The Fall review – Episode Four – BBC2

The FallI’m starting to settle into the rhythms of The Fall, and I found most of the penultimate episode easier to watch than the last three. I could settle into it in a way I couldn’t with other episodes. I still think it’s very flawed, and I have some real issues with this episode, but the pacing isn’t as much of a problem. It is still incredibly slow, but I’m willing to accept that now.

Episode four started with some more parallel shots of Paul and Stella, exercising their way through the early morning. The killer storyline took a backseat though, as the episode focused first on the police corruption plot.

There really are too many loose threads in this show and too many distracting storylines unconnected to each other. In addition to the main Paul/Stella plot, there’s the police corruption, the officer having an affair with his now dead partner’s wife, the corrupt politicians, Paul’s therapy patients and some stuff with a woman and her baby at a hospital. It feels at times like I’m watching a number of different shows.

I did like a lot of the scenes revolving around the dodgy police officer and the investigation into him. The scene with the corrupt officer and the investigating DCI was captivating, up until the officer predictably shot himself, a scene which has happened in a thousand other TV shows and films, and which was easy to see coming once they started talking about a gun.

Like I said, this stuff all seems unconnected to the main plot, but since The Fall has been commissioned for a second series, you can probably justify these specific scenes as these characters – the DCI for instance – are probably going to play a big part in the next season. From here on out, we should probably look at The Fall as a show about Stella and friends, with Paul being a one series bad guy, who will presumably die or get arrested in next week’s final episode.

He’s still with us at present though, Paul, and he spent a chunk of time this episode with his patient Liz, being a professional therapist and helping her out with her abusive husband. I’m not entirely sure what the point of these scenes were. To show that Paul isn’t all bad, and has a complex character? The AV Club reviewer argues that Paul has an ‘overly empathetic nature,’ which links him to other TV serial killers, so maybe it’s just in his nature, or maybe he’s getting some sort of kick from controlling Liz’s life in an echo of how he treats his victims. I don’t really know.

The Fall

Stella’s investigation meanwhile progresses problematically. Her Eric Cantona look-a-like boss had a pretty bad day, as problem after problem unravelled. Stella went back to the crime scene to try and get some fresh insight. Not to bang on about it each week, but we got some more gratuitous content, as they replayed the murder scenes from the first episode, including the very manipulative scenes of Sarah being held with a hand over her mouth while the police were outside.

Later, Stella is informed of a letter Paul sent to the family of Sarah, his second victim, which quotes Nietzsche and apologises for killing Sarah’s unborn baby. He’s evolving as a killer, and seems to be getting more confident, which was reflected well in the scenes at his work, bragging to his boss. His victim’s father thinks Paul is showing remorse with his letter, but as Stella’s boss points out, his remorse is that his perfect kill had been tainted. This is the type of insightful character development and insight that is the show’s strongest aspect.

Then we get the weakest aspect though, right at the end. First, a massive plot contrivance where the sexy pathologist just happens to be friends with someone who dated the killer. What a fortunate coincidence. This was followed by two scenes, spliced together, of Stella interviewing the woman who dated Paul and Paul killing his next victim.

The latter scene was really quite violent and hard to watch. And prolonged; it went on unnecessarily long, and had lots of nasty little details throughout. I enjoy violent TV and films, even films were there’s no real justification for the violence – like Quentin Tarantino movies – but so much of The Fall is just horrible, and not at all enjoyable to watch. I just can’t see the justification – or the enjoyment – in a scene where a woman is tied up, gagged and left to scream while her boyfriend is murdered, and then strangled herself. If you were to be really harsh, you could put The Fall into the torture porn category with films like Hostel.

I’m not going to do that though, because there are good elements in the characterisation and examination of a serial killer, and I think the writing does have depth at times, seeking to examine the consequences of crime and brutality. I just wish the show wouldn’t be so regularly and unnecessarily graphic and gratuitous in its use of violence.

Random notes:

  • The scene where Paul mimicked his boss was a little bizarre but I guess it illustrated his ego.
  • It’s annoying that Paul’s wife never checked the attic after her daughter’s words last week. In reality, a parent would take a look.
  • The Fall is getting great ratings, hence the second series.

The Fall Reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Five

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3 thoughts on “The Fall review – Episode Four – BBC2

  1. Well, I’m not one for raving and judgment on The Fall really must be delayed until I’ve seen the final episode, but it does seem a cut above the rest and then some. Oddly, I think it is, perhaps, a mistake even to regard this as ‘crime’ drama or a ‘police procedural’. It is far more simply drama and seems to manage to reflect how life is never tidy, never ‘follows an arc’ as we like our TV to do.

    I rather liked in episode 4 how the very controlled, very methodical killer suddenly fucks up and that the whole nature of tracking him down will be altered. it came as a surprise, but a very welcome one. The allusions to Eliot’s The Waste Land and Nietzsche were also skillfully handled – there is not really any great and deep significance in them. It turns out the killer, who at the end of the day is a psycho, studied literature at college. And setting it in Belfast also seems to work – a city of utter contradictions, from way the police still have to barricade themselves away and the ongoing criminal sectarianism contrasted to the lightheartedness of the students all turning up for an impromptu party and the normality of suburban streets reflects the haphazard way detection is progressing. Gibson might well be right in her analysis of the killer’s psyche and motivation, but it isn’t getting her any closer to him. It seems catching him will really on the disaster of his next victim and her boyfriend arriving home unexpectedly and being slaughtered. In other words, chance.

    I think, perhaps, a slight scene sums up what makes The Fall a cut above the rest: when the PC seconded to Gibson mentions she doesn’t have a man in her life because she is gay, Gibson isn’t at all interested and it passes by, as it would in real life, as being of no consequence to the task in hand. I just hope the final episode isn’t the usual TV cop out.

  2. I am really pleased to have found this Web-Site because I was beginning to think that I was alone in my criticism of this crime drama. I like my crime dramas to have some sense of reality and to me this one is totally unreal. I can’t believe that anyone entrusted with the job of a counsellor wouldn’t have been throughly vetted first. Secondly our serial killer seems to spend precious little time doing his job. Our policewoman heroine also seems to have a behavioural disorder which to my mind makes it unlikely she would still be in her post let alone being especially seconded to Belfast to solve these murders. I just hope that the announcement that there is to be a second series doesn’t mean that our serial killer continues on the loose.

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