Ask Not What You Should Binge Watch While You're Waiting For "Broadchurch" or "Breaking Bad": It's "The Fall"
As I've said, we know who the murderer is almost immediately, but the way we're introduced to him is what's so unsettling. Paul Spector ("Once Upon a Time's" Jamie Dornan) is a bereavement counselor and family man--with two young children. His outward demeanor is relatively mild-mannered and quiet, his home life slightly chaotic as he and wife and neo-natal nurse Sally-Ann (Bronagh Waugh) juggle their schedules and tend to the kids. In the midst of cereal, school meetings and flying his giggling daughter through the living room air, Paul slips into a woman's home, goes through her things and lays out her underwear on the bed--a disturbing precursor to terrible things. The series cuts back and forth between Paul and Stella's worlds, like two sides of the same flipped coin. Cop and killer are both methodic and driven; both keep notebooks and pay close attention to the people they encounter. In each, we see something hard, cold, no-nonsense, and at the same time, vulnerable. Each character goes for exactly what she/he wants without reserve; each gets it and shows no remorse for decisions or effects. Still, nothing prepares you for the contrast between Paul's demeanor at home and his unflinching brute force and precision in carrying out an attack--nor is anything so curious as his tenderness and care in the aftermath, save Stella's own disconnected attitude, even in regard to her most personal affairs. The more we see of these two people, the more we want to know about them.
Anderson provides a strong lead, while Dornan gives a breakout performance. The supporting cast are all stellar, especially sad-faced Lynch, whose Chief Burns has a personal connection to Stella that allows her to make quick work of his judgmental attitude toward the victims and herself, and Niamh McGrady as Danielle Ferrington, a constable with sharp instincts who Stella brings onto her team. Archie Panjabi is quite good as the PSNI pathologist with whom Stella works closely and trusts. There are a few sideshow happenings, but they serve more to cement Stella's competence and position than to distract from the main event.
Where "Broadchurch" was achingly sad, "The Fall" is a tense character study that may leave you feeling anxious and terrified, but still wanting more. Thankfully, a second series has been ordered. Series one is currently available on Netflix instant.
Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson and John Lynch as Chief Constable Jim Burns
Niamh McGrady as Constable Danielle Ferrington
Emmett Scanlan as Detective Constable Glen Martin
Ben Peel as Detective Sergeant James Olson
Archie Panjabi as Pathologist Tanya Reed Smith
Michael McElhatton ("Game of Thrones'" Roose Bolton) as Belfast Chief of Police, Rob Breedlove
Simon Delaney as Jerry McIlroy and Frank McCusker as Garrett Brink
Bronagh Waugh as Sally Ann Spector
Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector