The first series of the crime drama was a compelling cat-and-mouse chase between Gillian Anderson’s detective and Dornan’s stalker; the second dragged everything out. With the third currently filming in Belfast, there’s still time to make it work again
The third series of The Fall has only just begun filming, but I already know how it’s going to end. It’s going to end with me slamming my palm into my face over and over again while making a succession of strangulated yelps that struggle to convey my utter frustration with the programme.
This is how series three will end, because it’s how series one and series two ended. For an apparently prestigious tentpole drama series, The Fall is almost unique in its ability to fluff the landing.
Remember back in 2013, when the frantic horror-show game of cat and mouse between Stella Gibson and Paul Spector kept growing in intensity, only to end with an astoundingly anticlimactic chat on the phone? Or in 2014, where everything good about the first series was systematically dismantled as enigmatic serial killer Spector blabbed away at length about his various motivations to anyone who’d listen? Remember the final episode, where you’d become so frustrated with the whole bloody thing that you started praying that one of the leads would die, because at least that would mean getting some sort of resolution? Then remember how one of them did die, only to get magically brought back to life because BBC2 really, really wanted a third series?
Based on this – and even though this new series is being touted as the definitive ending of The Fall – you can’t help feeling that all the promise will once again be squandered. The only thing that can save the show, I’ve decided, is binning Jamie Dornan.
Sticking with a spent force is a problem that plenty of other shows have had in the past, most notably Homeland. The first three series of Homeland were a masterclass in all the things that can go wrong if you bloody-mindedly cling on to a character once their story has ended. Brody might have started off as an intriguing puzzlebox – was he a terrorist or not? – but Homeland’s refusal to kill him off at the end of the first series forced the show down a procession of preposterous alleyways. It meant that we had to see Brody murder the vice president by remote control, then end up hooked on heroin in a cartoonishly condemned South American apartment block. Worse, it meant that we had to follow his idiot daughter around on her cloth-eared adventures in shrieking and manslaughter for two years longer than we needed to. God, those were a long two years.
Killing Brody saved Homeland – its last series was one of its very best – and only killing Paul Spector can save The Fall. He’s been an empty fart since the end of the first series, and keeping him alive against all odds compromises The Fall’s integrity. There are only so many darkened houses he can creep around in. There are only so many corners he can magically escape from. There are only so many times we can look at a close-up of Bronagh Waugh’s face while she grimaces like she’s just watched a puppy eat its own sick. Let’s get rid of him and be done with it.
The heart of The Fall is Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson, anyway. She’s one of the most compelling, layered television characters in recent memory, and she’s more than sturdy enough to support the whole show. The Adventures of Stella Gibson and her Silky Blouse could run for years and years. Anderson even seemed to hint that she knew as much in an interview this weekend. It just takes one moment of bravery on the part of the show.
The Fall is still salvageable. The third series could still be worth watching. But only if Paul Spector trips on his shoelaces, falls down a well and snaps his neck in the very first scene. Then we might be on to something good.
This article was written by Stuart Heritage, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 5th January 2016 14.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010