A criticism of popular entertainment is that it is relentlessly violent but never portrays the effects of violence. Of course, this is because TV and movies are "entertainment" and what results from fistfights and shooting is not photogenic and too sad to be entertaining. Series 3 of the BBC crime show, The Fall, available on Netflix, violates this principle. So far the results are gripping and dire, but not particularly entertaining. Of course, this review is provisional -- I am only half-way through the series and, in the past, the show has proven to be compulsively interesting, if depressing.
Series 3 begins in media res -- a gorgeously handsome serial killer, Paul Spector, has been captured by the police but, then, shot several times in the belly by an assailant (the husband of one of Spector's victims). Spector was shot while in the custody of Stella Gibson played by Gillian Anderson and the reason, of course, that I am watching the program. (If you are my age, you fell in love with Gillian Anderson when she appeared as Scully in The X-Files). Stella seems to have been more attracted to the Byronic murderer than her current boyfriend (really just a casual fuck-buddy) who reproaches her for running to the side of the killer when he was also shot. "I knew you would recover," Stella coldly says, "but I didn't know about the suspect", masking the fact that she is obsessed with the violent sexual sadist that she has been pursuing in seasons one and two of this show. The program moves at a snail's pace -- it seems recording events in real time and, although I have denounced this tendency in other shows, particularly Westworld, the grave adagio pace of this program somehow seems right given the exceedingly melancholy, even clinically depressed, nature of the show. Stella's tendency to pick out men, have sex with them, and, then, abandon the poor guys (who always fall hopelessly in love with her) has wreaked havoc on half the show's characters -- in particular, the lovelorn chief of police, played by the hopelessly sorrowful, John Lynch, seems inconsolable. The first two episodes, in which the murderer (played by Jamie Dornan) is unconscious and inert is an up close and detailed account of surgical procedures, filmed graphically, and, then, a procedural on intensive care nursing. In the third episode, the killer is alert, but seems brain-damaged -- he can't recall anything that happened during the previous six years. The Belfast police think he is feigning this amnesia and there are some clues, perhaps, that the serial murderer is cleverly contriving his disability for legal advantage. So far about half of the program has been concerned with the most detailed minutia of intensive care treatment and nursing -- it's clear that the show is grooming a pretty, and very kind, nurse for a larger part in the plot; in fact, the nurse may be falling in love with her handsome patient. Everyone in this show whispers -- no one uses a normal tone of voice -- so far the only dialogue recorded in a normal voice are some tentative courtroom proceedings (the judicial system wrestling with Spector's claim that he can't recall any of the crimes we have seen him commit.) The program is rich with secondary characters -- we see Spector's wife, apparently, planning to murder her children and commit suicide (just another happy day in Northern Ireland), Spector's teenage girlfriend and assistant in crime, Gibson's hapless young lover who has been shot through the arm, various lawyers and their assistants, the pretty nurse with a perpetually wounded expression on her face (perhaps, she has seen too much suffering) and a promising new character, a Swedish forensic psychiatrist who is apparently going to probe the secrets of Spector's perverse mind. So far Gillian Anderson hasn't had much to do except look very worried, mouth a few feminist lines, and appear exceedingly mournful -- the director, writer, and producer, Alan Cubbit, must grasp that male viewers of this show want to see more of Stella: we do get some glimpses of her swimming in a pool and, in the third episode, she appears briefly in grey silk negligee -- an image that just about knocks you out of your chair.