This essay-review contains a great deal of spoilers.
This is the face of a man that will soon be in many fantasies as Christian Gray but that is nothing compared to the character of Paul Spector – a fascinating serial killer who will remain a perfect mystery. Spector is a hunter, as it was implied even before the series began, and his impact as a killer has been fascinating to witness and far more brilliant than I expected.
When we first encounter Paul Spector we know very little of his intentions. Yes, he is a family man with two kids and a caring wife, yes, he kills women by strangling but who is Paul? When many US crime shows like to analyze the killer before we even meet them, or lay out all the facts while introducing him to the viewers, Paul is left a mystery and that’s what makes him so fascinating. His past is not laid out in front of us, his ideas and intentions aren’t clear and even his preference towards brunettes is only fully revealed in the season 2 finale. Paul, as far as I know, remained a complete mystery until the very end.
As the consequences of the first season are the driving force of the second, it makes sense that Stella Gibson is slowly catching up to Paul and his crimes. No messing about, no weird mistakes on the behalf of Stella and since the natural progression of The Fall is nothing like those horrid US shows where they drag things out too long, Paul Spector is named the prime suspect. Surveillance is put on everybody involved, the wife and the young babysitter who has developed a mad crush on Paul. Soon they even have eyes on Paul himself and it is only a matter of time before the arrest is made by a newly added Tom Anderson (Colin Morgan).
Then, as I shiver with anticipation, things go from great to amazing within 2 hours of pure entertainment. The last two episodes expose what has been hidden under the surface all along. We witness Katie (Aisling Franciosi), the babysitter defending Paul despite of everything that is thrown at her. While there where indications that it was just a game for her at the beginning, she clearly has passed the state of crush into a state of addiction. She sticks by him, loving him no matter what. Though this relationship in its core is interesting, the performance by Franciosi just feels tad short of amazing but who can blame her, next to Dornan and Anderson, anybody can look weak. Because with Paul and Stella, Dornan and Anderson create a connection that is unexplained to the final seconds of the finale and the tension between them is almost unbearable. We already know that Paul is fascinated by Stella, he shows us that by breaking into her hotel room and going through her things similar to his actions before the committed crimes. He reads her diary and by that moment knows more about her than we which, in turn, makes their relationship even more interesting. But while Paul’s affection of her is made clear, Stella’s towards Paul are conflicted.
Anderson delivers a strong female character throughout the first season but by the second we see a weakness – men. Though it is at first shown as simply a manly trait of hers, where she uses men like men have been using women, it is clear that it is her addiction. She sleeps with men not because she wants them but because she uses them. The men in her life, past and present, find that irritating as proven by her ex lover who forces himself onto her. She refuses because she makes the first move, she hunts them down, she gets to make the decision and not them. So as Stella hunts for Paul, that need to dominate over him seems to be mixed with sexual tension.
Now comes the confusion that throws everything out of balance – Stella hints at Tom being similar to Paul. Nobody can deny that the physical similarity is there and later, and as the two stand side by side, Stella is for certain observing their likeness of stance and appearance. Tom, who Stella obviously slept with, asks for an explanation in regards to her comment and whether she meant it because it would indicate her sleeping with Paul. She denies it, stating that women fear that men would kill them but it is not clear if she means it to be true with herself.
The final scene stirs the situation even more. When Tom and Paul get shot, Stella runs to Paul and yells for help. She tries to stop the bleeding, while bleeding for help herself. Paul stays calm, bleeding and looking at Stella while she fears to loose him. The blood rushes out of his abdomen and he simply stares at her almost as if he has won. While the action of saving him for a fair trial might be a possibility to explain Stella’s behavior, I believe her intentions remain a mystery. For me, Anderson complicates it by delivering a panic-like Stella in this final scene instead of her usual self, calculated, logical and cold against men in particular. Up until this moment, Stella has shown weakness only towards women, compassion towards female victims, cried over a girl’s confession and all while being stoic and reserved with men. Why show weakness towards Paul?
Paul Spector, who so far hadn’t really expressed his feelings and emotions, reveals a side of him to Stella before the previously described events take place in the finale. He, after days of silence, opens up to Stella and confesses to his murders. He talks about hating everything around him, including himself, and that the act of killing gives him a god like state of mind where every touch is almost cosmic. And yet, Paul feels protective against children, especially his own daughter. The way he speaks and stares, towards Stella (scene placement and camera angle here is crucial), he seems almost compelling. And while Stella listens and keeps pushing him further, he looks dangerous and I wondered, in that very moment, how rare are these moments in TV these days? Everything is rushed and in popular crime shows interrogation has the least screen time and is there just for the show. In The Fall, the interrogation is the most important part because it reveals the most and up until that moment, we knew so little about Paul.
By the end, since it is still not clear whether The Fall will continue with season 3, we are left with Paul dying and Stella screaming for help. It is a moment where these two hunters are at their weakest and in a way, that is most likely the perfect way to end an amazing show. To strip away strength and power from not just one, but both leading characters – the killer and the detective. To leave us wondering whether Stella meant what she said by not wanting Paul, and to keep contemplating how he had taken a woman, so strong and powerful, and made her beg for help to save a killer of women. Part of me wants to know but part of me loves the feeling of unknowing because witnessing the fall of Paul Spector was a perfect experience that shouldn’t be tampered with any further.1