Just look at that coral lipstick. Those shoulder pads. That aggrieved coolness. I still have my Scully doll sitting on my nightstand.
I spent my childhood Sunday nights staying up late and braving the inevitable nightmares to watch Mulder and Scully track down creepy aliens on the X-files.
These days, when Gillian Andersen shows up in anything, I’m pretty much there, so when The Fall debuted on Netflix, it was a tantalizing binge session.
Well, if the X-files terrified child me, this is the stuff of adult nightmares.
The murdering is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE, SCULLY!
Andersen plays your standard hotshit/troubled detective chasing down a run of the mill sexual-fetish serial killer. What makes The Fall so absorbingly cringe-y is the weird intimacy you get with Andersen’s Detective Stella Gibson and serial killer Paul Spectre (Jamie Dornan).
The show balances on an uncomfortable voyeuristic tension. Stella, for instance, is constantly changing clothes. You see her in her nightie, in her bra, all nonchalant-at-home mode.
There’s a crucially anxious moment where her blouse is partially unbuttoned during a press conference, and the camera keeps closing in on it. In a show about your standard sexual-fetish serial killer, what’s the deal with sexualizing the female detective? We don’t know. But were pretty fascinated, and this is the closest we’ll get to see Scully porn, so ok. No need to apologize, Netflix.
Here’s the creepy part: Spectre’s choice of victims are what every girl out of college aspires to be: smart, sharp, and powerful. Spectre forces submission on women he deems independent and successful.
Sound familiar? Well, good news. This show is far less terrible than any 50 Shades of Bullshit. And it still has good ol’ Dorner in it.
Through it all, Scully-turned-Stella keeps her supreme cool. Spectre doesn’t cause her to question herself. Stella sits as his foil, unapologetic and unafraid. (You go, Scully.)
What’s nice is that The Fall isn’t simply sexualizing Stella. Turn that idea on its head. It’s deliberately showing that, while she is a power B, she isn’t sexless.
Yes, she takes a young cop to bed. Is that a problem? Not for our girl. Some sick dominator who thinks murder is an art project aint gun’ shake Scully’s sense of self. The dilemma is never about this woman’s intimate life. It’s about creeps who think they can violate that intimacy.
Sure, Stella is a flawed character, and the feminism angle can be ham-fisted (an eyeroll-inducing conversation about “sweet nights” among the Mosuo people comes to mind). But the fact remains that, in a show about fetishistic violence, the main detective is blatantly comfortable with her own sexual identity. That’s cool. That’s something new.
There’s no Madonna or whore thing in The Fall. The show doesn’t give us that boring softly-spoken “hey, maybe she kind of deserved it” message. It doesn’t paint Stella as a sacrificial lamb. Stella scoffs at that shit. With her professional resolve, she shows us that violence isn’t about deserving or not deserving. Murderers are creeps. And not the bizarre alien kind.
Photos BBC / Artists Studio/Steffan Hill