“The Fall” & “Grantchester” – The UK Strikes Again!

The Fall-posterGrantchester-posterI had planned to include The Fall in my recent recap of the best (in my opinion) TV shows of 2014, but decided not to when I found that we’d watched the first season in September 2013 instead of sometime last year, as I’d initially thought. The second season began streaming on Netflix this January, so I thought it was out of bounds. I hadn’t heard of Grantchester until just before it starting airing last month on Masterpiece Mystery following Downton Abbey on Sundays. Both series are so good that rather than wait, I want to write briefly about them now.

The Fall (BBC Two, Netflix)  This series was written entirely by Allan Cubitt, who also directed all six episodes of the second season; Jakob Verbruggen directed the five epsiodes of the first season. Yes, it’s another cop show with yet another serial killer of women at the center of the plot, but this one is rather different, it seems to me. Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is assigned to the Police Service of Northern Ireland to evaluate a murder investigation that is still open after 28 days. When it becomes apparent a serial killer is involved, she stays on to oversee the operation. We see the killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), almost immediately. Each episode alternates scenes of Spector with scenes of Stella; almost equal time is given to both. I like police procedurals, but The Fall is also a kind of serial-killer procedural, which puts us uncomfortably close to this guy.

As Spector, Jamie Dornan is intensely methodical, precise, controlled, and focused almost like a machine, rarely showing emotion. We see him at his day job as a bereavement counselor, which he seems to be very good at, and very empathetic. This is quite disturbing considering his night work as a serial killer, at which he’s also very good. Jamie Dornan, a former Calvin Klein model, is authentically frightening in the role. He’s about to gain a much bigger profile after the much-hyped Fifty Shades of Grey opens, in which he plays the male lead.

Jamie Dornan - "The Fall"

Jamie Dornan – “The Fall”

Fifty Shades of Grey-poster







Gillian Anderson is outstanding as Stella Gibson, a cop every bit as focused as Paul Spector. Stella is a layered character with demons of her own. Anderson is best known for her role as FBI agent Dana Scully on The X-Files, which she played for nine years from 1993 to 2002. The Fall also features Archie Panjabi as pathologist Dr. Paula Smith. I’ve known her mainly as Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife, so it was great to see her in another guise.

Here’s Stella in action as she’s being questioned about her dalliance with a police sergeant on the force. This is from season one.

There’s talk of a third season, which seems inevitable considering how well The Fall has been received both here and in the UK. It will be interesting to see where it goes.


Grantchester (ITV, PBS)  What got our attention when we started seeing Masterpiece Mystery promos for this series was that James Norton was in the cast. He was still fresh in our minds for his committed performance as the villain in Happy Valley, one of my favorite shows from last year. His character in that series, Tommy Lee Royce, was as threatening and disturbing as Paul Spector was in The Fall. Here he plays an Anglican vicar in the village of Grantchester, near Cambridge in England, in the early 1950s. There was no period of adjustment; we immediately accepted him in this radically different role.

©ITV All images are Copyright of LOVELY DAY PRODUCTION and Pictures can only be used in relation to GRANTCHESTER 2014. For more info please contact patrick.smith@itv.com or call 0207157 3044Based on novels by James Runcie, the series follows a vicar, Sidney Chambers, as he goes about his life in the community, and manages to help solve murders along the way. He forms an alliance with an initially reluctant local policeman, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating. Keating is played by Robson Green, who was in Touching Evil (1997-1999) and A Wire in the Blood (2002-2008), two British series I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He and Norton have great chemistry and their characters make a good team.

We’ve only seen four of the six episodes in this season of Grantchester, but so far it’s been excellent, very easygoing and a pleasure to watch. The mysteries often don’t seem any more important than the problems and challenges Sydney is having in his personal life. For example, the woman he’s in love with has announced her pending marriage to another man. And while it might not seem credible that Sydney would encounter a murder one week after the next, it doesn’t really matter; that’s what the show is, and I gladly accept it. While it doesn’t have the noirish, hardboiled edge I usually look for in these things, Grantchester nonetheless plays for keeps. A second season has been announced.


Both seasons of The Fall can be streamed via Netflix. Grantchester is currently airing on Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday nights following Downton Abbey. — Ted Hicks

About Ted Hicks

Iowa farm boy; have lived in NYC for 40 years; worked in motion picture labs, film/video distribution, subtitling, media-awards program; obsessive film-goer all my life.
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4 Responses to “The Fall” & “Grantchester” – The UK Strikes Again!

  1. Tom Thel says:

    Films etc is turning into my goto source for ideas on how to elevate my TV watching. I can’t figure out how you find the time to watch so many programs, edit out the ones that don’t meet your standards and comment upon the rest. In general, my assumption when reading your columns is that your reviews are going to be positive because you’re writing about what you like with no energy dissipated in being cleverly snarky about what you don’t like. As I read you, I feel like I’m listening to the talk of an enthusiastic friend who has done a lot of winnowing for me.

    I’m finding your writing very entertaining and, perhaps more importantly, very useful.

  2. Chris White says:

    I have so much TV to catch up on so your reviews are useful. Just finished watching Call an box set and Poi rot (David Suchet). Now Grantchester looks like a must see!
    All the very best.

  3. Pingback: What I Watched Last Year: Best TV 2015 | Films etc.

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