The Fall Series 1 Episode 1 (BBC2) Review

There’s a sense of murder mystery fatigue among the British public following a slew of great crime dramas, so it’s probably a good thing that new BBC2 series, The Fall, has done away with the mystery right out of the gate. Following serial killer Paul Spector (Jaime Dornan) and the woman tasked with finding him, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), this show is about much more than who killed the victim, and emerges as an unsettling thriller more preoccupied with the why than the who. It’s strikingly quiet and subdued, and all the better for it.

Time in this first episode is split equally between Paul and Stella, as we see glimpses of their personal lives outside of the case they’re both embroiled in. Paul Spector isn’t just a serial killer, but he’s also a loving family man living two distinct lives – like our version of Dexter without the helpful voiceovers to partially justify his actions. There’s a certain statement made when a show chooses to put us in the shoes of an irredeemable villain, and the matter-of-fact way Paul’s experience was presented to the audience added to the unsettled feeling The Fall leaves you with.

Gibson is brought in to review a different case, which she soon connects to Spector’s various other victims. He’s after thirtysomething professionals, one of whom we meet during the episode, and is as much an avid stalker as he is a compulsive murderer. Gibson, interestingly, comes across even less warm that Paul, with a lack of recognisable emotion that flies in the face of our misguided expectations for a female detective. There are many instances when the two protagonists are mirrored, such as their long looks into the mirror and the way Gibson views the men around her, the only difference being that Stella feels no need to wear a mask.

While Anderson is always reliable, it’s Dornan that really blew me away with his take on Paul and, without him, I’m not sure the show would have been so strong. The Fall is never going to be feel-good television, and won’t offer the eventual satisfaction that a traditional murder mystery does, but it’s unapologetically dark and dirty, with a couple of fantastic performances at its heart. With five weeks to unravel the mystery of these two potentially compelling characters, let’s hope it stays as bold and atmospheric as this opener.

What did you think of the episode? Do you find either of the character’s sympathetic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.