The Fall

Is The Fall ‘the most repulsive drama ever broadcast on British TV’?

The Daily Mail thinks so. And, okay, the Mail often says things like that, especially about the BBC. But, though feted by many (it’s won a stack of awards, and boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%), there is something about the Belfast-set serial killer drama that leaves me feeling in need of a shower after I’ve watched it.

The main problem – aside from the graphic sexual violence – is the way the show seems so eager to fetishise its brooding, sensitive, damaged, brilliant and, now you come to mention it, extremely beautiful antagonist, Paul Spector – aka The Belfast Strangler.

Writer Allan Cubitt’s hypothesis appears to be that, while Spector may be a deranged psychopath, he’s also a lost little boy from a broken home who misses his mummy, loves his children and just wants a hug. And there are plenty of women lining up to oblige, seduced as they are by his irresistible blend of Nietzsche quotes and ripped torso. It doesn’t help, of course, that Spector is played by Jamie Dornan, the former model whose other most famous role is dominating breathlessly submissive women in Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe for his next job he should consider playing a hen-pecked husband who reads caravanning magazines.

Having been shot at the end of the last series, Spector spent this week’s episode teetering on the brink of death in hospital, surrounded by gallons of blood and vomit, like an 18-rated episode of Casualty. In his head, though, he was walking down a long, dark tunnel, being beckoned towards the light by his late mother. Because that’s how subtle The Fall is. Then, having finally stabilised him, they thoughtfully moved him onto the same ward as his latest victim. True story.

Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson’s SDI Stella Gibson continues to whisper her way through the entire thing in a manner that makes me sad French and Saunders aren’t around to give us their take on it. Though I guess it couldn’t really be any more preposterous than the real thing.


TV extra:


An HBO remake of Michael Crichton’s 70s sci-fi thriller about robot cowboys? Sure, why not. Westworld is an immersive theme park where rich people play out their Wild West fantasies among lifelike androids – until a glitch in the machine causes some of the ‘hosts’ to go dangerously rogue (a plot Crichton would later revisit with dinosaurs, of course). It’s a lavish production, complete with gorgeous, John Ford-hymning hero shots of Monument Valley, and an impressive A-list cast led by Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood and – get this – your actual Sir Anthony Hopkins.


The Level

Another week, another slightly iffy police drama. This one’s at least anchored by a terrific one-woman good cop/bad cop performance from Karla Crome as Nancy, a streetwise DS whose investigation into a murdered Brighton haulier (Philip Glenister, briefly) is fatally compromised by her links to the victim. That, and the fact she’s slowly bleeding to death from a septic gunshot wound. Ouch. Daftest moment: when a witness in fear of her life told Nancy: ‘Meet me on the top of Telscombe Cliffs.’ Bet you can’t guess how that one ended, eh readers?

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 6 2016

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