Uneasy sits the viewer

This is my review of The Fall [DVD].

Although you may believe yourself incapable of being surprised any longer by a police thriller, this is unusual in revealing the serial killer's identity from the first episode, and in contriving to make him disturbingly sympathetic so that, despite being appalled by his manipulative, brutal and creepy behaviour, shocked that an apparently normal, caring father, husband and committed bereavement counsellor can be so evil, and therefore reassured by the occasional clear evidence of madness, a part of you also wants him to escape justice.

I agree with the praise for the quality of acting, in particular the impeccable playing by Gillian Anderson of SI Stella Gibson, the ruthless, ice cool female detective with her wry put-downs of male colleagues. Belfast provides a distinctive setting – hints of the aftermath of "The Troubles" and some dramatic sub-plots, although I would have liked the thread involving the first victim's husband to have been developed in more detail.

Although it is no doubt the author's intention, the murder scenes are almost unbearably violent and voyeuristic. You feel uneasy watching them, and perhaps even more so those where the killer is shown as a loving, if deceitful, father, hiding mementos of his crimes in the loft space above the bed of his observant and understandably disturbed small daughter. The lack of any explanation of the killer's deviancy until the final episode also seems to me to reduce the depth of the drama.

The one aspect I really dislike is the tendency to intercut scenes of say, the killer abusing a victim whilst SI Stella Gibson indulges in a one night stand. This ploy came across to me as by turns too contrived, tasteless or over-sentimental, as when we are shown clips of the killer's wife comforting young single mothers over their dying premature babies, whilst a pregnant woman is being murdered elsewhere by her husband.

This is powerful and well-made popular television, although I am not sure how good it is for the psyche of the watcher.

The final twists are ingenious and unpredictable, binding together several plot lines. The ambiguous ending which I cannot give away for fear of spoilers may leave many dissatisfied but succeeded for me in leaving it open to the audience to imagine "what happens next" and paves the way for the second series commissioned even before the showing of the first was completed.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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