Every other show is a crime drama these days, so a series has to try very hard to be unique. The Fall does just that and it started from the beginning. In episode one, we learn the identity of the serial killer our cops are searching for. There are no unnecessary twists or turns, just a game of cat and mouse. All the brilliant things of the first season have carried over. The writing is crisp and the storytelling is compelling. Allan Cubitt is back at the helm and raising the stakes in a serious way.
Season 1 closed with Stella (Gillian Anderson) talking to the serial killer we know as Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) on the phone. He vows to never kill again meaning that Stella will fail in her mission to catch him. She tells him the compulsion to kill will not go away, but what Paul does not know is that his latest victim survived and is being protected by Stella. Paul does, in fact, return to Belfast on routine errands but stays for a little more murder.
The return of Paul sets the stage for Jamie Dornan’s incredible performance. While the first season was really about Stella, Paul is front and center for the second go around. Before Paul was only shown committing murder, stalking his victims or hiding his true nature from his family and coworkers. This season viewers finally get to meet Paul. We see more of the lunatic with the broken mind under the surface. We get to see the man behind that mask, and as the layers get peeled away, we see just what kind of crazy is underneath. Dornan gets to flex his acting muscles in a way he never had the chance to before. A by-product of this new material is the standout performance from Aisling Franciosi. Her character, Katie Benedetto, went from a caricature filling out Paul’s world to a compelling one. That transition says something, considering she is on a show with fascinating characters such as Stella and Paul. She is still a young girl lusting after an older man, but as Paul uses her in his plane, Katie shows the darkness within.
Merlin fans can rejoice in the addition of Colin Morgan to the cast. He plays a detective who crosses paths with Stella during the season. Morgan’s Tom Anderson is a far cry from his role as Arthur’s wizard-in-hiding on the BBC series, which ended in 2012. The actor slips into the dark world of The Fall seamlessly.
One major theme throughout is the repercussions for choices we all make. In an effort to discover who the serial killer is, everyone made fairly bad ones in season one — some to get answers and others to hide their secrets. All of those poor choices come back to haunt the people on both sides of the investigation, which highlights the brilliance of Cubitt. He places small details on characters that seem to have no connection to the main story but come home to roost in the second season.
The Fall had a brilliant first season and returns to reap the benefits of great storytelling, characters and writing. We know the setting and many of the people, so it just gives Cubitt time to play and he surely does. This twisted and dark world just gets more complicated.
Catch the second season January 16 on Netflix.