his family life. Both Anderson and Dornan give masterful performances. She manages to be both dominating and alluring as she exudes sexuality. He is the model of the young family man, even as he pursues his obsessions. He is an example of what psychologists call doubling, as DSI Gibson points out. One might well argue that she, herself, is also a doubler on some level. Doubling, as explained in Psychology Today, is the creation of two independent selves within a person. Robert Louis Stevenson might have called it “Jekyll and Hydism. Different selves operate in different situations.

It is an interesting thesis and makes for a riveting five-episode series, available in a two-disc DVD set from Acorn in the middle of October. This first series runs for approximately 300 minutes, and seems to end with a promise of a series continuation, something  for those of us who enjoyed the show to look forward to. The DVD includes a 12 minute “Behind the Scenes” featurette with cast interviews.

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