This review contains spoilers
Last Thursday saw the return of BBC 2’s acclaimed crime drama The Fall, in which the rather dashing Jamie Dornan (more commonly known for his portrayal of masochism enthusiast Christian Grey) portrays the twisted yet captivating serial killer known as ‘Paul Spector’. The second series left the viewer with somewhat of a cliffhanger – DSI Stella Gibson (portrayed by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame), after a game of cat and mouse spanning two series, had finally reaped the rewards of her persistence. After all this time, Paul Spector was finally in her custody.
But to end the program there, with such a happy and justified outcome, wouldn’t be befitting of this program’s darker element; it just wouldn’t do. Clearly the writer’s shared a similar sentiment, hence their decision to prolong Stella’s misery and frustration by having Spector shot at by loyalist thug James ‘Jimmy’ Tyler, with whom Spector has a fairly rocky history (namely due to him helping Tyler’s wife escape and seek refuge from the abuse inflicted by ‘Jimmy’). The program therefore ends in a far more acceptable and appropriate scenario – one in which Spector lays dying in Stella’s arms, an almost mocking smirk painted on his face at the thought of a distraught Stella being so close yet ultimately so far from succeeding.
So with this striking image of Spector’s increasingly lifeless body still resonating in the viewers’ minds, the question now turns to how has the new third series begun? Well, the first episode begins fairly tentatively, with Spector’s usual perverse exploits swapped instead with him in an eerily sparsely-filled hospital. Think more the pilot of The Walking Dead and less Holby and Casualty. Stella of course is floating around, on the one hand preparing a speech to give to the media, on the other perhaps just wanting to keep an eye on Spector. The several times Spector managed to elude her grasp still seem to be playing on her mind – her determination to get him convicted being tested by the fact that Spector is looking like he will struggle to make it to the end of the day never mind to a court of law.
As the episode progresses, we get the feeling that the writer is using this episode to clear up any uncertainties following the events of the series two finale. Subsequently, there are some differences and some things that maintain familiarity – take Spector’s daughter, Olivia (or Livy as he lovingly refers to her, the only person who seems to humanise him). Though she still maintains a close bond with her ‘Daddy’, the extent to which she sticks up for him is clearly something that the episode hints at exploring potentially throughout the series. How she deals with seeing an article on her mother’s laptop (careless of her to leave it laying around admittedly) stating that ‘daddy’ could be the infamous ‘Belfast Strangler’ is something which will definitely be intriguing to observe. Then of course there is the character of Katie Benedetto, who despite now being confined to her bedroom still harbours lustful feelings for the man (Spector) whose children she used to babysit. Her besotted demeanour quickly introduces itself to us once again as she struggles to cope with the news of his shooting; the embitterment she feels towards all those around her may manifest itself in a darker form as the story progresses.
The change in setting allows for further exploration into moral ideas, specifically whether or not it is fair to provide Spector, not only a criminal, but essentially the worst kind of criminal, with, well, what the episode depicts as being preferential medical treatment. Impressive medical treatment admittedly, as Spector’s operation proves successful, a challenge in itself considering he had lost practically ‘two-thirds of his body’s blood’. Nevertheless, the writer has to get that dramatic ending in somewhere, and having a successful operation is just far too, I guess, ‘nice’ an ending. Fret not as soon after the operation, Spector begins to ‘see the light’ at the end of a tunnel – actually it’s more a case of hearing the light, that light being his mother’s voice. But from the other end he once again hears the familiar sickly-sweet echo of ‘Daddy’, and after short deliberation steps towards it. At this point his body stops convulsing and the doctor’s are able to bring him back to reality. The episode ends shortly after, but not before introducing Spector’s new nurse Kiera (played by British Comedian Aisling Bea), her hair and appearance conveniently similar to that of Spector’s previous victims. How serendipitous for him!
So that gives an idea into how things were set in motion, but how did the second episode fare in comparison? Well, in all honesty, it did feel like more of a return to normality for the show, although that was in part down to less of a need to show Spector’s operations and recovery. Stella’s latest dealings see both herself and her colleague ACC Burns (John Lynch) coming under fire from the Police Ombudsman regarding the situation that led to Spector to being shot whilst in their custody. Both Spector and Burns are put through their paces, a barrage of questions hurtled at them trying to make sense of how Jimmy, who previously had been cautioned for possessing a weapon, was allowed to fire it. In the middle of the forest. Surrounded by numerous policemen. At Spector. Breaking it down like that you have to, to some extent, question the competence of the police force to allow that to happen.
Regardless, they scrape through the questioning, and head over to Spector’s special place – specifically the dwelling used by Spector to co-ordinate and plan his attacks from. There they are able to see Spector for what he truly is – the pictures, detailed entries and artwork from his attack are far more telling than the scrutinous tête-á-tête Stella and Spector had during the last season, if not solely for the fact that it suggests Spector’s prurient endeavours weren’t just limited to the victims Stella and co. were aware of. Whilst this is going on, quite a fair amount is underway with the others. Katie can’t seem to keep her feelings for Spector suppressed and flits from location to location in order to satisfy her needs. This of course involves her going to the hospital, whilst dressed as if she was instead off to the nightclub, in the hopes of meeting Spector which she probably didn’t really think through – with the amount of policeman swarming the corridors it was only a matter of time before she is spotted. She does make it out and away from them and you would think such a close encounter would deter her from her pursuit but sadly not. Her choice to physically assault her friend by squirting lemon juice in her eyes soon after adds to her descent into a Spector-esque figure. All she is really missing now is that first murder, but is it something she is truly capable of?
Rose Stagg (Valene Kane), as yet unmentioned in this review, is worth bringing attention to. After all it was her imprisonment that led the police to capturing Spector. She remains an unnerved figure – understandably so after having been locked in a car boot for an inordinate amount of time – and senses that she shouldn’t be spending too much time in the hospital. She discharges herself but not before meeting with her husband and child, the former of whom also senses that the couple are being kept in the dark with what is actually going on in the hospital. What is actually going on is the slow but gradual regaining of consciousness by Spector, assisted patiently by Nurse Kiera. Understandably weak, he struggles to speak without hesitation and it begins dawn upon the viewer that his operation has left him struggling to remember who he is and what he has done. Yet another moral issue that writer has proposed for the course of the series but one that will be interesting with the way in which it is dealt.
This second episode, for me, builds on the first by providing a more legitimate foundation and basis for the rest of the series to follow. Several questions were bouncing around. Will Katie’s dark descent have tragic repercussions? How will Stella deal with this newly afflicted Spector? And does Spector have more dark secrets hidden? As such, the writer’s have set up the series well but continuing it a good pace whilst avoiding cramming everything in is a skill in itself. Whatever the outcome, I am sure the forthcoming episodes can bring something delectable to the table. I await them eagerly.