Spoiler-Free Review: The Fall starring Gillian Anderson & Jamie Dornan

Stella Gibson (Gillian Gibson) is a cop in a league of her own!
Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is a cop in a league of her own!

This show is brilliant, and really made me look at American television women in such a new and terrible light. I had seen an episode of “The Mysteries of Laura” and I know that I am comparing apples and oranges, but was really struck by the childishness and immaturity of women in their 40’s often seen in American TV and the Fall, Happy Valley, Broadchurch (these British shows) are such contrast.

We women live in a world in which we constantly have to think about our safety not only from Spector as the stranger lurking in the bushes stalking us we work on a computer in our home, but also from Spectors- the personal lying, manipulating, abusing us as he did to his wife, neighbor, grief patient, etc.

Obviously, Anderson’s Stella is simply incredible. My second favorite actress on the show? Olivia. Girl is adorable and a straight up talented actress. 

Various comments from Slate readers

Man f*cks woman. Subject: man; verb: f*cks; object: woman. That’s OK. Woman f*cks man. Woman: subject; man: object. That’s not so comfortable for you, is it?

The media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores. Let’s not encourage them.

 -Some of my fave lines (from Stella)

Do you love cop shows, but want something w/ a different perspective?  Do you love well-developed, multi-dimensional characters, especially strong women?  Then, you need to check out this psychological thriller (on Netflix) ASAP!  This show is NOT for everyone!  If SVU scares you, avoid this show.  The Fall contains some (troubling) images/scenes that will linger in your mind for days. 

Jim (John Lynch) & Stella have a complicated relationship.
Jim (John Lynch) & Stella have a complicated relationship.

Metropolitan Police Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) from London is flown to Belfast, Ireland (by a former colleague, ACC Jim Burns) to investigate why a certain murder case is taking longer than 28 days.  She dresses in silk blouses and black skirts (not like a man) using her brains AND beauty.  While Stella is going over routine paperwork and interviewing local detectives, a similar murder occurs.  The victim is a tall, brunette, professional single woman in her early 30s.  Rumors fly in the media that a serial killer is on the loose, and Stella springs into action. 

Dr. Reed Smith (Archie Panjabi) & Stella share convo/drinks.

Archie Panjabi left ABC’s The Good Wife (which garnered her fame/awards) to play a supporting role on The Fall.  Yes, it’s THAT good!  Almost all of supporting characters are  quite strong, and we learn something about each as the eps go on.  There is eager/brave Officer Harrington, partners McNally and Martin, and the (female) victims, among others. 

Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) takes a selfie.

As for that Fifty Shades guy, well, he’s a VERY fine actor, too (I was surprised to discover).  Jamie Dornan plays Paul Spector, loving family man by day, serial killer by night.  That’s NOT a spoiler- we know who the baddie is from the pilot ep!  Paul is a hubby, dad to two young kids (Olivia and Liam), and a bereavement counselor working w/ the government.  The viewer sees two sides of the story- very unusual in cop shows (Law & Order: Criminal Intent did that a bit).  Paul truly lives two lives, fooling people closest to him while carrying no guilt.  At one point, I was reminded of the monologues that Shakespeare wrote for his more compelling villains- Edmund, Iago, etc.  Those speeches (directed to the audience) makes viewers into (unwilling) co-conspirators.   

From the Terrace (1960)


Alcoholism, dysfunctional families, romance, infidelity (w/ its gendered double-standards), and America’s obsession w/ money and power are  the main themes in this (ahead of it’s time) melodrama.  I watched it last night (on Netflix); of course, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (who were married for 2 years at that time) were the draw.  Wow, if you want to see some HOT onscreen chemistry, check out their scenes together (first half of the film)!  As for Newman, he’s the definition of Hollywood’s total package (looks, presence, talent, the ability to be both humorous and serious, etc.) 


In 1946, Aflred Eaton (Newman) returns to suburban Philly after serving in the Navy (WWII) to the loving arms of… his household staff.  His parents checked out long ago.  His father (Leon James) puts all his heart into his steel mill and mourning someone who will never return.  His mother (Myrna Loy) has turned to alcohol and another man.  A private nurse lives with her- a great shock to Alfred.  As his best pal, Alex Porter (a young and dapper George Grizzard), says he “needs to get out of that house” and their expectations.  Like many young folks, Alfred heads to NYC.

In a few months time, Alfred falls in love with Mary St. John (platinum-haired Woodward), a blue blood from Delaware.  She is engaged to another man and her parents would not approve of Alfred’s “qualifications,” Alex quickly explains.  “There are all types of qualifications,” Alfred slyly retorts.  After winning Mary’s hand, he starts working with Alex on designing/selling small planes on Long Island, but grows tired of being left out of the decision-making.  (The business was financed by the Porter family.)  An accident of chance propels Alfred into the society, then business, of one of the wealthiest financiers on the East Coast.  Alfred throws himself into his work, repeating his father’s mistake, and neglects Mary (not content to sit at home alone in their fancy Manhattan apartment). 

The Catered Affair (1956)

This is a great little movie filled with real life heartache and genuine emotion. Bette Davis gives a strong performance as the matriarch of the family determined to give her only daughter a proper wedding even though the family can’t afford to do so.  Ernest Borgnine is perfectly cast as the slovenly, hard working taxi cab driver.  In fact, everyone is up to par in this film, but it’s the real life situations that tug at your heart strings.  IMDB review


The trick is not to become somebody else.  You become somebody else when you’re in front of a camera or when you’re on stage.  There are some people who carry it all the time.  That, to me, is not acting.  What you’ve gotta do is find out what the writer wrote about and put it into your mind.  -Ernest Borgnine on his method of acting

I watched this film, written by Paddy Chayefsky (Marty), last weekend w/ my parents; they had seen it before and really liked it.  It took me a FEW minutes to realize that the mother was Bette Davis- LOL!  She is totally transformed; they gave her a “make-under,” as we’d say today.  Tom (Borgnine) and Agnes Hurley (Davis) are working-class/devout Irish-Catholics living in a small apartment in the Bronx with a daughter, son, and Agnes’ older brother.  Tom, a taxi driver, has been saving money for many years to buy a cab and license (medallions don’t come cheap nowadays either).  They both become concerned when their eldest child, daughter Jane (Debbie Reynolds in an early role), announces that she’s getting married to her long-time beau, a teacher- Ralph (Rod Taylor). 


Jane, who has an office job, insists that she wants a very small wedding and no reception.  Agnes thinks that’s not good enough, lamenting to Tom: “We never did anything for that girl!”  Agnes knows what she missed out on, and now wants those experiences for her daughter.  In no time, Jane’s wedding planning gets out of hand, thanks to the wishes of Agnes and Ralph’s parents (who are more better off financially).   Jane tells Ralph she doesn’t want to end up like her parents.  We learn more about the Hurleys (strained/seemingly loveless) marriage.  Agnes awkwardly tells Jane that marriage is not like dating; there will be sacrifices and compromises (mostly made by women).