THE FALL season 3 is set to premiere on Netflix on October 29. While viewers on the other side of the globe have watched the finale on BBC Two, quite a lot of us have been anxiously awaiting the latest run of episodes. Before the Netflix debut gives fans — whether of Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, or just the series in general — a chance to binge, I took some time out to chat about the series with some fellow writers. We touched on some of our favorite things about THE FALL, what we might like to see done differently, and (of course) where we’d like to see it all go. What better way to prepare for new episodes than to have a good conversation with friends, right? Check out our roundtable for THE FALL, and make sure to enjoy season 3 — unless, of course, you’ve already had the opportunity to watch on television.
What have been some of the strongest aspects of the series for you?
Shana Lieberman: I think, for me, the keyword that would best describe every single positive aspect of THE FALL is “unapologetic.” The series is unapologetically dark, opting to show serial killer Paul Spector’s heinous acts without any sort of warning before them or light “relief” to follow. There are also no excuses made on the villain’s behalf. No, he’s not just some disturbed loner, as many fictionalized accounts of monsters like Spector would paint him: He’s a seemingly normal family man, who’s adored by his children and would be absolutely forgettable…if only viewers weren’t aware of what he did in his spare time. THE FALL doesn’t shy away from the idea that even the most seemingly innocuous men among us can, and will, be the most dangerous people imaginable.
And then there’s the unapologetic feminist bent, for which THE FALL has received a lot of praise. Stella Gibson is a walking, talking lexicon of feminist rhetoric. Rather than painting this as something special or drawing a lot of excessive attention to it — either negative or positive — the characterization just is. Gibson defies any stereotypes associated with the well-known “strong female character” and is, quite frankly, above all of that. She is who she is, and if you don’t like it? Too bad. She is, to badly quote Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT, the hero we deserve. I could continue to write a love letter to this character, but I basically already did as a guest contributor on Just About Write’s “Strong Women Series.” So, moving on.
Last but never least, there’s Gillian Anderson’s performance. This, too, falls into my general theme of “unapologetic,” as she’s unapologetically talented. Given some of the interviews I’ve seen and heard, she’d probably disagree. But too bad. I’m unapologetically in awe of just how fully she’s slipped into pretty much every character she’s ever played; and her portrayal of Stella Gibson is, by far, one of her best turns. So there.
Amy Imhoff: Honestly, I think the creep and suspense factors are very strong and make for highly compelling television. Too often, I have a general idea of where things are going; but with this show, that is not the case. I love not knowing! Dornan’s serial killer vibe is understated, which makes him way more scary — because he’s smart and deliberate. I also find the way Stella handles the men she’s surrounded with at work to be inspiring because she is just not taking their shit. I do wish at times she had a bit more levity; but that is just not Stella’s vibe, which I can totally respect. I think Gillian often plays these uber-serious people who are wound pretty tightly because she herself does not seem like an overly serious person; rather, she has a sense of humor and mischief about her. Both Spector and Stella are deadly serious, and I think both need to be. I am also quite fond of Danielle Ferrington; I quite like the actress that plays her, Niamh McGrady. Supporting cast is A+ all around. Oh, and Stella’s little ways of enticing Spector to be in contact, like wearing the nail polish on camera – that was just cool.
Erin Allen: Obviously, Gillian Anderson is the draw, but there are a lot of strong aspects that make THE FALL a great show. Besides being aesthetically appealing, the show touches on important, topical issues like feminism and misogyny. The cat-and-mouse cop drama is given new life with these characters and the interesting sub-plots. In other words, you come for Gillian and you end up staying for, well, Gillian, but a whole slew of other reasons, too.
I love the commentary this show makes on rape culture and sexism. I’ve read criticism that it sensationalizes violence against women, but you can’t really address the subject without portraying it. It sheds light on the conversations we should be having, especially in these times of Brock Turners and Donald Trumps. Stella smartly and poetically shoots down sexism when it’s directed at her or when sexist thinking gets in the way of her investigation. She breaks down the conventional thinking of how a woman is supposed to behave. For example, when she ends up sleeping with a married man, it is suggested to her that she should’ve thought to ask if he was married even though he wasn’t wearing a ring. The way she answers when she’s being questioned points out the major double standard. She approaches a man to fulfill a sexual desire and gets judgement. She expertly shuts this down: “Man fucks woman. Subject man, verb fucks, object woman. That’s okay. Woman fucks man. Woman subject, man object. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?” Anderson said she was surprised that the scene where she met James Olson was shocking to people. We need to move towards a reality where that behavior isn’t shocking. A woman going after what she wants and a woman wanting sex should not be surprising nor should it be condemned.
