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Irish Crime TV Drama “The Fall” (BBC) Review

Irish Crime TV Drama “The Fall” (BBC) Review

Breakaway Magazine


Now streaming on Netflix. 

Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is brought in from London to help solve a Belfast murder. Unknown to the detectives, the killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), a married man with two kids, is already planning his next kill.

The Fall is a fantastic Northern Ireland psychological thriller that gives you a glimpse into a city you might not be able to see without a passport. Taking place and filmed in Belfast (Ireland), this intense show is without a doubt one of the best TV shows on TV. As a fan of TV thrillers like The Following, this looked intriguing but exceeded my exceptions when I watched it last year. 


The series shows such intimate scenes in the life of a serial killer. It is sure to send chills up your spine. This is thanks to the wonderfully dark and creepy performance by Jamie Dornan, who plays the equally sadistic Mr. Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey. Gillian Anderson, of The X Files fame, is also an added treat as she takes on an emotionless detective that is at times just as cold as the killer. 


These compelling character studies of the detective and the killer are both complex and mysterious thanks to Allan Cubitt’s sharp writing. Although they are at two different ends of the spectrum and very different characters, both Paul and Stella share many similarities that are interwoven in interesting ways as the series progresses. Along with Cubitt’s and Jakob Verbruggen’s brooding direction, the show manages to get its hooks into our darkest fears without letting go. 


Refreshingly, the show is not interested in explaining exactly why Paul is a murderer. The show also avoids the standard conventions about sociopaths. Paul can feel empathy. He loves his children, he himself is a family man – which makes the situation just that much scarier. 

Rich details and top notch acting, makes this a very intense show that draws the viewer in. The Fall relies on slow-building tension, rather than the gory shock value and is right up there with great TV thrillers like. Just when you think The Fall is going to be a terrifying yet conventional cop-drama race to the finish that will leave the killer in jail, the kids tucked up in bed, and the world a safe and comfy place again – you’re wrong! 


The Fall makes your skin crawl because you enter the mind of a serial killer.This is no whodunnit, rather an elaborate cat-and-mouse game that the audience is invited to be a part of from the beginning.

The “mask” in this series holds a lot of symbolism. Paul literally takes off his mask in the first episode so the audience is able to see who the perpetrator is from the start.  Paul works and lives behind a mask, but when he kills he throws away that facade showing his victims the identity he hides from everyone else. 

His monstrous reality hides behind the veneer of a cookie cutter life. This begs the question, is it ever really possible to know another person? As detective Gibson says so perfectly.

“No one knows what’s going on in someone else’s mind and life would be intolerable if we did.”

Paul’s wife sure doesn’t know who she is getting in bed with!  I thought it was very interesting that Detective Gibson also has a mask on the first time we see her in episode one. She wears a facial mask, and like Paul, takes the mask off in the mirror. This reveals their true selves to both the audience and themselves. 

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The ambiguous title could have multiple meanings. I think it could refer to the Falls Road, Belfast’s infamous Irish republican thoroughfare, and even the biblical meaning of the fall of man.  


Season two is an even darker season. The story picks up immediately from where series one left off, with Gibson in pursuit of Spector. A personal link from Spector’s past opens up some clues for Gibson but provokes Spector in way that threatens to jeopardize the whole investigation. Gibson is forced to take ever greater risks but the closer she comes to capturing him, the more Spector trespasses into her private world, delighting in taunting and provoking her. As the net gradually tightens around him he becomes psychologically ever more dangerous and destructive.


[Jamie Dornan on set of The Fall]

These are just some of the intricate parts of this fantastic show. I highly recommend this series to fans of crime/detective dramas as well as horror fans. It is undoubtedly disturbing, but you’ll soon find yourself unable to turn it off. These BBC dramas are generally top-notch and many North Americans are largely unaware of the quality of these productions. I just hope there will be a season three. 

Do yourself a favor and check out this show that is a step above the rest. There is so much intelligence and depth to the show, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. 


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