The Fall ‘Darkness Visible’ – Series 1, episode 2
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen series 1, episode 2 of ‘The Fall’
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve reflection. Indeed I can’t think of a weak passage. Such is the intensity of each scene, so heavily stylised and signposted, that the narrative slows down. Frustrating yes, but brilliant.
Bureaucracy shines in Darkness Visible: the cold lawyer defends his client (suspected of murder) by fussing over the removal of nicotine gum from the defendant while detained: “In breach of custody regulations by withholding him,” claims the lawyer Kevin McSwaine (played by Gerard McCarthy), and that “showing gruesome photos to a suspect is a breach of human rights,” before repeating, “After advice my client will not be answering any questions.” It’s a moment that captures both the toils of interrogation and the fraught, torturous nature of police work. Again writer Allan Cubitt draws us in as we simmer over the frustrating mundanity of it all.
Another dazzling scene is of an emergency services phone operator dealing with the call from the victim’s sister having discovered the body. The actress is brilliant as she takes in the information with both the detachment and professionalism and the dawning realisation of what she is being told. Again the rudimentary nature of the scene has visceral impact.
The most harrowing moment comes between the murderer and his daughter. The daughter, whose room is being used to store evidence, is experiencing nightly traumas. In school she has drawn, “A princess who had stabbed herself and died… Perhaps she had intuited something?” tells the teacher to the murderer and his wife. But what, how has she been affected? There doesn’t appear to be any domestic trauma. Indeed such is the laconic nature of the couple that they candidly discuss allowing the 15-year-old babysitter a bottle of beer.
Yet, when the daughter curiously asks her mother, “Is someone dead?” as they drive past a police cordon, her father looks at her into the rear view mirror and winks knowingly. She smiles back as if to suggest reassurance. By this point I am deep set in the psychological elements to the show, and unaffected by any flash drama. Even the murder of Sarah Kay seems a tertiary matter.
Proximity is still a driving subject in the show, one that reaches the point of confusion and slight annoyance. It’s a familiar effect to create tension, but it’s at risk of causing malaise. That the eerie feeling of coincidence is swiftly becoming the less thrilling feeling of synthetic scripting and triteness. For instance – and you’ll have to bear with me here – the lawyer of the gangster is the friend of the murder victim and presumed parent of her foetus. Elsewhere the police officer having a fling with DSI Gibson is also the murderer’s patient, the immediate comforter to the the lawyer, and the fatal victim of a gangland shooting. Since the tone of closeness has already been firmly established in the opening episode, in Darkness Visible it feels more like overkill.
Another frustration is that much of the episode is spent dealing with the tone rather than the text. DSI Gibson is a lackey only showing flair in noticing the newly painted-on nail varnish. If anything there’s a monotony to the episode, the feeling that the action is eclipsed by style – with director Jakob Verbruggen occupied by aesthetics. It is the feeling of stasis in the episode that irks.
There are a number of questions to be answered. The fundamental one is ‘how do gang culture and pimps relate to what appears to be a lone, sexually-motivated murderer?’ The only thing I can come up with is that there’s something of the vigilante about the murderer. That he is somehow privy to the gangs, but that would be a long shot. Whatever it is, the murderer is knowledgeable of information we are deprived of.
The other thing which boggles is the recurring theme of babies. The police officer’s wife works in natal care, they themselves have lost a child; the victim Sarah Kay is suspected to have been in the early stages of pregnancy. Is it linked with the partisan atmosphere of Belfast; of bloodlines and lineage? Is it something more. Right now I’m completely at odds with knowing how they’re linked, or even why they’re featured. Help?Tagged in: Allan Cubitt, Gerard McCarthy, Gillian Anderson, Jakob Verbruggen, The Fall
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