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Friday, February 03, 2023

'The Fall' continues with less-impactful third Netflix season

“The Fall” is an intriguing series that keeps a low profile, but is one of Netflix’s hidden gems. The British psychological thriller’s third season, or as the Brits say, “series,” was released as a Netflix Original October 29 after being released a month earlier on the UK’s BBC. The series tracks police on an animalistic hunt for the “Belfast Strangler,” led with ruthless determination by British police import, Detective Superintendent Stella Gipson. Unlike other criminal mysteries, we know who the serial killer is from the very beginning.

The woman-targeting killer, Paul Spector, played with disconcerting finesse by Jamie Dornan, hides in plain site ironically as a marriage counselor with a wife and two kids in a suburban home. Gillian Anderson is captivating as the icy, but flawed Detective Gipson. Gipson is dead set on catching Spector to the point of rampant obsession. She becomes fixated, not with the convoluted case, but with Spector himself.

Spector has threatened to make Gipson his next female victim, calling her personal cell phone and visiting her hotel room to invade her space and mark his territory. This season, Gipson is plagued by dreams of Spector seducing and killing her. The case begins to invade her personal life and swallow it whole. The new season also invests in the repercussions of those who loved Spector, a man who cannot love back. His family falls apart from the irreparable betrayal, realizing the man they thought they knew and loved was an act. The babysitter suffers from a strange Stockholm syndrome effect after realizing her employer was a merciless killer, yet expresses devotion and love for him and acts out because of it.

This season delves into Spector’s past before he was a killer: How he became a killer, his origin story and what truly makes a killer. The premise is fascinating, following the bond that forms between detective and killer that is deeper and more squeamishly personal than comfortable. Their obsessive hatred becomes more profoundly rooted into each of their beings. As the story evolves, the relationship heightens as Spector and Gipson dance around each other, knowing their fates are inevitably connected. Spector’s contradictory existence as subdued suburban father and alarming violent sociopath is expertly channeled by Dornan. Every subtle twitch hints at his monstrous brutality barely contained within his humane appearance. His vacant face progresses to look like an empty mask as the show unravels.

Unfortunately, “The Fall” had such a strong first and second season that the newest season pales in comparison. Acting as a potential finisher of the series, this season that may be the series’ last does not appropriately end such an absorbing narrative. The new season feels a bit like a cop-out, a rut halting the momentum the series once carried. The ending is shocking and implosive, collapsing a narrative that had the potential to end masterfully. Despite a strong first and second season, “The Fall’s” third season just didn’t land.

Even with “The Fall’s” shortcomings in the newest season, it is an enthralling series still worth experiencing. It serves as an in depth exploration on the darkness of humanity and the unexplainable obsessions everyone carries within them. Spector’s voyeuristic and perverse habits challenge the characteristics of mankind. Spector believes that everyone has suppressed darkness inside them and that he is an existential being living truthfully. Gipson is presented as the protagonist, yet the show calls attention to an eerily parallel predator-prey relationship between them. Just as Spector hunts his victims, Gipson obsessively hunts Spector. Spector explains “there is a visible and an invisible world. That’s how people get hurt.” Whether looking through a private window, a crime scene or surveillance tapes, it dares to question why humans are primitively captivated by violence, including us viewers watching the show.

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