Thank the television Gods for the BBC. First BBC America brings us “Orphan Black,” a rich, complex, thrilling clonespiracy starring the dazzling Tatiana Maslany. And now BBC2 (now streaming on Netflix) brings us “The Fall,” a rich, complex, slow-boil psychological cat-and-mouse game starring the magnificent Gillian Anderson. The next time I see a Union Jack I fully intend to salute it in thanks of this bounty of quality roles for women on my television.
A few of you have recommended “The Fall” to me in the past few weeks, and I’ve finally taken your advice and had a look. While the pace is entirely different than the edge-of-your-seat addiction of “Orphan Black,” “The Fall” has a deliberate tone and thoughtful reserve that cannot be denied.
Mostly this comes from Gillian herself, who has refined her talents to a fine point over the years. She makes the most of silence, letting it wash over her all the while we know underneath roils an even sharper mind. I love actresses who can play intellect well. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has also grown elegantly into her features over the years as well. Seriously, Scully grew up quite nicely. Quite nicely, indeed.
While “The Fall” moved slowly, at times almost too slowly, it’s the performances and uncomfortable luxury of seeing the mundane and horrifying daily life of a serial killer that keep you there. It gives basically nothing away to tell you that former “Once Upon a Time” star Jamie “The Sheriff” Dornan plays the killer, as it is revealed in the opening minutes of the first episode. Though with short hair and face scruff, I kept thinking he was a dead-eyed Ashton Kutcher instead.
I’m only through three of the five-episode season (it’s more recurring mini-series than regular series), but I’ve also truly appreciated the show’s unvarnished look at sexual politics. Gillian’s senior police investigator Stella Gibson is a no-muss, no-fuss, wham-bam-thank-you-man kind of lady. And she does not appreciate, nor tolerate, the double standard that says guys who have sex are super studs and gals who have sex are unqualified sluts. Ladies can have and enjoy sex and still be good at their jobs – big shocker. Nor does she want to perpetuate the virgin/whore pigeonholes women get pushed into. It’s something that needs to be said more, on television and everywhere else because it’s still fucking happening all the damn time. (p.s. Slightly off topic, but like come fucking on, Serena Williams, you should never say about a 16-year-old rape victim, “I'm not blaming the girl, but…”)
Now I could talk about ingrained sexism and slut shaming all damn day. But what you really want to know is is there any gay in “The Fall.” Well, of course, kittens. No spoilers, but we do find out there’s a gay gal in the mix. And just to make the talent pool even more ridiculous, we also get some Archie Panjabi because too much of a good thing – that “thing” being gifted actresses working with smart material – is never enough.
I’m hoping, in the last two episodes, my patience with the show pays off (don’t spoil it for me, folks). But either way a second season has already been commissioned. So more Gillian being smart on TV seems like a pretty good deal to me.