The Fall Blog: Series Three – Episodes Three & Four

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Series Three of The Fall lacks the scintillating quality of the previous two series. While the script remains sharp, the action has evaporated. The reality of mundane, nondescript locations like intensive care units and detective’s offices have often left things feeling a little bogged down.

It seems to be a little like a love affair that is grinding away into its third year. The initial excitement and passion have perhaps worn off (the strangling of Series One); the thrill of the chase (Series Two) has disappeared in the light of the capture. We need a spark to motivate everything again. To remind us why we fell in love in the first place.

That spark seemed to be Spector’s (Jamie Dornan) amnesia. But that has only led to a changing of scenes, from the hospital ward to another sterile, characterless environment of a secure psychiatric ward. Before Spector leaves Belfast General though, Sheridan, his nurse comes to the fore as the major moral heart of the mission to heal a monster.

It is an acute observation of the role of these modern angels, who help bring back the nearly dead and re-orientate them in the real world. Aisling Bea, who plays Sheridan, is excellently cast. Though the actress’ credentials are in comedy, Bea has the right display of wide-eyed compassion and downtrodden delicacy to interact with the killer. She provides the lens through which we can perceive the humanity of Spector once more. Her eyes; the camera’s focus.

Perhaps it is a little flawed that the writers turn her into a Christian missionary stereotype – “I will pray for you Paul” – but when your killer’s names are Peter Paul, perhaps we should expect a little religious flatulence masquerading as existentialism every now and again. The existentialism returns as Spector relates his now infamous walk towards the light before his return to life.

While we lose Sheridan, upon whom the series has depended so far, we now take a Scandinavian turn. Borgen? Bridge? No, not Dansk, but Swedish. Kurt Wallander comes onto the scene. And no, this is not Kenneth Branagh, but the beautifully evocative character actor, Krister Henriksson.

Henriksson is sadly not playing his most famous role so there is no weird X-Files meets Wallander detective dream team alongside Gillian Anderson. But the two do make a great screen pairing and produce one of the series’ finest scenes. Cold, calculating and professional, they do not give an inch as Stella introduces Dr. Larson to the intricacies of the case. She is obviously pushing him down a certain direction – Spector wants to play with his professional prey and convince him of the true nature of his amnesia – Larson wishes to remain objective, sympathetic and learn about the murderer and his motivations.

The two are bound to chafe over the remaining two episodes, although there remains an awful lot left for creator/writer/director Alan Cubitt to wrap up before The Fall reaches its final descent. Here is hoping that we retain the myopic, case study of destroyed psychologies and do not attempt to branch away into the drudgery of a rapid-fire, uneasy court case. The case is being built, but the courtroom feels a long way off.

For a series that has been both lauded and condemned for its depiction of women – on the one hand, female figures of power (Stella; the judge is a woman), on the other, women being strangled is not the best emancipation. Here, the parallel threads of the female lives seem a little tangential given the desperation of these women. For instance, Spector’s wife is given short shrift onscreen considering that she attempts to ‘do a Medea’ i.e murder both her children. Looking long and lost into the ground, the role does not give actress Bronagh Waugh sufficient character to breathe life into this most abject of roles. Lying on a bed looking suicidal is a tough gig for anyone to do well.

Meanwhile, Rose Stagg (Valene Kane) resurfaces after her return to family life and is helping the police with their inquiries. This turns out to be a one-on-one with Stella that is the exact opposite of your usual meeting with the college councillor. Things are tough, but the pair share a genuine moment of bonding as they announce that they have not been fully honest with their stories. Rose states that her infatuation with Spector (AKA Peter Baldwin) in fact lasted longer and she was ‘the one.’ Well that’s cute. Meanwhile, Stella nearly got Stagg killed. Not so cute.

He is an infection that keeps on returning. Not least, to his own body, as Spector becomes seemingly more complicit with his own identity as the ‘Belfast Strangler.’ Cue plenty of shots of Dornan’s face fading at the ends of episodes and a vain fascination with the masculinity and muscle of the man; the charisma of a killer.

Seemingly, weeks of blood loss and bed have had little effect on his toned physique. So those of you Freshers beginning to notice a few pounds piling around the waist, no worries, the cure is simple: Get Shot, Not Shots. And that is why I am not a Frep…

Next episode: Thursday 9pm, BBC 2

Photograph: Frankie Fouganthin

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