In this Netflix Original production distributed by BBC Ireland, (not to be confused with the 2006 movie of the same name–see August 16, 2011 review), the story unfolds, not as a mystery to be solved, but as a contrast between two obsessive personality types. One is Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson of “X-Files” and “Bleak House” fame), called in to solve a murder. The other is the psychopath leading a double life, not unlike “Dexter”. Interestingly, it is the seeming normalcy of the psychopath, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan, soon to be known as the actor in the upcomng “Fifty Shades of Grey”), who appears to have the more balanced life: an effective grief counselor with a supportive wife and two loving kids to whom he is devoted. The detective, meanwhile, is lonely, absorbed by her work even when eating, and seems to engage only in brief sexual encounters with no emotional commitment (not unlike the unforgettable Helen Mirren’s character in “Prime Suspect”). A strong and no-holds-barred dialogue about the hypocrisy towards women’s sexual behavior in contrast with that of men runs throughout.
The five-part series, set in the dark landscape of Belfast, explores the motivation and precise technical prowess of a sexual predator with a clinical voyeurism at once chilling and puzzling. It is deeply disturbing to watch the antagonist shampoo his five-year old daughter’s hair after a sinister “kill” involving a bathtub scene. Furthermore, the little girl is subtly sexualized in a deeply unsettling way. Spector’s “normal” life of teacher conferences, spousal harmony, and empathy for those he is counseling can be viewed in two ways: as a life he would like to maintain because it could heal his many unknown wounds, or as the life which allows him to commit his notorious and heinous crimes.
In the chilling ending, after three murders and a cat-and-mouse game between Gibson and Spector, we are left on the edge of our seats at the inconclusive final scene: unfinished business that may leave viewers dissatisfied. This viewer would have liked either a tighter connection between subplots and murders, or at least a backstory on both of the main characters. Neither happens, though the scenes and some of the dialogue are absolutely stunning. Nonetheless, “The Fall” is riveting and addicting.
Netflix has another hit in this miniseries. I can’t wait for the six-part Season 2, to be broadcast on Netflix this coming autumn!