Monday, 20 May 2013

The Fall: Not a documentary about a famous US actress visiting the police of Northern Ireland

Watching Gillian Anderson walk about a bit and sit behind desks looking aloof with a pen and a silk scarf in BBC Two crime drama The Fall sometimes feels a bit like a famous US actress has come to visit a group of lesser known actors who have never met a star before, and so all are slightly in her thrall.

Such is Anderson’s reputation and celebrity, her rare appearances in UK-produced TV lend the finished result a sense of occasion, as if someone is just off camera with a pair of scissors ready to hand to her at any moment so she can cut a ribbon to open a new something.

Of course, The Fall is not a documentary, and if it was it would be terrifying. But let's be honest, the notion of sending that woman from The X Files to Northern Ireland to see how it’s all doing for no discernible reason is an idea that is not beyond the reaches of the most dim-witted of 'factual entertainment' tv producers.

Fortunately however, The Fall is a five part crime drama designed to both thrill and shock, and Anderson plays DSI Stella Gibson, sent over from the Met to Belfast to help shed new light on an unsolved murder case that's run out of steam.

Her status as a senior police officer lends itself to this idea of a star among admirers – Gibson's constable colleagues, tasked with given her a lift home, are deferential, while her peers are a bit more defensive - recognising her status but not wanting their own experience ignored either.

But Stella commands respect, as Anderson does.

Gibson's immaculate suits, the way she meticulously organises her clothes ready for the next day, her direct response to an enquiring journalist (‘Fuck off’) or to the colleague she finds attractive (‘I’m staying at The Hilton. Room 203’) all indicate she's organised, focussed - and not to be messed with on any account, especially not during dinner.

Jamie Dornan's Paul Spector: His Northern Irish accent is his own
But Anderson’s a great actress (‘I’m doing an English accent!’), so her high profile should not cast too big a shadow over proceedings for long, if it does at all.

Essentially, she's someone you want to watch. And if that’s partly because you once loved her in The X Files, then so be it.

And apart from anything else, the murderous behaviour of the other main character, Jamie Dornan's Paul Spector, meets that aim to thrill and shock. He's enough to keep you watching all by himself, and not just because you're seeking to understand how he keeps his beard so trim.

Spector is a husband, a father, and works as a bereavement counsellor. His doodles, drawn during a counselling session with a bereaved couple, show the woman with her top off. And then by night he breaks into the homes of professional women and kills them, and, fortunately for the purposes of the drama, he probably isn't quite done with that yet.

And you might also be thinking, 'he once went out with Kiera Knightley'. 

  • The Fall, BBC Two, Mondays, 9pm

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