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The Fall: These Troublesome Disguises

"Once upon a time, this worked for me. You snap the band on your wrist when your thoughts and feelings overwhelm you."

I may need a rubber band on my wrist if The Fall gets any more overwhelming this season because who am I kidding, of course it will. Based on 'These Troublesome Disguises', it will gather its own kind of steam, uniquely painstakingly slowly, taking the time to give just the amount of space each breathtaking tense moment or grief-filled ache requires. This is a show where not a single second is not considered a chance to communicate the anguish, the precariousness, the crushing weight of our exacting human nature. And Allan Cubitt, the show's creator, is more confident and relaxed than ever that he can deliver to us this special little series, a watery reflection on remorse.

On one hand, there is the wake, both deeper and wider now, of people affected by Paul's actions, continuing to be highlighted to the brink of unpalatable sadness. Annie snapping her wrist in the fetal position well into the episode, having not given up on any possible thread of survival that someone would show her (in this case Stella), comes to mind. Paul's daughter calling him about her dollies in the middle of the night also on the razor's edge of intolerable to behold. The revelation that Rose's husband was the boyfriend she was with when the incident with 'Peter' occurred and they don't even regularly sleep in the same bed at this stage is just shy of being beyond the pale to take in and hold as a viewer. And inside whatever is the root of that is also Paul.

Paul. Who's the extreme of how the very absence of remorse is almost more harmful than an overt intention to harm. Paul, who is at once a father and unreachable, incapable of feeling but capable of hearing the plea in his daughter's voice for her Barbies. But not before he uses them like tiny mannequins and ties one up with tiny string to fashion himself a bedfellow for the night.

I've said it before but there are images and concepts presented in this show the likes of which I've never seen before, or could have ever imagined I would ever see. At the end of each episode, we're left to reconcile these things in some way. And they're not alarming or over the top. They don't propel the viewer into suspension of disbelief. They're not astonishing, they don't leave us thunderstruck. They creep up and sit just beyond our vision but not past our periphery.

The Devil is in the Details:

* The visual storytelling has gone from nuanced and great to mouthwateringly gorgeous this season. My favorite moments were Paul carrying the Barbies by their ankles, Annie's bed -- when the camera pans up from the coils as if to say the trauma in here is now caught in this complex mechanism and Stella picking up the crime scene tents like breadcrumbs.

* Speaking of stairs, Stella’s and Paul’s movements are synced up more than ever. At one point, they are going up stairs, one on top of the other.

* The scene in the bathroom with Ferrington was such a boon. It was unexpected, for one, because Stella chose to disclose something vulnerable about the reasons she took Ferrington off the streets in the first place. More than that, it was a gift that Stella gave her, because in a few simple sentences, she has the opportunity to internalize the how things are so rarely personal.

* Great to see Archie Punjabi again. I know I've said this before, too, but this show does a bang up job with interactions between women.

* The score is just so very pretty. David Holmes enhances this show exponentially.

* Netflix previously gave this episode's title as 'Walk the Line'.


Annie: “I know it's hard for everyone because I look the same. The same as I did before. But I'm not the same.”

Stella: "Thought I should look as unfeminine as possible, given this morning's Chronicle."
Jim: "It hasn't worked."


  1. Really excited to see more reviews for this brilliant but underrated gem. I was fortunate enough to see it in it's original television run and have been meaning to rewatch at some point. I really loved this opener. Gillian and Jamie are just sublime in their roles and the second season is such a bubbling over point for the whole thing. Great review Heather, look forward to seeing your thoughts on the rest of season 2!

  2. Yes, what Carey said! It is an outstanding show and thanks so much for taking on season two, Heather. Terrific review.

  3. Carey and Billie,
    It's my pleasure! And I'm so happy there's enthusiasm for Season 2!

  4. I'm looking forward to reading your reflections on this season, Heather. I watched it back in January and I don't remember a lot about the particulars of individual episodes, so I may not comment much. Unfortunately, this is another one of the shows you cover that I can't bear to watch more than once. It is a great and affecting show, with fantastic performances, but it upsets me at such a primal level that I can't bear witness again. As you say, what gets to you as a viewer with this one isn't the same type of overt visual horror that you get with a Hannibal. It is the psychological elements, realized through attention to very specific and realistic details (process and emotional), that creep in and sit with you. Then after perking along in the background for a bit, they tend to explode with devastating impact.

  5. Jess,
    I'm with you. I can only dip my toe into a deeper analysis of this show. My reviews of each episode are very brief, especially for me. :)


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