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The Fall: 102 “Darkness Visible” Review


Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.

The second chapter in BBC2’s bleak new drama was as scintillating as the first with leads, Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan solidifying their characters’ dichotomous motivations with some very strong performances.

The work of a police officer can oftentimes be portrayed unconvincingly on television, but this week The Fall showed us the unvarnished and brutal side of investigating a murder, sparing us the sugarcoated office scenes we so regularly see. The Fall is unsparingly grim and in a crime series about a serial killer, that is exactly what you want to see.

Last week we saw our principal policewoman, Stella Gibson, pounce on a newly-met, attractive colleague and in this week’s “Darkness Visible”, we saw the outcome. Gibson and this stranger, law officer James Olson, engaged in casual sex in the awkward manner of doing it in public. Throughout this sequence we flip between the intercourse of Gibson and Olson to perverse and fetishistic murderer-cum-daddy Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan is doing a cracking job as the multifaceted relationship counsellor) in the aftermath of his latest killing. He bathes the body of solicitor Sarah Kay in her own tub before painting her nails a topical shade of red and positioning her on her bed. Spector proceeds to take pictures of her, and pilfers a jewellery item that he later drapes around his own daughter’s neck. The man is warped beyond saving, and I am evermore intrigued to discover his fate. Jakob Verbruggen continues to awe us with his impeccable direction, recycling certain angles seen in “Dark Descent” (the birds’ eye dollhouse standpoint comes back into play in the Spector household). His direction continues to give his audience the illusion of being an illegal watcher, making us feel uncomfortable and adding to the chilling atmosphere.

Alongside the predominant murder storyline, “Darkness Visible” branched off into a subplot, lightly touched on last time, of a (possibly) sectarian-motivated shooting that Officer Olson is working on. Currently viewers have no idea how the two parallel threads will interlink, that is if they do. The only connection is Gibson’s brief paramour who is shot down in front of his lad, maintaining the sheer mercilessness of Allan Cubitt’s writing (he will extinguish anyone) and the austerity of The Fall.

Gillian Anderson continuously excels herself in the role of Delphic detective, an unreadable enigma. Since the start of the series, which was admittedly only one episode ago, we have learned nothing about her background and her personal life. When pathologist, Dr. Paula Reed Smith (Archie Panjabi) asks after children she replies with a weariness that suggests she wants them. I would like to see or hear more of her life in London, and how she became so predatory and commanding. Moving onto the subject of Jamie Dornan, the actor handles the many sides of his character, serial killer Paul Spector incredibly well. He convinces us that he is a contented father with kids whom he genuinely loves and cares for, before turning the tables and showing us that he is also a complete sicko capable of anything. Dornan is superlative in a role that suits him to a tee.

Verdict: 8/10

We are two episodes in and we still aren’t quite sure which direction The Fall will take. There are a couple of subplots that currently don’t tie in to the primary story but with this programme, the audience knows that anything could happen. Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan continue to be utter scene-stealers, and with two stellar performers it is hard to decide who is better. Director Jakob Verbruggen couldn’t be more suitable as his watcherlike camerawork is acutely suitable. The Fall has been noiselessly big, magnetizing three and a half million viewers but still having no obvious effect on the public (unlike Broadchurch, which garnered countless articles in manifold forms of media). Hopefully The Fall gets the recognition it deserves, because it really is fantastic.

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  • GoodYear92

    Couldn’t agree more. Brilliant review, Pat – one of your best, I think. Such a fluid read from top to bottom. Well done.

    I know I said I’d also offer my own thoughts on the episode, but A) I don’t need to; you’ve said all I could and more, and B) I’m in the middle of writing a film review that might be of interest to you when it’s finished. I don’t know if this movie is the sort of thing you’re in to, but I loved it.

    • PK-S has Withdrawal Symptoms.

      Thank you so much, James. Coming form you it means the world, thank you!

      Is this film review out in cinemas at the moment? I’m desperate to know.

      • GoodYear92

        Well, it needed saying! You’re entirely welcome, and thank you right back.

        The film is still in some cinemas, yes, but it first came out a while ago and has recently been released on DVD. Since I’m not one for surprises, I’ll tell you; it’s Django Unchained. I’m halfway through the review at the moment, but I’m not hurrying to get it done, so it’ll most likely be up tomorrow.


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