Stella is careful of how she presents information from the investigation to the public, being mindful of how the media skews things: “Let’s not refer to them as innocent. The media likes to divide women into virgins and vamps. Angels and whores. Let’s not encourage them.” We’ve seen recently that this trend still exists and, in fact, still runs rampant in our culture. We clearly see men controlling and manipulating women through Spector’s violence, but the show also portrays many of the different ways this happens. Jimmy physically and emotionally abuses his wife. Burns drunkenly forces himself on Stella. Eastwood pointedly questions her on some of her decisions. There are also subtler ways this manipulation occurs, too, and I appreciate that the series addresses them. It’s important to Burns that Stella feels guilt. He is offended when she makes a comparison between Spector’s depravity and his behavior towards her in her hotel room. “It’s not the same, but you crossed a line.” Just because it isn’t as atrocious as Spector’s crimes doesn’t excuse the act.
During my last rewatch of THE FALL, I had a dream where someone broke into my home and attacked me. I screamed and screamed as loud as I could and my husband sleeping next to me (in the dream) never woke up despite the noise I made. This is so indicative of how raging misogyny attempts to silence women. It wasn’t so much that I was getting attacked; it was that I was not being heard that scared me. In a scene in season one, Spector is watching Stella on the news. He mutes the TV, literally taking her voice away. Taking our voice away makes it easier for men to view us as objects. THE FALL brings the importance of women’s voices to the forefront and examines society’s way of trying to silence them.
Laura Mastantuono: I should quote Erin. Definitely, the draw was Gillian Anderson. I started watching this show last year after hearing lots of praise about it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Truth to be told, even if curiosity about Gillian playing this role and how great Stella Gibson was made me press play for the pilot, I was completely surprised and astounded by the cinematography and how unapologetic (as Shana said) the writers were in presenting the theme and plot. Usually in this kind of procedural, viewers get to see the behind the scenes about the detective’s or hero’s life, but this series showcases the double life of Spector and makes an almost perfect portrait of a sociopath (with him and young Katie).
The fact that the show ties the dark aspects of the scripts with its color palette, choice of camera angles, and movements and sound, it almost seems obvious to be pointing it out, but it’s a perfect example to study in film school. And not every show does it. There’s nothing lazy about how this show is constructed; and adding the more than stellar performances by the cast, it makes it addictive.
And then there’s the feminist aspects that Shana described so well. Stella Gibson is the kind of character we wanted but didn’t get. She just is this character; and even if you might speculate about what has happened to her, you don’t actually know. And it’s wonderful. Why? Because in life, when you’re drawn to a person or look up to someone, you don’t always get the backstory — it is the way it is. And Stella rules.
Lissete Lanuza: Obviously, the answer to this question is Gillian Anderson. I started watching for Gillian, without any idea what the show was about. It could have been about her staring at a wall for forty minutes every episode, and I still would have given it a shot. It’s Gillian. After I started watching, however, I fell in love with the show – and it wasn’t just because of Gillian. (Even if, to this day, she remains my favorite thing.)
First of all, the show is a treaty on feminism. There are few characters on TV who just exist in the way Stella Gibson does. Like Shana said, she is who she is, and THE FALL doesn’t treat the fact that she’s basically a role model like it’s a big thing. THE FALL just allows Gillian to be this woman, to inhabit her, and that sends an even bigger message than if they’d been trying to point out at every step how great and different she is.
But that’s the thing about this show – they present their story and let us draw our own conclusions, not just about Stella, but about Paul, and about almost every character and storyline. There’s no explanation, because the show treats us like adults who can reach our own conclusion, and that makes it both refreshing and addictive.
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