Spoilers, insofar as anything happened which is worth spoiling. Your mileage may vary.
And so we’re back with one of my recurring themes, British Dramas Which Run Out Of Steam. Season 1 of The Fall was genuinely sharp and disturbing, even if its sexual politics were unashamedly informed by the philosophy of both having and eating cake. Season 2 wasn’t anything like as good, but at least met the benchmark of being a standard procedural.
Season 3, though, was remarkable for how little happened, even by the standards of UK television drama. Whole episodes blew by like driftweed, with almost nothing going on, apart from Stella whispering and Paul – a dangerous sexual predator and multiple killer, remember – being shunted around a number of remarkably low-security institutions, while the show tried to make us care about whether he was feigning amnesia. (Although at least once he was moved to that somewhat laissez-faire psychiatric facility he was no longer in the same hospital ward as his last victim.)
Even worse, The Fall made the Broadchurch mistake of critiquing the dramatic devices used in the unorthodox investigation which had been the whole point of its preceding episodes. So the scene near the end of the second season, in which Stella and Paul finally sat down together for the long-awaited interrogation, wasn’t The Fall’s money shot, but was instead a highly irregular method of coercing/seducing a confession out of a suspect. Well, yeah. That’s what TV police dramas do. They’re not documentaries. Seriously, I’m not that stupid, and I rather resent being treated as if I am.
As it happens, the very best things in season 3 – by a mile – were Richard Coyle’s delectable cameos as an ER doctor, and the very best scene was the one in this final episode in which he and Gillian Anderson fenced gently as she lay in a hospital bed. Coyle improves shows just by being in them; even he couldn’t save this, though. What we got wasn’t anything like enough to fill six episodes: possible amnesia, definite child abuse, some whispering; and, after five episodes, two outbreaks – because the first one wasn’t enough of a warning that security might need to be, uh, enhanced a bit – of Spectoresque violence. We can now all stop pretending that The Fall is exceptional TV drama. It really isn’t.