I usually only post crime fiction book reviews, but I was so impressed by the Netflix series, THE FALL, that I wanted to talk about it with anyone else who’s watched.
The series stars Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame, as Stella Gibbons, a British police chief called in to help the Belfast police with a serial killer case. I never watched X-Files, but Anderson is spectacular in this. She plays a cop who is competent, in control, and highly respected, yet has an inner core of pain and neediness that is revealed only fleetingly. We never learn much about her past, except that she often dreams of her father. So we are spared all the tired damaged cop cliches: she’s not an alcoholic nor a rape survivor, and her entire family hasn’t been murdered. She’s simply a strong woman who occasionally needs some love. The way she gets it is shocking to her colleagues, but leaves us female viewers cheering!
I’m normally not a fan of serial killer stories because they usually feature tons of gruesome violence against women and a crazed killer with no soul. Ho hum. In THE FALL, we know from the get-go who the killer is, so the story is a cat and mouse game between a clever, damaged, and strangely sympathetic killer and a clever, damaged and aloof-yet-sympathetic cop. The story only hints at the troubled childhood of the killer. Instead it focuses much more on the present–what he gains from killing and how he manages to balance his very ordinary life as a married father of two working as a bereavement counselor with his second “job” as a killer.
The story unwinds over 12 episodes, so there’s plenty of time for character development. And what great characters they are: the killer’s wife who is the antithesis of the type of women he preys upon, the older cop who is a past flame of Stella’s very much carrying a torch, the attractive young cops that Stella surrounds herself with, and most of all, the teenage girl who has a mad crush on the killer even while knowing exactly what he does. The writers and actors develop these characters so well that you really understand their motivations. If you’ve ever wondered how men like Ted Bundy could be receiving love letters in prison, watch THE FALL and you’ll understand.
THE FALL has a truly satisfying and slightly creepy ending (even though police procedure gets thrown out the window to achieve maximum drama, but that’s a small quibble). Best of all, it does end, instead of dragging on endlessly because the producers realized they had a hit (like ORPHAN BLACK, THE KILLING, and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, all of which descended into insanity in the effort to keep the franchise going).
So, if you’ve seen THE FALL, please tell me what you think. And if you haven’t, crank up your computer for some binge watching!