Season 2 of The Fall (on Netflix now) is just as intensely disturbed, tightly wound and unbearably suspenseful as the slow, creepy first season was. And if that first season was all about exploring the psychology of a serial killer, this second part of the saga is more procedural, as it goes about the painstaking, strictly by the book steps superintendent Stella Gibson (played by the powerhouse Gillian Anderson) must take to bring him down.
I wondered exactly how the series would continue, as the end of the first season saw Jamie Dornan's killer Paul Spector take off into the countryside after revealing himself (or at least his voice) to Stella in a direct phone conversation. This year things appeared to be off to an uncharacteristically rapid start, as Spector had left behind crucial evidence at his last crime scene, and a still surviving victim who, if regaining repressed memories after waking from her coma, could identify him positively. With all these pieces set to fall into place, Stella goes about putting the puzzle together quicker than anyone else, and before you know it, the police department has a suspect, and of course, we as the audience know it's the right one.
It's an interesting approach for a show to take, as we follow both Stella and Spector's perspectives here, because you'd think there would be very little suspense on the investigation's side, since we obviously know who the killer is and whether they're on the right track or not. But the question doesn't lie with whether they have the right guy, but what exactly Stella's thinking to do at any given moment. She tends to make all the right moves, but will she make a crucial mistake? Is this show still about the cat and mouse game, or is it now a procedural on how to track a serial killer once you know who it is. The constant tension and setup tricks you into thinking anything might be about to happen and you have no idea what- that in itself is reason enough to watch every episode on the edge of your seat.
A big part of that carefully wrought tension is of course, what Paul Spector himself is up to, whose activities we track each episode. Jamie Dornan still has that creepy and sociopathic look and behavior down pat- we have no idea what he's doing or what he's thinking, and just about every move he pulls is a total shock as you can't figure out what he's up to. He wanders back into Belfast, but why? He's creating some kind of false evidence plant, but for who to see it? He befriends and seduces Katie, the 15-year-old babysitter from last season, but there are clearly ulterior motives up the wazoo in that relationship, and above all he still wants to toy with and mentally get inside Stella's head. The cat and mouse aspect reappears in a fantastically acted interrogation in the final hour (the season is six episodes long) that has you clinging to your shirt in utter anticipation, but of what you're not exactly sure. Things might go just as planned, or end up in total chaos- that's the brilliance that comes from creator Allan Cubitt's mastery of pace, plotting and suspense. This is one fascinatingly complex series, and with an intricately inscrutable and capable female heroine in the lead, it's one of the best shows on television by far.