The Fall well and truly sidelined us all this week as the writers returned to exactly what they do best: taking us down a long and winding alleyway of unpredictability. Fortunately, for once, there were no stranglers at the end of this one.
Any predictions for the series have been rewritten, all bets are off. Apologies. Critics’ hats aloft and cast aside into the bin labelled: “TV Dunce.” We have no egos here at Palatinate.
Anyone worried that The Fall might ‘do a Broadchurch’ and become bogged down and deadly dull in the final series – courtroom dramas are impossible to ‘sex up’, especially with the wigs – were wrong.
It seemed as though we were going to have a series of the Belfast Strangler’s slow and steady recovery and then dilapidating trial. An episodic drift through Jamie Dornan’s many faces for pain, confusion and, perhaps, guilt. Then we’d hit the dull drudgery of a Belfast courtroom.
It would be a bit like an amateur dramatist pulling faces in a mirror to hone their emotions. The series, always in a state of prolonged collapse, would, indeed, finally fall under Jamie Dornan’s furrowed brow and bearded jaw, locked in the silence of the defence booth.
But The Fall keeps us in a constant state of suspended free fall, leaving the viewer, with no idea what comes next. This was a tear-jerker of an episode. Although Paul Spector was confirmed as the aforementioned Belfast Strangler to the public, we found ourselves questioning whether a murderer can provoke sympathy.
All looked set for the fulfilment of Episode One’s obvious threads. Spector had the wake up from hell after multiple operations. Choking, he shot up from the bed. Grabbing his nurse’s arm, he needed the support of the other ICU nurses to sedate him. Oxygen 100%.
Leaving marks on the nurse’s arm and causing distress to the others, lying down once more he lulled softly back into the deep sleep of a monster. Ready to awaken properly. It had the feel of a horror film, with the nurse’s panic-stricken face forming Spector’s new prey. Meanwhile, previous victim Rose Stagg lay in the neighbouring room ready for the predator to finish her off.
After she discharged herself from hospital, the scene was set for the final hunt. The nurse left horribly vulnerable, her heart rate rapid. Spector was there, breathing heavy, empty eyelids, the calm before the savage storm.
As we were awaiting the final wake-up, the side storm was Stella’s sustained erosion by her superiors. The face of Stella’s personal devil is Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns, the bearded blight who seems set to destroy Gibson’s reputation from the top-down. Though apparently unwitting, Burns (John Lynch) had seemingly forgotten the skills of communication, leaving Stella high and dry.
But a change of office is hardly going to precipitate Stella’s hasty collapse, though she is starting to feel the strain of new pressures. We move into the sexy bit of The Bill when they actually have to form a case based on evidence. Fact checking always makes the best television (just ask your lecturers).
So with Stella in the office and Spector bed-bound, surely this was a dull episode? No. Amnesia. One word delivers us from a thousand narrative boredoms. Spector does not remember anything. Anything…at all! He thinks it is 2006! And what a year that was too. Blair’s last in office, Razorlight went to number one and Germany won the Euros. I was 12! Those glory days.
Call it selective memory, but that has one slight problem: he doesn’t remember the fact that he is a deranged, sociopathic murderer with a sideline in strangling. Oops. At least that might come in handy at court. Therefore, Spector is back to being a loving man and a lovely husband. An innocent. He does not know he was in police custody. Nor that he was shot. He only believes his daughter Olivia’s story that he was in a car accident.
Bizarrely, as an audience we now find sympathy for this Northern Irish devil as he barely recognises his daughter and wife and looks so confused by the entire situation. What way the plot will wind next is anyone’s guess, but the emphasis is back on Dornan to make the series as compelling as he can while looking all at a loss.
Next episode: Thursday 9pm, BBC 2
Photograph: Gage Skidmore