The Fall – Pilot

by deerinthexenonarclights

There is something alienated about The Fall, it always feels one step further removed from its events than a traditional British crime drama would – and I use that term intentionally, the show shot and set over the Irish Sea from most of those that you see coming from the BBC. We see this in the plot, which isn’t the simple crime and casework cliche that a synopsis would suggest but is instead a sort of investigation into an investigation; the protagonist brought in by the local police as internal oversight on a high-profile murder case that has stalled. That same synopsis would tell you that the show marks the return of Gillian Anderson to the sharp slacks of a power suit, but interestingly she isn’t actually the lead, at least not yet; here the cop takes a backseat to the killer.

In all of the press for the program Anderson has spoken about the adult nature of the material here, and one way in which it is adult is the fact that the lead is a sexually liberated woman. Initially I took this as a bit of bait for the fans who were a little too frenetic in their viewing of
The X-Files
but it turns out that it actually has some bearing on the show as a whole. This episode open the series with the first of multiple sequences showcasing a woman’s private preparations; here Anderson’s Superintendent preparing for a trip, for a fresh start by cleaning up her bathroom and herself. It’s an informative moment sure, showing us how overkempt her character is, but its not until later that you realise why its so long.

Throughout the pilot Director Jacob Verbruggen uses his camera almost as Powell did during the seminal Peeping Tom; its not just capturing the picture, its like the physicist says, its observation is Penetrative. The show seems so unsettling because through most of the pilot the camera it was shot on is, for lack of a better term, a pervert and thus we are too. The camera is constantly watching: watching women undress to their underwear, watching creeps break in to women’s houses to steal their underwear and then when it shakes and steps forward to later watch again it makes us wonder if it’s the creeps perspective that we’re seeing or simply that of the show’s camera, but either way we are where we shouldn’t be seeing what we shouldn’t see, either way we are the creep.

Its more than a stylistic decision though, this skewered sort of scoptophilia, since watching is so inherently important also to the script. As Anderson’s investigation is based solely on the work of other officers she is forced to sit and see the facts as shown in a stack of files and, since this is the modern day, we also get to watch her watch a video shoot of a crime scene, one featuring the nude corpse of a once attractive woman no less; stepping us back through another layer of sex and screens. This is not a trait that she alone displays though; the killer, who we also follow, shares her penchant for photos, for note taking and for the drawing up of precise plans only he gets off on his; there is then a meticulous psychology to the show.

Psychologically speaking the most disconcerting element of the show for me was the fact that we spend so much time with said sex-obsessed slaughterer: both because this means that the episode spends more time exploring the fetish than condemning it, but more so because he is thus the lead through whose eyes we see the world of the show and they are ofttimes empathetic eyes. A family man at home – father of two – and couples councillor in the office – a constant opportunity to observe women in a private state while staying safely removed – he is a frighteningly human figure and his flaw is one that we all share, albeit on a different scale. To an extent one can see the appeal in what he does, in watching, we are after all enjoying watching him do it are we not? Whatever the case I’ll be watching the rest of The Fall to see where the series goes from here, because it was a very intriguing start.