14/05/2013 01:01 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

The Fall: Gillian Anderson ably leads taut BBC drama

TV review: The Fall is a gripping psychological drama starring The X-Files' Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson.

Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson in The Fall (© Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson in The Fall. Image: BBC)


The Fall is a five-part crime drama created by Prime Suspect 2 writer, Allan Cubitt. Tough London Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is seconded to Belfast in order to review the local police force's stalled investigation into a killer (Jamie Dornan)...


The X-Files' very own Gillian Anderson (complete with her convincing English accent) was terrific as icy DSI Gibson, even if her character spent the majority of this premiere evaluating video evidence, eating a burger, and sleeping at the Hilton.


The ways in which the script chose to demonstrate the dichotomy of a killer also being a family man were occasionally rather laboured.

There were only so many scenes necessary for the murderer to be seen being a brilliant dad and perfect husband as a wink to viewers aware he also likes to break into houses and rummage through women's drawers for their underwear.

Full review

The most notable thing about BBC2's five-part drama The Fall is how it immediately sets itself apart from whodunnits like Broadchurch, Sherlock, Endeavour and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

"It immediately sets itself apart from whodunnits like Broadchurch, Sherlock, Endeavour and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher."

We're immediately aware of who the culprit is because he stands in front of a mirror and takes a photograph of himself for posterity.

This gives the show a different angle to most other crime dramas that are often propelled by a sense of mystery and audience's desire for the detectives to crack the case and unmask the villain.

A good deal of this episode was actually told from the perspective of the strangler; mild-mannered grief counsellor Paul Spector (ex-model Jamie Dornan). We watched as he stalked young women who catch his eye (a sexy solicitor, a budding singer) and compiled a scrapbook of photographs and doodled sex fantasies.

A key part of the The Fall's unwholesome recipe was juxtaposing our knowledge of Spector's crimes with the fact he's married with two adorable kids, and that's arguably where the episode's most repetitive scenes lay.

It just felt too heavy-handed at times, with the script constantly reminding us that this murderer has a loving family who are oblivious to his 'secret life'.

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With the intentional split focus between hero and villain, it was DSI Gibson who unfortunately came off worse in this opener, but it helped that we already associate Gillian Anderson with smart investigators because of her X-Files past.

If it wasn't for that ready-made acceptance of her as unflappable Dana Scully, it may have been a lot worse, because glib-tongued Gibson didn't actually do very much over the course of this hour.

Instead she was just another part of the pervasive sense of unease writer Allan Cubitt crafted so effectively. Also deserving praise is Belgian director Jakob Verbruggen's light-footed camera-work, which led to a raw and disquieting climax as sweet solicitor Sarah Kay (Laura Donnelly) wasn't so lucky when Spector made a second visit to her bedroom after hours.

Dividing the story between antagonist and protagonist does feel relatively fresh and I suspect Gillian Anderson will come into her own once DSI Gibson takes charge of the enquiry.

The Fall is atmospheric, brooding, and tightly-written, if not quite as cutting-edge as it believes itself to be.

  • Verdict: A strong opener sets the tone for an unnerving drama

    Star grade

What other reviews say

The Telegraph - "It was very slick, very knowing and Anderson and Dornan were actually very good."

The Guardian - "The Fall is a properly thoughtful, brooding, clever and bleak psychological thriller - and it's scary as hell."

The Independent - "The Fall is interestingly skewed from the beginning."

What people on Twitter said

‏@gracedent (Grace Dent) - "If The Fall was in Danish with subtitles it would be more edifying."

@Angela_Griffin (actress Angela Griffin) - "Enjoying The Fall. Shall be talking with an Irish accent for the foreseeable #thefall."

@elliot_gonzalez - "Not surprised The Fall is trending so early on. Stunning drama."

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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