‘The Fall’: Episode 1 review

The X-Files star Gillian Anderson returns to British TV, aided by Once Upon A Time‘s Jamie Dornan, in BBC Two’s brilliant new five-part investigative thriller, The Fall.

DSI Stella Gibson (Anderson) is brought in from London to help out with an unsolved murder in Belfast. On the flip side of her is Paul Spector (Dornan), a therapist with a happy home life but, at night, is stalking a young solicitor – and leaves evidence of his fascination for her on her bed.

Gibson soon connects two murders and is convinced that a serial killer is hiding in the city as we watch Spector go about laying the plans for his next victim.

The Fall takes the unusual move of fronting up the murderer for us, the aforementioned Spector. This is not a whodunit, but a hugely intriguing how and whydunit. He’s a fascinating character, going from supremely creepy panty-sniffing killer to caring and loving father to a calm, unsettling therapist, who draws his clients naked whilst they bare their soul.

Dornan does an excellent job on all fronts, believable and even likeable despite all we see him do. His despicable nocturnal (and sometimes daytime) activities contrast with his idyllic domesticity and you’ll be sucked into discovering his murderous motivation.

Anderson’s DSI isn’t served as well as her prey, being almost cold with her colleagues and decidedly humourless (though you will have a giggle at her dating technique). You’ll struggle to warm to her, but this is most likely intentional as the killer seduces the audience.

The rest of the cast are a real treat with Niamh McGrady (Holby City) as smart policewoman Dani Ferrington, Bronagh Waugh (Hollyoaks) as Spector’s wife, Sally-Ann, and Aisling Franciosi as a rather coquettish and teasing babysitter.

From a direction standpoint, The Fall is sublime. The opening moments, focusing on Spector’s lurid break-in, feature some incredibly inventive mirror-based camerawork whilst later the camera hovers above the rooms in his own home, as if the killer has left his own body to let him act as a father and husband. Intense work from Jakob Verbruggen.

Though dubbed a “thriller”, this first episode feels like a slow-burn horror movie – and a bloody good one at that. It creeps around, haunting at every turn, providing scares (and even jumps) throughout, aided by an eerie and minimally elegant score. And the ending of this first instalment will have you utterly gasping.

It’s a shame that The Fall is being relegated, as it were, to BBC Two as, on the evidence of this opener, it easily outclasses BBC One’s recent drama output in terms of quality, style and originality. It deserves a much bigger platform, though we’re sure that it will find a deeply appreciative audience.

After Broadchurch, this is the show that everyone will be talking about.

Airs at 9pm on Monday 13 May 2013 on BBC Two.

> Order The Fall on DVD on Amazon.

Watch the trailer…

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