Rasha: Ok, was it me or was this a more directly violent and relentless arc than the previous 2 series of The Fall?
Gemma: Huh. I felt almost the opposite. I didn’t find it as taut as the other seasons, although it certainly had its moments. Maybe the violence stood out more because it was messier.
R: This season/series was notably more quiet and slow in its builds, and in that sense felt very much more like a Netflix series created expressly for binge-watching. From the first episode, the show seemed intent on creating tension and menace by slowing down the whole story. In some ways it worked on me, though I’m left feeling a little confused and not fully satisfied in the end, even though I have a hard time faulting something specific.
G: It didn’t work on me at all. I honestly thought, in the end, the amnesia didn’t work, or at least the drawing out of it didn’t work. It woulda held me for a couple of episodes, but not five. Every other plot point felt right on, but even more than the rest of The Fall, it just took too long and lurched too much.
R: The violence was definitely messier, and most of it happened to our main characters rather than the “victims” from the first two rounds.
G: Which I thought was a reasonable denouement, and one of the things that did work on me was how much Spector’s nurse looked like His Type, making his violence against Stella a more dramatic turn.
R: Absolutely! Ok, do we think Spector really had amnesia?
G: I thought in the end we weren’t supposed to think he did, but I wasn’t quite sure. I thought the point of the assault on Stella was that she’d managed to provoke him into dropping the pretense.
R: Right. I was mostly convinced that he really did have amnesia until the last interrogation where he admits to being fascinated by this person they’re describing. That seemed too self-conscious. And I agree about the assault. Although maybe he’s provoked because she’s uncovered the sources of his shame and pain–his mother’s suicide and the extreme abuse at the orphanage. It seems that we’re supposed to understand from Spector that his inability to admit to his pain is at least part of the toxic masculinist ubermensch response that leads to his murderous behavior.
G: Which conceptually I do buy, but everything felt a bit too on the nose. I felt that way about most of the Feminist Dialogue too (although I admit I watched the bulk of this before the election, when I thought we were maybe having a somewhat different conversation as a society than the one we actually seem to be having). It felt more like subjects Allen Cubbitt wanted to talk about in a particular way than things the characters were actually saying. I read that Cubbitt himself wrote and directed all the eps this season, which could explains some of that.
R: Ah, I see. Yes, Rose Stagg’s bedtime reading with her daughter feels too Moral of the Story.
I was actually intrigued in the first couple of episodes to find they’d decided to give Spector amnesia. It offered the opportunities to raise questions about whether people are inevitably violent because of who they are and what’s happened to them, or whether they have a choice in becoming a different person even given the same experiences. I was a little curious about what it would mean, not for the trial in the storyline that would certainly find him guilty anyway, but for the world of the show if he could wake up and be horrified by what he’d done.
G: Yeah, it did have its moments for me. But it dragged on long enough that it started to feel like a gimmick, especially given that in the background everyone was explicitly saying “Women are stronger than men! Women act out their responses to pain in this particular way because of patriarchy!” in conversations where we would have gotten it anyway. It started to feel like a combination of a trick to make me think about an idea and like it had only been there to build up to the act of violence against Stella, which didn’t need to take five episodes.
R: This season/series missed any opportunity to complicate the narrative of Stella Is Always Right So Just Listen To Her Already. I was hoping we’d learn more about her, her dreams, her relationship with her father, and that she’d be in some compromised situation, but there really wasn’t anything bringing the heat in her storyline. The inquiry into her handling of the case seems to just disappear halfway through. She has no storyline with Anderson beyond his first venting at her. Her interactions with the court appointed psych begin with creepy portents but ultimately come to the conclusion that He Shoulda Listened to Stella.
G: Yes, exactly.
R: We almost get a storyline about her diaries, but then that too just disappears.
G: And so even that ending sequence, which I thought was very well-shot and well-put-together, loses its potency. Yes, this case was horrible, and yes, it’s tiring being right when no one listens to you, but there should have been so much more in there. I missed Reed Smith.
R: I know. Me too. I was trying not to be a brat by leading with that. But she totally should have had drinks with Reed and not using a split screen.
G: I understand that the WPP has to transfer Kalinda sometimes for her safety and security, but I wanted Stella to be talking to a woman who was her equal. It conflicted with Panjabi’s schedule … if that’s because she was shooting Blindspot, well, I will be devastated.
R: Exactly. Stella’s the protector or mentor or role model for every woman in this season. I have already hated Blindspot for everything it is and is not.
G: I only watched one episode. I need to give Panjabi one or two more, but I’ve watched her literal entire oeuvre and there is not much that is worse than this. The Infidel was pretty terrible, but Blindspot is competitive. Anyway.
