Americans love the show The Fall. Part of that (besides the incredibly good acting by an ensemble cast and great writing) may be having America’s own, Gillian Anderson starring as the protagonist.
In the first season of The Fall—a British series that was a huge critical and commercial hit there and is now available in the U.S.—a string of unsolved murders in Belfast, Northern Ireland brings in Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson from London. Cool, by-the-book sharp, intelligent, and cold as an ice princess, Gibson represents what the folks in Belfast don't like about Londoners.
Gibson is played—perfect proper British accent, demeanor, and all—by Gillian Anderson, the American-born actor best known as Dana Scully from The X-Files. Her accent is low-key, subtly intimidating, and wonderful. Her character takes no detours and no nonsense as she ruthlessly pursues the killer.
The show follows the serial killer Paul Spector, expertly played by Fifty Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan. He is sweetly gentle to his family, especially his daughter, Olivia (Sarah Beattie). In one scene, he lovingly watches over her as she sleeps wearing a pretty necklace he gave her. However, this scene becomes deeply disturbing when we find out that he has an “outside life” as a serial killer and that his daughter is wearing the necklace of one of his victims.
He is a methodical killer who enjoys posing the nude bodies of his victims after washing their skin and then painting their nails. Artistically, he’s creating a true still-life of his victims. The cat-and-mouse game between him and Anderson’s character is intense and committed.
Let me say that the series did come under severe criticism during Season 1. Many critics—and viewers—felt that it glamorized violence against women and, to an extent, it did. That being said, the portrayal of the show’s main character, Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, seems to balance out the terror of violence against women by showing us a solid and strong woman who can compete intellectually with the killer and outwit him at his own game.
She’s a savvy woman in all aspects noted, particularly in her dealings with the press releases about the murders. Telling a colleague to leave the words innocent victims out of a statement concerning the women, she explains her reason for doing so:
“What if he kills a prostitute next? Or a woman walking home drunk? You know that the media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores. Let’s not encourage them.”
Her woman’s eye also catches something that her male counterparts noticed and passed over; the victims’ brightly painted nails. Gibson sends a signal to the killer that she knows more about him than he’d like to think by holding a press conference where her own nails, painted brilliant red, are prominently displayed for the camera; it is the same color he uses on his victims. A veritable “gotcha” moment.
Strong women as police investigators seem to be the new normal. Helen Mirren, as Inspector Jane Tennison, began it all in 1993 in the BBC series, Prime Suspect.
These women are not paper dolls as Gillian Anderson shows us in the series. Gibson has a healthy sexual appetite and is a take-charge woman in the bedroom as well as the precinct. Seeing women as strong on the job and having a sex life should be the new normal.
The Fall is definitely worth watching, and you’ll love Anderson’s Brit accent as much as you’ll enjoy the series. Seasons 1 and 2 can be seen on Netflix and in some areas On-Demand. Season 3 will begin in February, 2017.
Kristen Houghton is the author of nine top-selling novels, including For I Have Sinned and Grave Misgivings, books 1 and 2 in the best-selling new series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation. Book 3 in the series, Unrepentant: Pray for Us Sinners, will be published in the fall of 2016. She is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own.
Houghtonis also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories.