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"The Fall" Series 1 Review

The Fall: Series 1 DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Fall: Series 1 (2013)
Series & DVD Details

Creator/Writer: Allan Cubitt / Director: Jakob Verbruggen

Producers: Gub Neal, Julian Stevens / Executive Producers: Allan Cubitt, Patrick Irwin, Justin Thomson-Glover, Stephen Wright

Regular Cast: Gillian Anderson (Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson), Jamie Dornan (Paul Spector), Laura Donnelly (Sarah Kay), Bronagh Waugh (Sally Ann Spector), Ben Peel (Detective Sergeant James Olson), Michael McElhatton (Rob Breedlove), Stuart Graham (DCI Matt Eastwood), Niamh McGrady (Danielle Ferrington), Ian McElhinney (Morgan Monroe), Frank McCusker (DCI Garrett Brink), John Lynch (Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns), Archie Panjabi (Reed Smith)

Recurring Characters: Aisling Franciosi (Katie), Sarah Beattie (Olivia Spector), David Beattie (Liam Spector), Simon Delaney (Jerry McElroy), Gerard McCarthy (Kevin McSwain), Lisa Hogg (Marion Kay), B.J. Hogg (Ian Kay), Sιainνn Brennan (Liz Tyler), Brian Milligan (James Tyler), Nick Lee (Ned Callan), Eugene O'Hare (Aaron Monroe), Chris Corrigan (Nash), Gerard Jordan (Brian Stone), Tara Lynne O'Neal (Martina Dean), Emmett Scanlan (Glen Martin), Karen Hassan (Annie Brawley), Tobias Winter (Rossmeisl), Andy Moore (Terry McIntruff), Brenda McNeill (Newsreader), Gemma McCorry (Alice Parker Monroe), Lucy McConnell (Angelica), Siobhan McSweeney (Mary McCurdy), Michael Colgan (Sheldon Schwartz)

Notable Guest Stars: Dearbhail Carr (Call Handler), Will Willoughby (Joseph Brawley)

Running Time: 306 Minutes (5 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Extra Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Originally Aired in UK May 13, 2013 to June 10, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99 / DVD Release Date: October 15, 2013
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover

Buy The Fall: Series 1 on DVD at Amazon.com

Gillian Anderson will probably forever be best known as Dana Scully, the special agent she played for nine seasons of television and in two follow-up movies. "The X-Files" is an American institution and Anderson was born in Chicago, but she spent ten of her first eleven years living in the United Kingdom. The UK has also been Anderson's primary and professional home for the past eight years or so.
Blending in with her perfect native English accent, the actress has appeared in a number of diverse British television shows and movies. At the same time, she's returned to the US as needed and even popped up in a Swiss film last year.

The 45-year-old Anderson has remained in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Her versatility and bidialectalism was on full display last spring, when she appeared in a recurring role on NBC's "Hannibal" at the same time that she was headlining a UK serial about a serial killer. "The Fall" stars Anderson as Stella Gibson, a Detective Superintendent from London's Metropolitan Police assigned to investigate a series of murders in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Belfast's authorities are reluctant to connect the killings, but the stone-cold Gibson sees a clear pattern. The victims are always professional women in their early 30s. Their cause of death is always a series of strangulations. And the crime scenes are always left with careful artistry, the victims cleaned and posed.

The British television drama "The Fall" stars Gillian Anderson as driven Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson.

Though the words "UK", "detective" and "television series" almost always come together to spell a mystery, "The Fall" is not that. It shows us very early on who done it and this dramatic irony serves the series remarkably well. Rather than having us guessing while it leaves a trail of clues to a deliberately unforeseen illumination, this show created and written by TV vet Allan Cubitt gives us the information that Gibson and her colleagues are trying their hardest to ascertain.

It is no spoiler than to reveal that the murderer is Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), a young grief counselor with a loving neonatal nurse wife and two young children. Spector is a high-functioning sociopath, who methodically stalks his chosen prey, prepares for the act with a Manson Family-style creepy crawling (where the victim-to-be's underwear is stolen and/or laid out), and then carries out the deed, before returning to his none the wiser family, who think he's still spending his nights working a suicide hotline. Police are stumped, at least until the poised, thorough Gibson devotes her full efforts to what is branded "Operation Music Man" and gets her colleagues to recognize that "The Devil is in the detail."

Directed by Flemish TV veteran Jakob Verbruggen, "The Fall" is terse, cinematic, and utterly absorbing. The series is comfortable letting minutes pass with minimal dialogue. It excels at cross-cutting, where it finds parallels in both the hunter and the hunted, each dedicated to their craft. Instead of centering on one tragic hero, the series develops an ensemble of interesting characters, who all complement and advance the crime investigation. In the first series' five installments, each running just over one hour, the show never loses focus or allows its attention to flag. The drama is dark and gritty, with almost no comic relief, but it's always arresting, as it serves up the points of view of the chief cop, the killer, and the killer's next target.

Hunted serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), seen here coolly walking away from an exploded car, is the series' other focus.

