Season Two & Nary a Stumble (Series Review: “The Fall: Season 2”)

Season Two of The Fall doesn’t disappoint. But you’ll never look at Barbie dolls the same way again.


SnapShot Plot

When we left DSI Stella Gibson and Paul Spector (the Belfast Strangler) at the end of Season One, the cat & mouse game between them had just begun heating up. In Season Two, their strange, almost symbiotic connection morphs to frightening dimensions as the net begins to close over Spector, while the figures beyond his control make his situation ever more precarious. The main characters are back in this creepy, compelling and oh-so watchable series created and now directed in its entire 2nd season by Allan Cubitt.  The plot twists are engaging and – true to the procedural crime show format – form a jigsaw puzzle which eventually takes full shape as the plot winds down to its shattering climax in the sixth and final episode. Some major shifts this season revolve around the characterizations of both Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and Spector (Jamie Dornan); she’s now more humanized and he’s less so than in the 1st season. Gillian Anderson was always beautifully lit and photographed before but here she shows a softer, more emotionally vulnerable dimension, in a way reflecting how lovingly she’s filmed. Make no mistake, though, she’s just as hard-boiled and predatory in her pursuit of Spector as ever, which of course extends to her unapologetically predatory sexuality. For his part and perhaps because he’s been separated from his family (remember the fabricated infidelity to his wife in order to quell her growing suspicions about his mysterious absences?), Paul Spector is truly revealed in this 2nd season as the sociopath and monster that he is. And in one of the most fascinating developments, we have the emergence of the babysitter, Katie Benedetto (spine-chillingly portrayed by Aisling Franciosi) as a would-be killer-in-training, whose schoolgirl crush on Spector mounts to disturbing limits. Their sick chemistry and the utter manipulations they inflict on each other make for white knuckle viewing. The only character misstep for me was the gratuitous lesbian tease halfway through the series between Stella Gibson and the Medical Examiner, Dr. Reed Smith, played by Archie Panjabi. Must this actress be forever typecast as the sexual question mark  in TV crime dramas (fans of The Good Wife will know what I mean)?



Parting Shot

The Fall has understandably become BBC Two’s highest rated drama series in over a decade. And it doesn’t hurt it’s appeal that Jamie Dornan will soon make a splash as Christian Grey in the feverishly awaited film adaptation of the wildly successful book series, Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, according to a recent interview with Gillian Anderson, there’s likely to be a third season, which probably explains the rather abrupt final scene in the last episode of season two and the lingering question in everyone’s minds about the final fate of Paul Spector.

What I find especially interesting about The Fall has to do with the unspoken dynamics between the characters that run like silent yet turbulent currents beneath the surface, made more palpable by the slower, more methodical pacing and the suspense that comes with that unhurried approach. There’s also much to discuss about the themes of feminism and gender sexuality which this series isn’t afraid to present, even when it’s uncomfortable or scandalous, especially in the still conservative Catholic culture in Northern Ireland.

And finally (because these tidbits are what I live for!) I wonder if any of you art lovers out there recognized the painting that Spector left on Gibson’s computer screen?  It’s the 1781 painting by Swiss artist, Henry Fuseli entitled The Nightmare, long thought to be one of the most disturbing works of art from the Romantic period. It’s the consummate image of sexual terror, exhibiting a woman lying in an agitated sleep with a garish little imp squatting on her belly and a strange horse-like creature peering out from the shadows. In the show, Stella says to Jim (John Lynch) that Spector must be telling her that she’s the female figure and he’s the imp, yet in the final scene of the show, pay attention and then ask yourself: who’s who?


For my review of The Fall: Season One, please visit:


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