“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Stories – every well-told journey – give us a chance to understand different characters – the hero as well as the villain. But who wants to partake in the villain’s journey…? And yet we do, very keen to know her fate. We are thrilled, appalled and disgusted to see her commit a crime, knowing faintly and accepting quietly the destined end.
Stories are cathartic and a key to understanding the difficult, the “stranger than fiction” reality.
The Fiction Route
A crime thriller TV series set in Northern Ireland, The Fall, is about senior investigating officer Stella Gibson’s search for a serial killer, Paul Spector, who is targeting white young professional women in the capital city of Belfast.
The show is very well written, interestingly shot and credibly performed; a multi-layered plot and pacy structure make it an engaging watch.
Series 1, Episode 1 Analysis
The episode one is titled ‘Dark Descent’ and indeed the darkness falls engulfing not only the protagonist but also the antagonist, for the serial killer’s identity is revealed to us from the very start.
When we see Stella Gibson, who works for the MET (UK), working on an unsolved murder case, we also see the murderer visiting his next victim’s house. He is way ahead of the protagonist and is ready to attack again; the audience knows more than the protagonist and thus, stays engaged to know even more.
What is fascinating is that we are not told much about Stella Gibson’s personal life, rather the questions are left unanswered to be solved by the viewers gradually and thus, she remains Metropolitan Police Superintendent Stella Gibson who is smart, strict and brutal when it comes to dealing with murderers.
And on the other hand, we meet the antagonist, Paul Spector’s entire family – his wife and his two lovely children. Yes, the serial killer is a family man and not only that, but he is also a Grief Counsellor (a form of psychotherapy). We are repeatedly shown how particular he is about things in his personal and professional life, quiet in his demeanour, but always ready to pounce back if pestered. Paul Spector is an intelligent criminal.
These details show what Stella Gibson is up against, it makes the antagonist stronger, raises tension and keeps the viewer on edge.
One does not see scenes of murder or violence scattered impractically in this series, but the fact that a serial killer is on the loose, someone whose psychology the audience has now started to understand, creates another level of dreadful yet gripping mood.
We understand that two equally clever and fierce personalities are steadily moving towards each other, but we also get to know that the other characters, the side tracks, will come in their way – either to help or to obstruct. Such intricately are all the characters crafted that they stay with you.
One such character is Olivia, Paul Spector’s little daughter, who gets night terrors and is unable to sleep properly. In the first episode, it is established that Olivia is a bit too sensitive and picks on small things. In another scene, one of Paul’s patients, who recently lost his son and had come for counselling, tells him that his son died because “a son has to pay for the sins of his father”. Though Paul does not agree with him, we understand that this scene is a foreshadowing of what is yet to come.
In the first episode, Stella Gibson finds out a link between the case she is investigating and another murder case but struggles to convince her seniors that they are chasing a serial killer and not just a murderer.
Meanwhile, Paul Spector executes his plan, the darkness within overpowers him completely.
- The multi-layered storyline unfolds bit by bit, not at all diminishing its impact in any way.
- The antagonist’s world is drawn with much more clarity than the protagonist’s, allowing the audience to know the villain’s psychology and to maintain a mystery around the hero.
- Every subplot is in one way or the other linked to either the hero or villain, thus, keeping the interest alive throughout the show.
- Both the hero and villain are presented as vulnerable characters; both have weaknesses and can be defeated.
- The grey side-characters give the show a realistic feel.
- While mobiles, laptops and cameras in a thriller can make things too simple, here the advance technology only supports the story and does not override it.
- The gritty, ominous music that sparingly plays in the background adds to the overall tone of the show.
The Fall, a character as well as a plot-driven show, is an engrossing watch that leaves you wondering about how psychological complexes possess a human mind.
Written by Allan Cubitt; Directed by Jakob Verbruggen and Allan Cubitt
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