Succinctly put, when I first viewed the 2013 BBC crime series THE FALL, SERIES 1, last year, I was knocked for a loop. A disturbing and unusual probe into two unbalanced minds, each on opposite sides of the law: one hunting the other, one stalking the other. Quite a switch from Debra Messing or Lucy Liu tossing cute Spielbergian quips (aka, forced and unfunny) around Manhattan whilst solving dumbass crimes. No siree bob, THE FALL chronicled the dual activities of gifted detective Stella Gibson (an amazing performance by coproducer Gillian Anderson), called in to investigate the serial killings of women in Belfast, and her nemesis Paul Spector (equally powerful thesp display from Jamie Dornan), a Jekyll/Hyde psychopath, as brilliant as he is cruel.
Each supremely intelligent adversary is a total pro at their day jobs: Gibson for her prowess as a top DSI in the field, and more, problematical, Spector – who excels as therapy case worker for (wait for it) battered women. But that’s only the cold iceberg tip of the crisscrossing parallels that link these two personalities. Each has a kink, once, as the song goes, “the five o’clock whistle blows.” Cougar Gibson craves wild sex with younger male subordinate underlings; Spector relishes in liquidating the female populace of raven-haired beauties (the fact that he has helped as many victims as he’s murdered is jaw-dropping, to say the least).
In the first series, viewers became addicted to the upsetting similarities between the two main characters, along with their cat and mouse reciprocal byplay. And the double-take conclusion left millions of engrossed fans breathlessly waiting for more.
And so it came to pass.
SERIES 2, broadcast in the UK in 2014 (and now available on Blu-Ray from Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment) wastes no time in picking up where its predecessor left off. And it’s even creepier and more nightmarish. Of course, the terrific cast is a major reason, but prime kudos must go to the talented, demented mind of creator/producer/writer/director Allan Cubitt. Can’t forget the ace location cinematography of Ruairi O’Brien, nor the atmospheric soundtrack of composers Keefus Ciancia and David Holmes.
In SERIES 2, we learn the reasons behind Spector’s mania – how his victims all reflect his first true love (Valerie Kane). Lured back to Belfast after a successful escape, he tracks the original object of his affections down (now happily married mother), kidnaps her, and holds her prisoner between bouts of torture and video recordings to satiate his lust (and, possibly, to taunt the authorities if/when discovered). Gibson, realizes the part she played in this family’s grief, and goes after Spector’s household, comprising a pregnant wife (Bronagh Waugh) and precocious daughter (Sarah Beattie), both (at least, on the surface, unaware of hubby/daddy’s dark side).
Gibson’s choosing her latest boy-toy (Colin Morgan, essentially, a 20-something male version of herself) ultimately plays a crucial part in the intertwining narrative, but two other frightening incidents dominate this gripping 6-part, 2-disc set. The first is the introduction of a defrocked, incarcerated priest (Sean McGinley), a monstrous pedophile who violated scores of under-aged boys during his reign of terror. This predator, who “groomed” Spector, makes Hannibal Lector look like Captain Kangaroo. A meeting with the grinning ghoul falls short of making his interrogators retch in revulsion. One almost feels sorry for Spector.
Which brings us to why it’s “almost.”
Grooming becomes a major catalyst in Spector’s sexual depravity as well. Katie, nubile teen babysitter (Aisling Franciosi) introduced as a secondary character in Series 1, returns with a vengeance in SERIES 2. An extraordinary tour de force acting job by Franciosi transforms this vic into a perp-in-training. Her desire for Spector is wholly due to his perversions, and stems from her belief that she’s absolutely convinced that this upstanding family man and revered professional is the serial killer. And Spector plays Katie like a fiddle, a dangerous game that erupts from heinous fantasies to a vow wherein the teen offers verification of her devotion by offering to murder her BFF. The horrific part is that Spector doesn’t care a bit about his Frankenstein experiment. He’s getting off doing this to the young woman…well, because he can!
In the interim, there’s a brief respite via a wonderful bit by Anderson in a restaurant. When a horndog hits on her, she turns to the woman she’s dining with, and plants a long, wet kiss on the surprised companion’s pan that would have delighted Errol Flynn.
On the downside, Gibson’s stick-up-his-arse superior (John Lynch) shockingly makes a move on the officer in her hotel room (with Spector, unbeknownst to them, hiding in her closet as a witness; more fuel for the fire).
While Gibson gets access to the killer’s personal effects, Spector’s break-in allows him to pore over Stella’s (very intimate) diary. To complicate matters, a violent abusive wanker husband (Brian Milligan) of one of Spector’s cases (again, the irony being that she’s a woman he’s saved and protected) vows a sanguinary vendetta upon the therapist (or “the rapist,” your choice).
It all tightens like a coil of barbed wire around the throat in a tension-filled forest climax, the sinister woods leading all to the possible buried-alive vicinity of Spector’s “beloved.”
Like all great television shows, THE FALL, SERIES 2, concludes with us wanting more (relax, me buffs, Series 3 has wrapped and should be airing this winter).
The Acorn Blu-Ray is, as one might expect, top-notch, both in High Definition imagery and 5.1 surround audio. There are also some enticing extras, including deleted sequences and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
For those who relish a truly bent mystery, as fascinating as it is scary, one can’t help but fall hard for THE FALL, SERIES 2.
THE FALL, SERIES 2. Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment. CAT # AMP-2460. SRP: $24.99.