If you were afraid to watch The Fall’s first outing alone in the dark, the good news is that series 2 is slightly less terrifying. You’ll still find yourself suspended in a contemplative cocoon of fear, the dewdrops of Stella Gibson’s (Gillian Anderson) uncontained emotions bathing your broken psyche, but you won’t have spend the entire six episodes under your blankie. That crack in the Detective Superintendent’s impenetrable exterior is both jarring and welcome. From the series’ outset, Gibson’s strength and control have rivaled that of the man she’s tracking; if she lets down her guard for even a moment, will it affect that connection? Something inside Stella allows her to see — what her colleagues cannot — beyond the physical evidence, and through the killer’s eyes. “We’re very alike, you and me.” (Spector to Gibson during their season finale phone conversation.) That something is part of what makes Stella so good at her job, but it also leaves the second series hanging on a curiously strange note.
Gibson’s cat and mouse game with serial killer Paul Spector (Jaime Dornan) picks up the chase, with the pseudo family man forced to play defense. Following his confession to pregnant wife Sally Ann (Bronagh Waugh), Spector must also deal with the game-changing break-down of his sometimes stabilizing home life. But he manages to make time for a more personal attack which, while less forcefully violent than his others, is horrifyingly intense for different reasons. It is his unnerving ability to switch personalities on and off like light switches as Spector walks from one room to another in his victim’s home; like that series 1 finale scene, where Paul easily transitions from reliving his last attack to singing along with the wife and kids.
Spector returns to Belfast, and with more time to himself, gives in to the darkness. Stringing along his equally disturbing protégé — fawning, former babysitter, Katie (Aisling Franciosi) — who’ll do anything to have her love requited, Paul seems to believe he can get away with anything. But as Katie reminds him, “You’re playing a dangerous game;” apparently oblivious or indifferent to her own. If Spector feels (and sometimes he does appear to have a sense of an impending…something) Stella’s footsteps approaching, he is equally apathetic, greeting his fate with a disconcerting cockiness and resolute acceptance. But as the episodes tick by, it is Stella’s systematic emotional unlocking of what bubbles below her stark exterior that entrances (Viewers can look forward to a brilliantly unexpected — and hot — moment in episode 3.)
Trying to track Spector while dealing with budgetary concerns, the allure of an attractive new Detective Sergeant (Colin Morgan as Tom Anderson), and her boss, Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns (John Lynch) — who’s still questioning her after DI Olson’s death, and going through his own invasive midlife crisis — might just be too much for Stella to compartmentalize. As she patiently makes her way closer to the killer, she must also face his victims. One is still alive, but struggling to remember; the other…on video. Whatever similarities connect Spector and Gibson, they momentarily crumble alongside her broken facade. It is in the expert hands of great actors (and writer, Allan Cubitt) that The Fall rises above all other police procedurals. Whether this particular killer is caught almost doesn’t matter; the audience is held rapt by Gillian Anderson, John Lynch, Archie Panjabie, Aisling Franciosi and Jamie Dornan. The finale closing scene leaves open a third series door (which Cubitt is confident we’ll see), and very likely, your mouth.
*For those who’ve already watched, please no spoilers in the comments.
The Fall Series 2 also stars Niamh McGrady, Valene Kane, Stuart Graham, Emmett J. Scanlan and Bronágh Taggart; it premieres in its entirety on Netflix today.