"The most repulsive drama ever broadcast on British TV". It's hardly likely to be one of the quotes that will be used to promote the programme, but this was how the Daily Mail referred to The Fall, the BBC2 series whose fifth and final part was on Monday night. Even allowing for my off-the-shelf liberal approach to most matters - if the Daily Mail hates it, I'm in favour of it - I felt this was rather extreme.
The most repulsive drama ever? I don't think so. Don't they remember The Brothers? Seriously, apart from using The Fall as another stick with which to beat the BBC, the Mail's correspondent felt the series - set in Belfast, and about a serial killer who preys on young, professional women - was sadistic, gratuitously violent, and deeply misogynistic. I had a rather different view: I thought it was superbly written, magnificently acted (Gillian Anderson was at the very top of her game) and expertly directed. It has had me riveted, in a hypnotic state of suspense, throughout its run.
But I'm not saying the Daily Mail's critique should be summarily dismissed. The Fall made for deeply uncomfortable viewing. The violence perpetrated against young women was sickening, and there is an argument that this shouldn't be the subject of prime-time drama, a shock tactic in the chase for viewing figures. But, of course, what makes the subject matter of The Fall so affecting and so powerful is that we know there is an underlying truth at work here: our lives are punctuated - almost on a daily basis - with gruesome stories of violence against women, of rape, of domestic attacks, of sadism and brutality. I found that The Fall was uncompromisingly confrontational in that respect, and, without being in the least polemic, opened up these issues for inspection.
As a piece of drama, too, it was very unusual. The killer, whose identity was known to us from the start, was not your standard villain. Played by Jamie Dornan - the former boyfriend of Keira Knightley - he was handsome, charismatic, articulate and athletic. Stripped to the waist, as he often was, he looked...I think the mot juste is ripped. Killers can be good-looking, too.
Equally, the series ended, not with resolution or cliff-hanging tension, but almost mid-sentence, followed by the message on screen: "To be continued". Of all the unresolved questions left in the air, the one about whether The Fall would be commissioned for a second series has, it would appear, already been decided. For many, this was an unsatisfactory ending, provoking howls of outrage on Twitter, although how anyone could have thought this complex, multi-layered drama could have been neatly tied up in the space of an hour is beyond me.
More than that, however, I love the idea that we are being made to wait. We live in an era of instant gratification, a world where no one seems to have the attention span for the long haul. The Fall will be back soon enough, and I will guarantee one thing: those of us who stayed with this exceptional piece of drama over the past five weeks will not forget how we left it.Reuse content