AUGUST IS ACORN MEDIA/RLJ ENTERTAINMENT MONTH
My absolute acceptance of the cliché, “all good things must come to an end” doesn’t necessarily mean that I like it. And, true enough, there are so few good things, especially now. What I have trouble wrapping my need-to-escape brain around is when all GREAT things come to an end. Thus, I mournfully report on the Blu-Ray Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/EndemolShine Group releases of the final third seasons of THE FALL and HUMANS.
2013’s THE FALL quickly became one of the most fascinating, thrilling and creepy shows ever to emerge from either end of the pond. The story followed two obsessed individuals: serial killer Paul Spector, who chalks up victim after victim, while perfectly playing the role of dedicated husband and family man (plus being a highly thought of social worker!), and Stella Gibson, a likewise sexually fucked up but brilliant detective sent from the England to Ireland to investigate the case.
The work both put into their “quests” are superbly paralleled via the magnificent writing and directing, but mostly from two standout performances, Jamie Dornan (that Dornan is essentially identifiable here because of the Fifty Shades franchise is unfair, but, I imagine financially suitable) and Gillian Anderson (already an icon for a quarter of a century, internationally known as “Scully” from The X-Files; although this role alone should be her beacon performance). Dornan and Anderson, the latter who also co-produced, share the final third portion of this chilling story with ace direction from creator and writer Allan Cubitt, David Grennan’s photography (lushly and eerily capturing the pros and cons of the Northern Ireland locations) and a score (by Keefus Ciancia and David Holmes) that audibly works in tandem with the visuals to raise the goosebumps. The double-disc Acorn Blu-Ray is (as with the previous two sets) technically top-notch, rendering crystal-clear 1080p clarity and excellent stereo-surround sound (there are also nearly a half hour of extras, comprising a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, plus a photo gallery).
In the 2017 finale, Spector, wounded and recovering after surgery in a closely guarded hospital ward, reflects on what he’s done, while grooming the doctor who operated on him (and the entire female staff) with his patented sympathy technique – the prerequisite to victimization.
Gibson, meantime, is conflicted about contact, as she knows only too well what the killer laid out: that they’re closer to one another than she thinks. While in denial verbally, psychologically, she realizes that his smirky accusation is likely a cold, hard fact.
Unraveling Spector’s horrible childhood, as a victim himself of a sexual predator, Gibson and her crew do everything to guarantee his recovery for trial and, probable execution. As indicated, Spector has other plans. So does his support group: a wife, now teetering on suicide, and his last uncompleted score: Katie, a lovesick teen, hopelessly devoted to the psychopath, to paraphrase the Grease lyric. Terrific supporting acting turns from Aisling Franciosi (as Katie), Denise Gough, John Lynch, Bronagh Taggart, and Sarah Beattie really deliver the goods, and help to ratchet up the breathless tension.
While I really enjoyed the various locations from the first two installments, the endgame, largely set in the hospital was, for me, a bit too claustrophobic. At least, at first. As the walls close in on Spector, another twist occurs – taking the narrative to a shocking climax.
Leaving Belfast at the conclusion, we are, like Stella Gibson, wasted, empty, relieved. We’re additionally disappointed that the engrossing story and characters are to be no more, but we come out ahead of the ace lady sleuth. She’s stuck with a lulu of a “what if.” The show may haunt us for a while – in fact, I suspect, quite a while, but the dark twisted thoughts they unleashed will haunt Stella forever.
The last third of 2018’s HUMANS (or, to be specific, HUMANS 3.0) is riveting, heart-wrenching and exciting. The series, as it always has, combines the best sci-fic has to offer with allegorical allusions to contemporary politics…and horror.
While the underlying theme of THE FALL was that the heroine and villain were more alike than each (or, at least, one) would choose to admit, the narrative in HUMANS is that the synths are more human than the flesh-and-blood counterparts. And so it continues.
The unsettling punch that the scenario too easily fits into the current fascist state of America is thoroughly frightening. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. I mean, taking “people” who are different and putting them in border camps, lying to the public, instigating racism by inciting riots for violence that doesn’t exist…Yeah, who’d do that?
I was crushed to see the fates of some of my favorite characters (won’t go into details, check it out for yourself), but hopeful at the revolution and evolution of Niska. She takes no shit, has been softened to an extent, and has a new goal. Again, that’s all you’ll get out of me.
If HUMANS has taught me anything, it is never to trust humans (either the right wing or the do-the-right-thing wing).
Don’t get me wrong, HUMANS doesn’t exist to cram and ram messages down your gullet and in your face, its terrific entertainment from the get-go (the deep dish stuff is insidious and occasionally subliminal). So, come on, folks, a spoonful of artificial substitute helps the medicine go down!
As usual, the writing (Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent and Debbie O’Malley, Namsi Khan, Jonathan Harbottle, Daisy Coulam, Melissa Igbal, based on the Swedish TV series by Lars Lunstrom), performances (prominently Gemma Chan, Colin Morgan, Emily Berrington, Ivanno Jeremiah, Katherine Parkinson, Lucy Carless, Tom Gordon-Hill, Theo Stevenson, and Pixie Davies), direction (Jill Robertson, Al Mackay, Ben A. Williams, Richard Senior), photography (Kieran McGuigan), and music (Sarah Warne) is/are exemplary, particularly the on-screen work of Mia (Chan), Leo (Morgan), Niska (Berrington) and Max (Jeremiah).
And, as usual, Acorn’s Blu-Ray presentation of HUMANS 3.0 (the uncut international version, not the oft syndicated abridged nonsense) is first-rate.
HUMANS comes with a 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and (like THE FALL) is housed in a slipcover. Both shows are also available in complete series boxed sets (Google the Acorn Media website). That said, I kinda wish a HUMANS 4.0 eventually sees the light of day. It’s Niska’s time.
THE FALL (CAT # AMP-2574) and HUMANS 3.0 (AMP-2677): Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/EndemolShine Group. SRP: $39.95@.