sun 22/04/2018

The Fall, BBC Two / Babylon, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

The Fall, BBC Two / Babylon, Channel 4

The Fall, BBC Two / Babylon, Channel 4

Dark and chilling return of the Belfast killer thriller

He's behind you! DS Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) resumes the hunt for a serial murderer (Jamie Dornan)

The first series of this creepy Belfast-set crime thriller generated a mixture of critical enthusiasm and revulsion for its voyeuristic scenes of the sadistic murder of women. This season two opener [****] didn't give us any more of the latter, but successfully re-established the show's atmosphere of claustrophobic menace. It also probed further into the psychological battle between Gillian Anderson's DS Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan's low-key but intensely deranged killer, Paul Spector.

Writer/director Allan Cubitt seems to have found the ideal pace for his narrative, which moves with a kind of spectral stateliness. Scenes tend to take place at night or in deeply shadowed interiors. Belfast is viewed in a chilly grey light with the colour temperature turned way down. Cubitt makes you very aware of silence, which is interrupted by slow and deliberate electronic chords, frequently minor.

The way things are developing, Gibson and Spector are almost two halves of the same coin. Several scenes comprised matching shots of the pair of them, climbing the stairs in two different houses, both staring intently into the mirror, each reading a different item in the newspaper. Each of them seems to be preoccupied with negotiating their particular inner landscape which they can share with nobody else. When Gibson sat by the hospital bed of Annie Brawley (Karen Hassan, pictured above), who has survived one of Spector's grotesque attacks, she interrogated her with the scientific detachment of somebody studying a series of aerial photographs. Only when she got up and slipped Brawley's elastic hair-band over her wrist, suggesting that snapping the elastic against her skin could help to alleviate the horrific thoughts crowding into her mind, did a glimpse of emotional hinterland slip out.

I'm not sure whether Jamie Dornan is a great actor or not, since so much of his role is solitary and passive, but he projects an unnerving force field of coiled threat (Gibson reckons Spector is driven by a huge reservoir of anger). I shivered at the sequence where he lay on the bed and contemplated one of his young daughter's plastic dolls, which he'd tied and bound like one of his murder victims. Somehow this was even more hideous than a real killing. The question is who's next – Katie, his former babysitter who has recklessly made it clear that she knows he's the killer, or maybe the glamorous woman he met on a train, who'd dyed her dark hair blonde after reading that the killer always picks brunettes?

Also back, unfortunately, is Babylon [*], Channel 4's... er... satire? drama? comedy? about the Metropolitan Police. A pilot episode was shown in February, and now here it is in a six-part series. In the interim, it has (in the old saying) learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

The original problem was that all the characters were cold, slimy and repulsive, and they still are. I would single out in particular Bertie Carvel as Finn, passed over as the Met's Head of Communications in favour of Brit Marling's supercilious Liz Garvey, and now obsessed with trying to undermine her as pettily as possible. I would also single out all the officers in the Territorial Support Group, a squad of gurning, boorish cretins, who share unhealthily inbred characteristics with the equally vile firearms unit. James Nesbitt as police chief Richard Miller clearly can't decide whether he's playing this as comedy or not (Nesbitt and Brit Marling, pictured above).

There was some effort at topicality in the the clash between the Met and the Mayor's office, while the idea of a police force resentful at the encroachment of privatised security services was clumsily aired via a prison riot at the Craven Wood young offenders institution, run by the G4S-ish Securamax. But if they'd just run a caption saying, "The Metropolitan Police resent being replaced by private security companies", you'd have got the point without having to suffer all the terrible acting and laboriously overwritten "jokes". This thing really is a dog.

DS Gibson interrogated Annie Brawley with the scientific detachment of somebody studying a series of aerial photographs

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