‘The Fall’: Episode 3 review

So dark is The Fall that – at the show’s halfway point – we’re now fairly certain that its creator Allan Cubitt wrote it in a mixture of kitten blood and the tears of toddlers who’d dropped their ice cream.

From paper to screen his words form not so much a script, but a dramatic blueprint for a precision-built emotional mangle: something you’re fed into and emerge from, wrung clean of everything but the vague sense that you should leave the light on when you retire to bed.

Across Episode 3 we’re smothered with unsettling scenes and sounds, none of which we’re too desensitized by last week’s corpse journey to ignore: a mother choking through the tears as she prays for her dying baby; the sound of Detective Olson’s bereaved wife wailing through a wall decorated with family photos; police officers talking of post-mortem intercourse; Paul Spector pawing through his murder journal (pity the poor props manager who had to create and carry that thing about) and scrawling passages from TS Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’ into it like a moody teen who thinks he’s found understanding and meaning in gloomy words he doesn’t quite grasp the full meaning of.

Yet these are mere garnishes surrounding the episode’s centrepiece of the unsettling, as Paul Spector poses and dresses a shop dummy in a creepy abandoned farm building in the dead of night. It’s a fetishistic act which tells us more than the fact this is a man who’s clearly seen the 80s movie Mannequin five too many times.

This mannequin is his template for obsession: the Platonic ideal of a victim that he is striving for. No wonder his daughter had nightmares about it – it was all we could do to stop ourselves humming Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ just to break the uncanny horror of it all. We’re starting to understand how this killer thinks. So why is that more unsettling than comforting?

Gillian Anderson’s DSI Gibson, with her voice like a chilly spring breeze brushing through an enchanted willow tree, may seem like the opposite force to all this, as she remains glacially cool amid a boiling sea of Irish people being very cross indeed. In reality she’s as rattled as Spector and hides it with equal efficiency.

Gibson is the still water that runs deep. Her every utterance as carefully premeditated as the crimes and actions of the man she’s trying to catch. She outmanoeuvres the ire of her ex-lover Jim Burns as deftly as Paul Spector navigates his next victim’s home like a shadow.

A new woman has been selected, a new journal murder has had its first page marked. We’d say things aren’t looking hopeful but they haven’t been for 3 hours now. Crucially though there’s one ray of sunshine, and she’s not a member of the constabulary.

Gibson may end up slapping on the cuffs, but we’re betting that it’s Spector’s cute as a button daughter, the very paragon of innocence, who’ll be the cause of his fall.

Aired at 9pm on Monday 27 May 2013 on BBC Two.

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