Whereas the American television model would require this premise to be drawn out and doled in weekly teases, the UK enables "The Fall" to unfold at a comfortable pace and without gimmicks. As in life, the characters take shape through ordinary interaction,
not tiered storylines or come-and-go guest stars. Unflinching and unsentimental, "The Fall" features a blink and miss title screen and a haunting, understated score. My descriptions may make it sound dry or overbearing, but it's neither of those things as it holds our attention without ever letting go, moving from one compelling scene to another, each expanding the plot at a believable rate.

Differing from US network practices, "The Fall" includes some sex, drugs, nudity, and profanity. None of it is gratuitous and you'll notice I didn't mention violence, because it is kindly kept to a minimum, despite serving as dramatic catalyst.

Just four months after its initial broadcast run finished in the UK, "The Fall" made its American home video debut yesterday in the two-disc Series 1 DVD from Acorn Media.

Our initial impression of Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), as a creepy burglar, does not convey the full degree of his sociopathy. Officer Ferrington (Niamh McGrady) expresses guilt over the murder she failed to prevent.

Disc 1

1. Episode 1 (1:01:45) (Originally aired May 13, 2013)
We spend time with DSI Stella Gibson, friendly lawyer Sarah Kay (Laura Donnelly), and the creep who brazenly breaks in to her home, which we only later discern is a precursor to much worse things. While half of a bereaved couple who have lost their child questions Spector's counseling, Gibson pushes for two similar murders to be linked.

2. Episode 2 (1:00:24) (Originally aired May 20, 2013)
Gibson hooks up with an officer she's just met, who is threatened in interrogation and soon dead. The killer's latest victim is found, to the great guilt of the officers who responded to her break-in. Spector spends time with a 15-year-old girl (Aisling Franciosi).

3. Episode 3 (1:01:45) (Originally aired May 27, 2013)
Gibson tries to get her team inside the mind of their killer, as a press conference is held to officially link the now three murders. Spector pays an unscheduled house call to the grieving couple, finds an abandoned place to use, and chooses his next victim.

Spector's interest in a 15-year-old aspiring singer is troubling, to say the least. DCI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) finally gets to talk with the serial killer she's been trying to catch.

Disc 2

4. Episode 4 (1:00:20) (Originally aired June 3, 2013)
Spector is scolded for breaking protocol at work, which he justifies as a domestic abuse investigation. The fallout from one officer's death leads to another. After submitting a letter of remorse to a victim's father, the killer goes back out on the prowl at night.

5. Episode 5 (1:01:50) (Originally aired June 10, 2013)
When Spector and his daughter are caught on a closed circuit television camera near the scene of a crime, he trepidatiously goes to the police to eliminate himself from suspicion. He gets his wife to corroborate a lie, later confessing a non-existent affair with the aforementioned 15-year-old. Sarah Kay's father makes an appeal to the killer. After their paths cross for one brief, powerful moment, the killer and Gibson have a phone call on which the first series ends.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"The Fall" sports good picture quality on DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers present the show's moody imagery with no complications beyond the rare bit of player-based shimmering. The video stays solid and sharp. The Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack is basic but suitable. It keeps dialogue crisp and does a nice job of distributing the sparse, haunting drone score. The set includes yellow English SDH subtitles, which come in handy when the Irish accents get thick.

Belgium's Jakob Verbruggen describes his pleasure to direct "The Fall" in the behind-the-scenes featurette. It wouldn't be an Acorn Media DVD without every episode synopsized on the menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The set's only bonus feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette (12:20) found on Disc 2. It touches on the casting of Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan,
the hiring of director Jakob Verbruggen, and filming in Belfast. Interviews with all of them and other crew members are complemented by clips from the show and just a tiny bit of B-roll.

Disc One opens with a two-minute general Acorn Media promo and individual trailers for "Vera" and "Prime Suspect."

Customary for Acorn Media, each episode gets a menu synopsizing it and another providing access to its six named chapters. The scored main menus provide variations on the cover artwork.

The two discs share a standard black keepcase, which is topped by a slipcover and fitted with a swinging tray and an insert promoting Acorn Media's streaming service and social network accounts.

Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) looks ahead to Series 2 of "The Fall."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I've been disappointed to find many foreign television dramas routine and mediocre. I'm relieved to be able to tell you that "The Fall" is neither. This UK crime drama avoids the boilerplate mystery formula to instead deliver consistently gripping views of both a serial killer and those trying to find him.

Acorn Media's DVD is somewhat standard and it's a little unfortunate that there's no Blu-ray option for a brand new and quite popular series, having witnessed how great the studio's output on that format looks. Nonetheless, I'd recommend you check the show out and for now, this DVD is a great way do that in the US (Netflix streaming is another). I look forward to future series (seasons) and wish I could have prolonged this experience. Still, if you're gonna be glued to your television for five straight hours, it ought to be for a show as good as this one.

Buy The Fall: Series 1 on DVD at Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Gillian Anderson: Shadow Dancer • The X-Files: I Want to Believe • From Up on Poppy Hill
Jamie Dornan: Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season | Written by Allan Cubitt: The Boys Are Back
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Reviewed October 16, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Fables Limited, Artists Studio, BBC Northern Ireland, RLJ Entertainment and Acorn Media.
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