11 June 2013

The Fall

Last weekend I stayed up late watching The Fall, a BBC program that I had been dying to see (no pun intended).

The murder of a young woman has the police in Belfast stumped so they call in DSI Stella Gibson from the Met in London who quickly sees connections between this murder and prior one. The police at first are reluctant to agree (this might mean they messed up) yet when a similar murder occurs it becomes apparent that they have a serial killer on their hands, one who stalks and preys on young career women. Gibson takes over the investigation and sets about drawing the murderer out before he can kill again.

The main reason I was excited for The Fall is that Gillian Anderson plays Gibson. Yes, Dana Scully of the X-Files is once again donning a lanyard and carrying a gun. I don’t mean to sound glib. Anderson is a fantastic actress. It’s just hard not to think of Scully when she’s in a police tale, especially when she visits the morgue.

Gibson is a type of character popular in mysteries: the single female detective who is intelligent, attractive, lives alone, and appears to need nothing but her job save for the occasional one night stand. It’s been done many times before (think Cordelia Grey in the PD James novels or DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect as a couple of classic examples), and you can now add Anderson’s Gibson to the list.

A good detective and leader, Gibson manages to run a team smoothly. She gives commands without raising her voice, holds her own with the men, and supports the career advances of younger female officers. She is utterly devoted to a case. She lives the job, drinking too much coffee, changing in the women’s room, and even spending some nights on a cot in her office.

She is also attractive and uses it to her advantage, lowering her voice and speaking softly, flipping her long blonde hair, and wearing shirts that almost reveal too much. In fact, her wardrobe is one of the standouts on the show: silk shirts with black pencil skirts and trousers, heels and tailored coats. She always appears put together, a bit posh. It’s only in the close-ups that she allows the fatigue she’s feeling to show in her eyes.

And Gibson is used to getting what she wants. Spotting a good-looking police officer, she asks to be introduced and almost immediately tells him where she’s staying and her room number. For her it’s sex with no strings attached, something that she refers to as “sweet night,” a term borrowed from an African tribe. Gibson knows this because her first degree was in anthropology, one of the few personal details she reveals about herself.

The other cast members are stellar including Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector, a family man and grief counsellor who happens to be a serial killer, John Lynch as ACC Jim Burns who has a history with Gibson, and Niamh McGready as Danielle Ferrington, the young patrol officer who becomes Gibson’s right hand woman.

All five episodes are streaming now on Netflix and the BBC has commissioned a second season (yay!). Watch them all but a word of advice: start your viewing early in the evening, as you’ll want to blast right through all five.

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