This article is in response to the first three episodes only.
On the surface, The Fall is a crime thriller whose story follows serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), and detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson). However, The Fall is set apart from the crowd of crime thrilliers by its intelligent approach to these complex characters. The story is interesting enough, but more fascinating is the subtle parallels drawn between these two characters, and the way these comparisons are used to explore politics, gender and psychology. The killer and the cop don’t just share personality traits (they are both antisocial, intelligent, and cold, with unusual and specific philosophies regarding romance). Their institutions are depicted as having similarly disturbing rituals, social structures, and violence.
Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) victimises women physically – by means of kidnapping them, murdering them, and using their bodies. The police force is shown to be a cultural space in which Stella Gibson is also victimised. Her female body is seen as ‘other’, as dangerous and strange. In the first episode, she meets another police officer, A, to whom she coldly provides her room number, in order to wordlessly go to bed with him that same night. Another policeman, who we learn also has a sexual history with Stella, asks her, “Do you know the affect you have on men? I would have done anything for you.” A is dead the next day. We don’t suspect Stella of the actual crime, but her cold attitude towards using -and promptly moving on from- men firmly posits her as femme fatale. Her sexuality is threatening to her phallocentric workplace, and it is shown to threaten jobs, sanity, and lives. So in this way, the killer and the cop are depicted as a match in their fatal sexualities. Both seem to cause all around them to go weak at the knees at the mere sight of them. And if either allows their sexuality to manifest, people suffer.
There is a turning point in episode 2/3 when Paul sees Stella on television, and his gaze objectifies her. She has ?accidentally let a button reveal her cleavage while giving a press conference on tv, and in doing so allows herself to be objectified by his male gaze. From that moment there is a shift. A scene soon after is edited to pair Stella’s body (no longer with Paul himself, but) with Paul’s victim. As Paul cleans and bathes a victim’s body, we see Stella in a swimsuit, diving into a pool, being similarly bathed. In these early episodes then, we have a tense conflict between gender roles in the crime genre. To begin with, we have females as victims, but also female as detective, hunter, and as sexually dominant. Then, as a strong female is subjected to objectification by the male political system in the police station, and by the violent male gaze on the other side of the television, this strong female becomes at risk of victimisation herself. I hope this tense, shifting relationship between perpetrator-victim, male-female, dominant-submissive continues through the series, as it is a fascinating exploration of both a certain kind of male criminality and of gender politics.