The Fall: Hunting The Belfast Strangler

The Fall is a psychological thriller that examines the day-to-day lives of two predators. The first one is a serial killer who stalks his prey before killing them in Belfast, Ireland. The second is a talented Detective Superintendent from Metropolitan Police who is brought to bring him to justice. Season one and season two of this BBC drama are great and not your standard cat and mouse police chase. It’s a dark tale that embodies the brutal recesses in humanity itself, regardless of which side of the law you’re on.

The Fall is certainly well-crafted, well-written, suspenseful but most notably, brutally realistic. What’s more, having Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan in the lead accompanied by pitch-perfect English actress Gillian Anderson was a wonderful move by the BBC. It’s not your stereotypical “who dunnit” crime drama. From the get-go, we know who did it. It’s all about the thrill in the chase and the darkness in the human soul, killer or police officer.

Jamie Dornan plays Paul Spector in BBC’s The Fall
(The Fall, BBC Two)

Audiences are forced to follow Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) who stalks and kills on a daily. The show’s tone is dark and the narrative is chilling. Its darkness is made more obvious because the characters are extra ordinary as they could be any one us, ordinary people with ordinary problems. It’s good to watch a story set in Belfast that isn’t about its hardships, like something out of a Dickens novel.

Unlike many American shows, British made The Fall is not a rush. It takes its time to tell the story and it’s better off for it. It uses eleven episodes over two seasons to show the chase between Spector and Detective Gibson. An ordinary man with a family and a good job is such a horrible person; it could be you, it could be me, it could be any of us and that’s the really creepy thing. The stark details and realistic accuracies to the 21st century world scared me more than the brutal and rabid killings.

Gillian Anderson plays Detective Stella Gibson in The Fall
(The Fall, BBC Two)

After Luther, Broadchurch, Hannibal and Happy Valley, I knew I had to watch The Fall. The hunt for Paul Spector (Dornan) or The Belfast Strangler is a tooth and claw fight, showing the moral ambiguities in the police department but also with our killer, as he mentions he wouldn’t have killed one of the victims if he knew she was pregnant. The Fall is given the brutal treatment of Hannibal yet it’s as polished as Happy Valley, as Belfast is depicted as a city with lots of small communities.

Gillian Anderson is Stella Gibson, a hardworking yet humourless detective from the MET who takes the lead of an investigation once she realises that they were committed by one guy. Ironically for a show like this, the male officers who work under her respect her authority and experience. Much alike other police archetypes, she sacrificed her professionalism to indulge in her personal sexual desires and embodies herself within the mind of Paul Spector, which gets easier for Gibson, disturbingly.

Niamh McGrady plays PC Dani Ferrington in The Fall
(The Fall, BBC Two)

The Fall is the pursuit of a serial killer but he is revealed within the first few minutes, removing his mask in a victim’s flat but not before having a sniff of her panties. Paul Spector (Dornan) is a softly-spoken grief counsellor who likes jogging (typical) and spending time with his family when he’s not strangling pretty brunettes in their beds. In the first two seasons, we get a feel for Spector in his murderous ventures. The writers have given audiences full scope of his mind by showing what motivates him but also his origins in a children’s home where he was repeatedly molested by the local priest. Yikes!

With each episode, the psychological unease is collected. Teenage child-minder Katie (Aisling Franciosi) continues to flirt with Spector, even after he attacks her. His daughter starts to have nightmares after seeing a brunette mannequin in the ceiling. Bad things happen to good people. Nothing is as it seems, meandering through the Jurassic menageries of Belfast. With this image of Spector, Gibson is as hard and emotionally detached as he is. By the end of season two, you can’t really tell who is worse, Spector or Gibson? When you think you’ve sussed them out, they do things totally unsuspected.

Katie (Franciosi) becomes even more obsessed with Spector (Dornan)
(The Fall, BBC Two)

All in all, the first two seasons of The Fall are phenomenal but I say, enter at your own risk. This show won’t be for everyone as it is an ideological assault that will make some people never feel happy again. The acting performances from Anderson (Hannibal) and Dornan (Anthropoid) are excellent. The Fall is has what every psychological crime drama should have. It’s dark, gritty, interesting and realistic whilst incorporating the moral enigmas of the cat and mouse. The BBC have yet again created another well-crafted crime drama and I couldn’t be happier.


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