Picking up where last week's excellent first episode left off, The Fall's second instalment begins with what was arguably one of the finest, coldest and downright disturbing moments seen on television for a long time. Once again, parallels are drawn between our two leads, the forthright DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and the methodical serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) as they both participated in R-rated late night activities. For Gibson, it's a fling with resident attractive copper DC Olsen (Ben Peel) in a matter-of-fact and perfunctory sex scene that had all the passion of a limp trout. Then, in between, we follow Paul as he bathes and poses his victim, cleaning her bedsheets and painting her nails before quietly vacating the property.
I thought last week's final scenes were about as bad as it was going to get, but I was totally wrong. The opening was just brilliant; played out in almost complete silence, it was chilling in exactly the right way and more than once, I felt I should look away. It was just too uncomfortable. Indeed, that set the tone for the rest of the episode. Like the opener, The Fall was determined to not let you settle into it, not to get comfortable. Each time it felt like you could relax a little, it threw in another shock to jar back out of it again. It's a testament to Alan Cubitt's writing that this doesn't feel forced at all, but rather a natural progression in the show's events.
The first episode mainly concentrated on the two leads, introducing us to their own personal spheres, their ticks and their habits. The second episode then allowed for us to see the wider world in which Gibson and Spector operate, the people they interact with and the events going on in the background. Spending time with characters like Olsen and Paul's wife, Sally-Ann (Bronagh Waugh), gives other actions in the episode more meaning and consequently more impact. I also like the developing sub-plots of police corruption rumbling on and the fact that Belfast is still dealing with various troubles, though not all of the variety you would expect.
That being said, it is the two leads who continually draw us back in and a sterling job they are doing of it too. As I said last week, Gillian Anderson has the tougher task, keeping our attention as the heroine of the piece. Thankfully, Anderson's a skilled enough actress to carry off the enigma and wonderful frankness that Gibson is imbued with. Like her strangle-happy counterpart, Gibson offers no real reason why she's so determined to solve this case beyond her initial instincts. I'm also very impressed that there has been no desire to give her anything like a back story.
Dornan is just as good, if not better than Anderson, making the two sides of Spector's character entirely believable. He may be the blandest serial killer out there, but that's the point; Dornan captures the domestic dad versus the killer marvellously. The domestic scenes still prove to be just as jarring as in the first episode; washing his daughter's hair the day after killing someone still proves to be quite the shock, losing nothing in the familiarity of seeing more of these contrasts. I'm still no closer to working out Spector's motivation behind these killings, but then that just makes him all the more chilling. Nothing is more scary than a killer with no motive.
Just from the second episode, I can tell that The Fall is going to be something I watch before going on to view something incredibly cheerful that possibly involves rainbows, sparkles and a frolicking puppy or two. This is no criticism. In fact, The Fall may possibly be one of the best dramas on television at the current moment. It's just so goddamn bleak.
You can read Becky's review of Episode One here.
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