The BBC’s latest drama transports us to Belfast, where the unsolved murder of Alice Monroe is proving something of a conundrum for the slightly blundering police department involved. But this isn’t a comment about police incompetence, nor is it a whodunit. This five-parter is something far darker and more interesting. The thing is, whilst we’re watching Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who has been called in to review the case, we are also watching Paul Spector, a counsellor with a secret pastime. The first time we meet Paul, he is clad in black and breaking into solicitor Sarah Kay’s house. However this is not a simple case of robbery or even murder, which becomes evident as he goes through Sarah’s possessions and takes photographs with an apparent interest in her underwear. We follow Spector around Sarah’s house, interspersed with scenes of Sarah leaving a bar on a Friday night, until the tension becomes unbearable.
The Fall will have you disturbed and addicted in equal measure. It’s not so much about who did it: it’s smarter than that. It’s about psychology, obsession and that little bit of you that refuses to believe that the bogeyman could turn up on your doorstep dressed as a normal person (and that, without looking closely, you’d step aside and wave him right in). The way we alternate between Paul and Stella, cutting off the scenes as we learn about them bit by bit, makes for continuous unsettling viewing. The characters are not your conventional classic murderer and classic cop. Gillian Anderson (The X Files, The Last King of Scotland) shows off her acting abilities as Stella Gibson, giving us a glimpse of this complex, lonely and determined figure who is all the while trying to get inside the killer’s head. Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, Once Upon a Time and the face of the Dior Homme campaign!) proves himself the king of creepy as Paul who, on the face of it, is a completely ordinary man. He has a wife and children, works as a counsellor and displays everything but psycho-killer tendencies. This is why it works so well.
The Fall plants the seed that we don’t necessarily know everything about everyone, and then stands back to allow that thought to grow into a deep sense of unease. It is this unease, plus the intrigue and desire to understand, that will have you chilled straight through and unable to take your eyes off it. This is not one for the faint-hearted, but if you can, you must watch this.