Warning **mild spoilers**
Jamie Dornan was on a bit of a high at the screening of The Fall 2. He had flown straight in from Los Angeles for the event and was given a beer by his minder before launching into raptures about the BBC2 series, and especially scriptwriter Allan Cubitt.
“I didn’t feel that we could move substantially far forward from the first series and how moved I was… but when Allan sent me the second [script] I just thought he was showing off,” said Dornan. “It just transcended everything I thought it could be. It’s quite remarkable what he does, so I couldn’t wait to do it.”
But is he right? Is it really that good?
I greatly admired series one, but like many viewers and critics was left profoundly troubled by the violence and disappointed by the end when Gillian Anderson’s DSI Stella Gibson failed to land Paul Spector (Dornan’s family man and bereavement counsellor with the most horrific and disturbing line in killing young brunette women for kicks).
The Fall 2 opens a few days after his last attack with the victim alive but so traumatised she is unable to help police. Spector is holed up in Scotland, his flit with his family which closed the first series clearly coming to nothing. His wife has returned back to Northern Ireland with the children… but will he follow and continue his killing spree?
Well, despite the protestations of Cubitt that he had not toned down series two – despite the many criticism of the graphic violence against women, the lingering way the camera focused on the appalling crimes – the first taste of the next batch does feel less distressing and I have a sneaking feeling that this may be deliberate.
The focus seems to be more on the victims – which, as a show like Danish series The Killing demonstrated, can almost be as unbearable to watch as psychotic violence.
As Cubitt put it: “I made a conscious decision that we would not start with violence. We would get to know them. We cut away from the violence in fact. I am not attempting to minimise the impact of it because I think that actually the more you draw the audience into a psychological relationship with the victims the harder it’s going to be.
“The bigger your investment in the characters the more impactful the dramatic moments would be so you don’t have to cut people up to make that impact.”
Series one ran to five episodes, series two to six, which gives it more time to breathe. This leads to the odd unneccesary longeur, but also to some chilling, drawn-out moments. I am finding it difficult to forget Spector’s encounter with a woman on a train who looks like she could well be his next victim and another disturbing sequence in which Spector finds his daughter Olivia’s dolls – and cannot resist tying them up.
It seems that a key source of drama will be in these moments of psychological insight – trying to understand Spector and seeing the repercussions of his crimes. Cubitt said that the one character that breaks his heart is Olivia (she is “the heart of the thing… the most distressing victim in The Fall”), and it looks like we are moving to a different kind of horror in series two.
Another driver will be the increasingly obsessive relationship between two people who have never properly met each other on screen: Spector and Stella. So a different kind of experience this time. But it looks like it could be just as rewarding.