You may think that television is currently supplying more than enough serial killers and serial-killer pursuers to meet our entertainment needs. But at Netflix, the reigning view is apparently that too much is never enough: the service is now offering its subscribers a British serial-killer series, "The Fall," from BBC2, starring Gillian Anderson of "X Files" fame.
It's a fine show, relying on slow-building tension rather than the gory shock value of series like "The Following," and the five-episode arc now on Netflix is worth a look if you haven't had your fill of cat-and-mouse dynamics. If, on the other hand, you're watching more than two serial-killer series already and feel the need for more, you may want to ask yourself what this says about you.
Anyway, Anderson is Stella Gibson, a police investigator who is brought in to jump-start a stalled murder case in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She soon sees possible connections to a different unsolved case, though others are skeptical.
"Failure to see that crimes are linked -- linkage blindness -- is a thing that will allow the killer to strike again," she advises a colleague. Soon enough, he does.
While the investigation is gearing up, we are also given glimpses of the killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), a grief counselor with a seemingly idyllic life -- pleasant wife, two cute young children -- but an exceedingly dark side. He doesn't just kill; he carefully studies and stalks his intended victims, collects mementos of them and arranges their bodies in poses. Each side in this law-versus-lawbreaker game is meticulous.
The series, which was created by Allan Cubitt and renewed for a second season in Britain, shows admirable patience in telling its story. After one victim's sister discovers the body, we hear her entire panicked emergency call to the police. Paul's children aren't mere props; his daughter is given a story line involving night terrors. There is one side plot that hints at police corruption and another about a couple Paul is counseling.
Oddly, the character developed the least may be Anderson's. Stella is an enigma, a woman who seems cold and emotionless yet thinks nothing of issuing a blunt invitation to an officer she has just met to come to her bed, which he does. This type of female character is common now, but "The Fall" is particularly stingy with details about why Stella is the way she is. And as an investigator, she is downright bland; she brings no fiery bluster or endearing tics to the search for the killer. Fans of Anderson's may be annoyed that more isn't asked of her.
The series also overindulges in an editing technique in which parallels are drawn by juxtaposition. For instance, as Episode 2 begins, images of Stella enjoying that one-night stand with her fellow officer are intercut with shots of Paul bathing and posing the naked corpse of his latest victim. This kind of thing is interesting once, but dishing it up repeatedly is the equivalent of hitting the viewer over the head with a piece of lumber. It's a disservice to the subtlety that infuses the rest of the show.