Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson continues her hunt for serial murderer Paul Spector in a series that would bore our Hannah Dunleavy to tears if she wasn’t so fucked off about how it treats women.
Just after I clicked ‘stop’ on this opening episode, I received a message from a friend who also reviews television. (To be clear, we don’t all hang around in a big gang together, although I am open to this idea if it includes Julia Raeside and Andrew Collins. Guys, call me, yeah?)
In his message he summed up BBC Two’s The Fall in three words: “Standard Issue‘s nightmare”. Try as I might, I’m struggling to think of anything that does the job more effectively.
In many ways The Fall is the Donald Trump of television drama. It’s capricious, often wilfully so. Think Stella’s gonna end up with this guy? Wrong, he’s dead. Think she’s going to catch the bad guy? Wrong, he’s got away. Think we’re going to wrap this up in a timely fashion? Hahahaha.
And much like Trump’s campaign, it might have an Ivanka right up front – Gillian Anderson’s immaculately pressed and empowered Stella – but look beyond that and you get the impression it sees women as wholly disposable.
In fact, I did consider just not reviewing it. Because, frankly, if even the Daily Mail‘s getting agitated about the way something treats women, we can assume me banging on about it is not going to make one tit of a difference.
But, you know what, we’re at series three now and The Fall is still failing to efficiently separate ‘gratuitous violence against women’ and ‘sexy times’, which can’t pass without comment. Especially in a year when TV’s other top cop, Happy Valley‘s Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), had to deal again with her nemesis and the outcome was so glorious.
Unpredictable as ever, this first episode recast the series as a hospital drama, with some pretty heavy-duty “get me 10mg of something unpronounceable, stat” going on. Which is all very exciting if you give a shit about who is on the table. But, in truth, I don’t care if Jamie Dornan’s Paul Spector lives or dies. Which makes the series’ own condition critical. The bad kind.
“Much like Donald Trump’s campaign, The Fall might have an Ivanka right up front – Gillian Anderson’s immaculately pressed and empowered Stella – but look beyond that and you get the impression it sees women as wholly disposable.”
Meanwhile, the condition and wellbeing of the poor moo who’d been locked in the boot of the car went very much on a backburner in favour of some lingering shots of Dornan’s comatose body.
Elsewhere, Colin Morgan’s DS Tom Anderson is well jel’ about Stella caring more about a serial killer getting shot and there’s trouble down the station about her handling of the case. Understandably. It also looks like the yucky storyline about Spector’s teenage admirer Katie is set to continue.
All this is shot beautifully and wonderfully atmospheric and that. But it’s a hand so overplayed it becomes the equivalent of someone sitting next to you for an hour going “Oooooooooh”. The overblown scene in Stella’s hotel room actually made me laugh out loud.
If there’s anything to admire in The Fall, it’s Gillian Anderson, who perfectly captures the innate contradictions in Stella’s nature. She’s both aloof and caring, composed and all over the shop. It’s just a shame she’s not in a better series.
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Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.