R: So, what would we have explored in this series of The Fall if we’d had our druthers?
G: Sally Ann’s drive into the ocean…
and Stella’s hug with Olivia…
…was such an opportunity that was so squandered. I would have liked to see a real relationship between Olivia and Stella, after that hug, which would have revealed the dad stuff, created weird and sketchy power dynamics in addition to real connection, and compromised the case. All of which needed to happen. (By the by, that little girl has aged like crazy in the last two years!)
R: Yes, the case needed to be compromised, Stella needed to be compromised. I was even ready for Spector to escape and for there to be complications with Katie trying to find him. Really, it would have been nice if the storylines of the characters were connected by anything more than Having a Chat with Stella.
G: Yeah, the Katie-Stella feeeeeeeelings conversation drove me up the wall. Katie’s more twisted than any of that storyline gave her credit for.
R: And I totally love the character of Stella! I even agree with what she’s telling Katie, but I don’t know in what kind of world Katie would actually be reached by that very parental kind of conversation. I don’t know that I’d call Katie twisted so much as twisted-up over her life in a way that doesn’t seem like it would unravel so quickly by someone asking “Btw, do you by chance have any Daddy issues?”
G: Twisted up is more what I meant, I didn’t mean twisted as in evil. But she’s not a poor little neglected teen who can be reached by a moment of compassion from a cop pursuing the man she’s obsessed with, nor is she obsessed with him simply because she’s bought his ubermensch crap. It is more complicated than that. And I was certain there was more to the story of Stella’s dad.
R: Dude, Katie would have called bullsh*t on Stella claiming to have scars. Katie would need to see the receipts and then she’d still find a way to sneer and dismiss. Because look at the person Stella turned into–to Katie, Stella’s life doesn’t look like freedom so much as a trap. Was this season a rushed closer? Did they get cancelled before they were done, or was this the plan all along?
G: I think they could have closed out this season and still done the story better. But to answer your question, I have no idea. Dornan probably has a lot to do with Fifty Shades, this couldn’t have been easy to schedule. And Anderson’s been working a great deal in the last couple years too, what with the X-Files reboot and Hannibal.
R: Is she on Hannibal? I did not know. They always are getting people I like.
G: I find it inconceivable that he’s any good in Fifty Shades, but he is pretty. Yes, they have lots of people I like on Hannibal. I wish the show were non-terrible. But they are pretty much everything the first two seasons of The Fall fought against, albeit with some interesting queer subtext.
R: Dornan is very pretty, and I even appreciate him deciding to play his prettiness with some complications rather than being the Handsome Boyfriend or Leading Man Detective.
G: Well, I think that’s what he’s capable of. I don’t think he can do the dominance that Fifty Shades demands. Which isn’t anything against him, it just means Fifty Shades has a bad casting director. He doesn’t play against type, he is against type.
R: Is Dornan making a cottage industry of playing very appealing, violent sociopaths?
G: It’s opposite genres of violent sociopath, though.
R: Is there anything we could cast him in? Like, could he do a Rose Byrne and make brilliant comedy?
G: That would actually surprise me way less than his being good at Christian Grey. I really want to see him try that now. I’m ready for a parody detective show with Dornan and Byrne, each mocking their first careermaking show.
R: I know, right? Like, could someone cast Jamie Dornan in something that they might cast Chris Pratt in? I’d give that a try. Dornan and Byrne could have great chemistry, actually.
G: Yes, that’s what I’m picturing!
R: We should write a fan letter to the universe. I guess that is this blog post.
G: It’s possible that could be the subtitle for this blog. Some parts of it, anyway. In sum: The Fall, you have disappointed me. Not devastatingly so, but enough that I’m not rushing to see the next thing Mr. Cubbitt makes.
R: I’m going to follow The Matrix doctrine in this case: there were only two volumes. They never made a third.
G: Oh, wowzers, it’s that severe for you?
R: Kinda. Like it’s okay, but did it add anything?
G: I’m going to call this a job for fanfiction, although they haven’t stepped up to the plate yet. No, you are correct, it did not. There needed to be Spector committing a direct act of violence against Stella, but it had neither an adequate before nor after.
R: You know what, I was so fulfilled by the first two seasons, that I’m okay with the only outcome of this edition of The Fall being that we now know that Jamie Dornan and Rose Byrne need to make their own version of Brooklyn 99. Or Bones?
G: I’m liking Dornan as a petty criminal and Byrne as a prosecutor. So somewhere on that continuum.
R: Who must team up to crack the city wide open! Zing, pow! This is what we should have gotten instead of the Shondaland frame-up sexy caper show. Ok, I really have to go now.
G: Okay! You’re right. This season never happened.