Making The Fall Season Two
Writer/director Allan Cubitt on keeping the body count low at an advance screening in Belfast
It has been a long time coming but The Fall is finally returning to our screens on November 13. Its five-episode first series concluded in June 2013 and, for its many admirers, the continuation of this meditative Belfast-set thriller cannot come quickly enough.
Drifting into view with little fanfare, this original series from BBC Northern Ireland emerged as one of the finest television dramas produced last year, garnering significant audience figures and critical acclaim throughout the UK.
Created by veteran writer/director Allan Cubitt, it features the brilliant Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, a steely Scotland Yard detective drafted in by the PSNI to investigate a string of serial murders, crimes committed by the unsettling, predatory counselor-cum-killer, Paul Spector.
In the latter role, Holywood actor Jamie Dornan displayed enough glowering intensity to secure a gig playing Christian Grey for director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Her adaptation of EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey – an inevitable box office heavyweight scheduled for release in Feburary 2015 – should gild Dornan’s name in the other Hollywood, but not before he has another crack at a man whose love of his own family competes with inner demons.
Picking up mere days after Spector’s unsuccessful attempt on the life of his latest victim, and a prematurely triumphant telephone conversation with Gibson, season two sticks with the brooding atmospherics that made the show so watchable first time around.
As Gibson’s coldly discerning eye looks at the few loose ends the killer has left behind – negotiating the politics of Northern Ireland policing along the way – Spector has cause to be uncomfortable in his remote Scottish hideaway.
In the wake of an advanced episode one screening at BBC Northern Ireland's Blackstaff Studios in Belfast, Cubitt sits down to discuss The Fall. Playing out over six episodes, the forthcoming series will allow itself time to breathe and develop, something best exemplified by the creator’s interesting decision to centre so much of the narrative on Spector’s home life.
A rounded character rather than a simple menace, this is a man with problems, domestic as well as psychological. His murderous actions constitute a separate, compartmentalised aspect of an existence which appears to lack focus beyond his dark compulsions, and Cubitt is clearly concerned with presenting this story in a nuanced way.
‘That was the premise from the start,’ he reveals. 'The idea that I was going to do something a bit different by identifying the perpetrator of the crime right from the very beginning. And it was always my idea that we would split the time roughly between periods with one character and periods with the other.’
While Cubitt is hardly the only writer to paint his villain in subtler shades, he does appear to be especially concerned with giving a voice to those families left behind. ‘I’ve revisited the grief of a co-victim,' he says.
'I don’t want to lose sight of the humanity of these individuals because clearly it’s part of any police investigation that people start to become just crime scene photographs, just faceless victims… These are people who are loved. These are sisters, daughters. The damage that Spector does by virtue of murdering them does damage to a wider group of people than you would tend to think of.’
Cubitt is quick, however, to shield his work from accusations that The Fall somehow glamourises misogyny. ‘I’ve defended it vigorously against that charge. I still maintain that there’s a restraint in The Fall. I could quote you endless TV programmes that are less restrained, that are more graphic, that have more gratuitous violence.’
If the tone of the show alone lends it a savage air, then its creator feels that he has accomplished his task. ‘I made the decision, early on, that the body count would be very low. I’m not attempting to diminish the impact of the violence… but you have more women dying in an episode of Midsomer Murders than you do in the whole of The Fall.’
Interestingly, the plot of the series concerns itself with a subject removed from Northern Ireland’s scarred past, a situation which marks The Fall as something of an oddity when so many other productions using the region as a setting cannot seem to escape that legacy.
Asked if there was a deliberate omission on his part to scrub the Troubles from the picture, Cubitt states that he will not deny what has gone before. ‘There is a history to this place that people carry with them,’ he says, but there was no conscious decision to move on. ‘All the characters have to have a believable history.’
In Cubitt’s view it would, of course, be ‘weird to decontextualise the drama, to not use that context. It bubbles through a little bit, yet it has been repeated to me, over and over again, that it is really refreshing to have a drama set here that isn’t about the Troubles.’
Now making his home in Belfast, Cubitt describes the city as ‘the best possible place to make drama'. He cites top-level crews and a deep pool of genuine local acting talent as decisive factors for sticking around. ‘It’s been the most positive experience of my entire career.’
The Fall, season two premieres on BBC Two at 9pm on November 13.