THE FALL explores Man’s descent into madness. This week its themes were analogized with DANTE’S INFERNO and his descent into Hell. This episode focused on JAMIE DORNAN’s killer Paul (aka Peter) Spector as he attempts to cover his tracks and avoid capture from GILLIAN ANDERSON’s investigator, Stella Gibson.
We open on Stella’s dream. She is confronted by a masked Spector. She shoots him, takes off his mask, to reveal the slain cop she spent a night with (season 1). She awakens, haunted by GUILT. She immediately writes in a dream journal (?) Or perhaps the dream led her to a new theory? Stella then calms herself with a swim – her ritual. She’s at home under the surface. As a visual metaphor, it’s comparable to how she tries to understand the MIND of a killer.
Last episode ended with Spector entering his ex-girlfriend’s house and her calling him, “Peter?” That story continues as he confronts her about talking to the authorities. She knows how dangerous Spector is, so she lies as best she can, saying (something like) “It was 9 years ago, you don’t look the same”. It doesn’t help. The tension begins to brew with this scene, and just increases steadily as the episode progresses.
Spector forces his ex-girlfriend (from years ago) to write a note – to avoid any suspicions. He says, “Stop shaking.” This scene freaked me out. Spector has planned everything out. This unsettling level of premeditation is so disturbing.
The intensity builds as Spector drives his ex to a “safe spot”. He stops at a red light. She tries to open the door to jump out. He stops her. Then the police pull up alongside. Before she has a chance to get their attention, Spector has her pinned. He feigns kissing her, and the cops don’t suspect a thing. Intense, for sure. The scene effectively intercuts with Stella. She’s worried there might be another victim, while Spector is with his next potential victim. I think she feels responsible. Also, the musical score is rather ominous, it’s almost like a droning bass or throbbing pulse. Again, effective.
Back to the investigation of the missing mother… Her daughter sings the Peter Piper limerick to the female cop. She tells Stella, and they put the pieces together. This is serious. They’re getting closer and closer to catching this Spect(re). Another puzzle piece was the murder weapon (scissors) recovered. Forensics were able to lift a print and identify Paul Spector. The tension continues to mount.
Spector has travelled out to his kill site(?). He seems unconcerned for the mud, or leaving tire tracks behind. When you think of the mistakes he’s been making it’s almost like he wants to be caught. Maybe it’s just subconsciously? Maybe somewhere “under the surface” he wants to be stopped from killing another woman? Which leads me to the video tape evidence. He hides the camera’s memory card within a light-switch at a hotel. I’m wondering if this will bite him in the ass? I suppose Spector NEEDS his trophies.
We get to see Spector at his job. Last season focused on his occupation as grief counsellor a little more. Which by the way, was a great character choice by the writer(s). It makes me wonder does this killer enjoy hearing others tell their sad tales of loss? Is he aroused since he also causes loss? Scary stuff that brews “under the surface”.
In this episode he listens to his “patient”, Annie, talk of their previous encounter where he attacked her. It’s rather creepy how he talks to her about that night. This is dramatic irony at its best in this episode. We know what he’s done, but she doesn’t. As they talk about this subject, we have to wonder if Spector is getting off on the details. Like, is he aroused by knowing how the victim feels?
Spector says, “There’s a world of difference, Annie, between what consenting adults choose to do in the bedroom and the violent sexual assault that you suffered… Nothing would make you responsible.” Spooky stuff, how he can seem so caring and empathetic when we know he is the exact opposite. Or is he battling both sides? Is he talking about Annie, or is he talking about himself? There’s the subtext of guilt there – running parallel to Stella’s own feelings. Is Spector trying to say HE isn’t responsible for the monster he battles each day – that invisible monster within?
There’s another strong bit of dialogue from Spector later on, “Too much remembering can destroy the present.” The next set of tracks he tries to cover up lead to the babysitter, Katie. Once he meets her and gets his daughter, he gives her a key to the hotel room (where he stashed the video evidence?). She later copies this key. Very intriguing. What does Katie have planned? Will she stumble upon the memory card later?
Katie arrives at Spector’s hotel room. A peeping Tom (?) spies on her through the keyhole. Will he witness something, and turn to the police later? Katie starts to undress and wait for Spector. She checks out a book resting on a table: DANTE’S INFERNO – with a painting on the cover that matches(?) Spector’s computer wallpaper-background.
It’s interesting they showcase THE DIVINE COMEDY here. The episode also mentions abortions, Catholicism & suicide (re: Spector’s mother). According to Dante’s vision of Hell, these sins have special areas of Hell reserved for them.
Not long after Spector arrives at the hotel, he has Katie by the neck, threatening her. He gets very aggressive, very frightening. He’s strangling her harder and harder. She gasps, “Do it… Kill me.” This was very strange. It made me wonder if she was suicidal, or she just gets off on this sort of violent role-playing.
Spector calls her out. He knows what Katie wants. He says, “You’re a virgin, dreaming of your first f**k.” He removes her stockings and binds her to the bed. The tension builds. Is he going to kill her? Cover up the evidence & satisfy his lethal urges? He takes off his pants, she’s excited. Then, he puts them back on. What? “Consider this a test,” Spector says. He tells her the bindings are loose enough she can free herself.
So is Spector testing Katie’s consent in this sort of domination? Or is he testing himself and his ability to control the monster? I like how this ties into his earlier counselling, when he talked about what “consenting adults do in their bedrooms” and “sexual violence” being very different things.
Very dark. Very disturbing. Yet compelling. Strong character work and good performance from Jamie Dornan. I hope this sort of scene combined with his appearance in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY doesn’t get him type-casted. It seems like he actually has a lot of talent to offer. I also loved the CAMUS quote, “Life is a symbol of all your choices… Choose carefully.” Did he just choose to let her live? Is he attempting to change his life?
The final scene highlights the intellectual battle between Stella and Spector. Just after she has put together the pieces: interviews, his real name (Peter), the fingerprints, the audio interviews – Spector calls Stella. He’s toying with his prey, calling from his victim’s phone. The performances here are excellent.
Stella answers the phone, “Gibson.” Spector threatens her with subtlety, “Stella.” He knows who she is. Stella retorts with slow-acting venom, “Peter.” She lays out her hand, now he knows she knows. He dodges the sting, “Beautiful night. Reminds me of you.” He mentions a star – which is nothing but a dying sun (metaphor 2000). Stella asks about what he has planned. He continues, “I don’t know what will happen… All I know is – no one can avoid death.” Not even our sun(?) – a star – like Stella?
We’re surrounded by the perpetual life & death of everything. Has the reality of mortality led Spector to kill? He mentioned earlier his mother was a Catholic, did she promise him God and an afterlife? Is Spector angry at the world because he was lied to? Did this broken promise of Heaven make Spector want to deliver Hell? There’s so much meat to chew on with THE FALL each week. I love it.
The episode ends after the phone call, as Spector walks back to his vehicle. What’s he going to do? Well, there were muffled sounds coming from his trunk. Add those gloves he’s wearing and I fear the worst. That said, I can’t wait to see how these characters develop – and how this cat & mouse game continues next episode.
What did you think? Is THE FALL on par with dark adult mysteries like TRUE DETECTIVE?
Is Paul Spector trying to control his urges and the monster within?
Will Stella Gibson slowly descend into madness and become a monster herself? Like that Nietzche quote: “Those who pursue monsters should be careful that in the process they do not become one themselves.”