“The Fall” recap (2.1): Why grown men shouldn’t play with dollies

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Welcome to your new AfterEllen recaps of The Fall, a.k.a. How to Get Away With Staring at Gillian Anderson’s Face for an Hour…And Get Paid for It. When last we saw DS Stella Gibson she was on the phone with the very creepy Paul Spector. Our mild-mannered bereavement counselor by day and brutal murderer of women by night had called Stella on her personal mobile (pro tip: never give your digits to a serial killer) to talk about how alike they were. But she dropped a truth bomb on him about his impotence, garden-variety misogyny and pitch-perfect profile of the kind of man he actually is. Then he drove off with his family vowing to stop. But, come on, we wouldn’t have a second season if he did.

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The new season opens with Stella in the hospital room of the latest victim, Annie Brawley. She is also the only victim Paul has left alive, albeit accidentally.

I say her full name because 1) It’s important to remember the names of even fictitious murder victims lest we lump them all into the dead woman in refrigerator category of plot device, and 2) The killer kills very similar looking, young, white, brunette professional women who are hard to tell apart, which makes me feel bad because of point No. 1.

Stella is interviewing Annie, who doesn’t remember much. If there’s a problem with Gillian’s British accent I can’t detect it and won’t believe you even if you try to convince me. But don’t try, because it’s ever so much more fun just to listen to her. Fun, of course, is a relative term because she is talking about a brutal assault and attempted murder.

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The measured nature of Gillian Anderson’s voice is calm, calculated. Her tone perfectly matches the pacing of the series. Slow, yet riveting.

She pushes Annie to remember details about her attacker, but not in a pushy way. Everything about Stella is matter of fact. She does what she needs to, she does what she wants to, she does what will help solve the case. And she isn’t taking any of your bullshit. But when Annie hits a roadblock with even the most basic memories of that terrible night–her brother was killed during the attack, too, after all–Stella changes course.

She stands up, walks over to Annie wordlessly and takes her braid into her hand – removing her hair tie. A confused Annie inquires, and Stella tells her, “Once upon a time, this worked for me.” She puts the elastic band around Annie’s wrist and tells her to snap it when she gets overwhelmed. Tenderness isn’t all about hugs and warm blankets, it’s also sometimes about honesty.

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We’re left to the sound of the band snapping and snapping as we fade out to the credits. Yeah, she’s going to want to stock up on those in bulk at Tesco.

As reassuring as Stella is is as creepy as Paul is being. He is playing the piano in that unnerving one-note at a time staccato that screams “I like stalking and killing women as a hobby.” Maybe that’s why his wife took the kids and left him in the Scottish countryside.

He and his beard have resorted to drink in the absence of stalking and strangling women to fill his days. But he hasn’t lost that dead-eyed puppy dog stare. Take a close look, straight ladies, this is your dreamy Christian Grey.

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I think what makes Paul Spector even more creeptastic is the fact that he is the father of two small children, especially his little girl Olivia whom he dotes on. It’s her on the phone (p.s. This show even manages to make a ringing iPhone ominous) asking about her “dollies” which she has left when her mom obviously packed them up and left in a hurry. Asking a serial killer of women to look for dolls of women. Yep, this show is the nightmare factory of your dreams.

Hey, speaking of nightmares, when next we see Stella she is standing in front of the darkened and under construction flat of the last victim. The neighborhood is dark and dodgy, to say the least. So naturally she walks in by herself and leaves the front door open. The new season isn’t even 15 minutes old and it’s determined to give me heart palpitations.

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She wanders up the stairs in the townhouse, picking up evidence tags at random. The scene is intercut with Paul going up his stairs and finding the dollies. Yeah, they’re just naked Barbie dolls. Guess which one he singles out? If you said the brunette you’re probably as skeeved out as I am by this dude.

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