4-10 September 2015 #774

The Fall And Other Suspenses

The Fall provides no easy answers, no heroes or heroines, but just a lens into the world of people who try to track down killers
Sophia Pande

Last week I wrote about Child 44, a noirish suspense thriller with all the right ingredients that however failed to make a mark at the box office, raking in only 3 million dollars. Its budget was 50 million.

These days, the only way to make detailed crime procedurals that are both suspenseful and successful seems to be in the relatively more long form that is the television series – a subject that I addressed in a column written in the spring of 2014 titled “The Murder Mystery”.

This past week The International New York Times ran a piece that stated there are almost 400 shows currently running on American television. That number is high because of the massive success of shows such as Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Orange Is The New Black, three very diverse shows that draw in very different viewers. While the quality of some of these shows are admittedly very high, the majority fizzle out pretty fast, barely making their way into a second season, a symptom that epitomises our consumer culture where demand is met with supply, but not necessarily quality.

That being said, British and European television has undoubtedly taken the lead in terms of the slightly more humble, but undoubtedly much weightier shows. The Fall which has now been renewed for a third season being one of them.

Starring the breathtaking Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, The Fall also launched the career of now fantastically famous Jamie Dornan (he stars as Christian Grey in the film version of E.L. James’ mummy porn mega-hit trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey) who plays a serial killer named Paul Spector who is unknown to Gibson’s team (you can see the literary bent of the script from this name).

The first season, which consisted of five parts, was intense, beautifully shot, with fully fleshed out characters and told with equal perspectives from both Stella and Paul Spector’s point of view. The second season, which builds on the first, deals with the continued chase of Paul Spector but now centres on the budding psychological power relationship between Stella and Paul, bolstered by riveting performances from a great group of cast including Archie Panjabi who plays Reed Smith, a motorbike-riding forensic pathologist.

The Fall provides no easy answers, no heroes or heroines, but just a lens into the world of people who try to track down killers, and the collateral damage that kind of work inflicts on their psyches. It is because these British realisations don’t pull their punches that they are superior to their American counterparts who are constantly forced to readjust their plot points to humour their viewers, hence the oversupply and the consequent dearth of really good shows.  

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