The Fall, TV review: DSI Stella's most mundane interactions crackle with a menacing sexual tension


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The Independent Culture

We already know whodunit. It was that male-model type who's always sneaking about with no shirt on. Yet even without the crime thriller's favourite plot device, BBC2 series The Fall has kept us gripped, not only for the entire first series, but now also for most of a second series, too. In some scenes, the pace is reflective, even leisurely (perhaps that's something to do with the languid speaking voice of DSI Stella Gibson), but it's never long before another heart-thumping sequence kicks into gear.

As this episode opened, both Stella (Gillian Anderson) and the viewers were still reeling from the last of these: the realisation that killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) had been in her hotel room. He'd flicked through her dream diary, sniffed at her silky blouses and – liberty of liberties – he'd changed her laptop wallpaper to The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli.

As she watched one of the forensic investigators drop her diary into an evidence bag, it dawned on Stella that her personal life was now entangled with her professional one, but wasn't it always? Even the most mundane of Stella's interactions with colleagues seem to crackle with a menacing sexual tension.

There were two great examples of this last night: the unnerving moment when a junior detective began mirroring DCI Gibson, just as Spector had done previously, and another when Gibson met a good-looking male officer, DS Tom Anderson, at a crime scene and promptly requested he be transferred to her squad.

Still, flirting with colleagues is one thing. Having one's privacy violated by a serial killer is quite another. "Modern life is such an unholy mix of voyeurism and exhibitionism," Gibson complained later. "People perpetually broadcasting their internal and external selves."

It was a line that writer/director Allan Cubitt clearly intended to be mulled over. Meanwhile, Spector was broadcasting his internal self, via Skype, directly into the bedroom of impressionable schoolgirl Katie: "Happiness in others is an affront to our own pain and misery, Katie," he lectured, "If other people's happiness hurts us, then why not reduce that happiness?"