My Netflix Addiction: The Fall

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by Grim Shea 03/16/2014

Welcome to the inaugural column of My Netflix Addiction. If you don’t have a Netflix streaming account and/or if you’ve never stayed up past four in the morning on a Tuesday in front of your laptop watching consecutive episodes of a show that you’d otherwise channel-surf right past, then you don’t truly know the bitter and consuming joy of a Netflix addiction. However, if instead you are the type who gets excited whenever you see those white marquee letters pop out from the bright red background screen while the iPad app is loading, or if you’ve ever not given a Pixar movie a rating simply because that might emasculate your Recommended lists forever, or if you’ve ever spent more time browsing the New Releases list than you eventually spent watching a movie that was in your Queue since last winter anyway, or if you even understood any part of this sentence, then we are kindred spirits. In that spirit, this platform is to share with you what I’ve recently been watching — often compulsively — on what I like to affectionately call “the ‘Flix.” Consider me a taster at the great Netlix buffet, doing a little critiquing between shameless gorging, all while reminding you that even if we’re powerless against our addiction, then at least we’re in this together.

My most recent Netflix addiction is The Fall, a BBC import with just one full season in the Netflix library. Which, what with this being a UK show, means just five sixty-minute episodes. Yup, not even the usual six. So the good news is that if you’re a casual ‘Flixer you can realistically get through it pretty quickly, and if you’re a bit more to the compulsive-binger side of the spectrum then this single season (which is the only one even in existence right now) will barely keep you awake past 2 am on a work night. Unfortunately, it is not a miniseries; despite some decent story payoff as you go, there IS a cliffhanger finale which hints at an even stronger second seas- er, I mean “series” (cheers, mate!) to come.

This is great suspense television, period. It moves at its own pace, which is never too fast and only sometimes too slow, it doesn’t rely on violence or sex, though it does include a bit of both, and every single character is actually believable. I’d been in the market for a mystery series (I think because the way HBO has been drip-feeding us True Detective was starting to feel like an overly-strict methadone prescription) and then I read an article in The New Yorker where True Detective was compared to this show. Boom!, I thought, there you go: pretentious recommendation and available right here on the precious ‘Flix. Hit play.

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Dude, you look more conspicuous than you think…

Okay, so The Fall isn’t really a mystery. It turns out we see the killer right away. Like, right away. This is not a spoiler. The opening credits are still on the screen. In fact, he remains one of the two main characters, and not just when he’s killing but his whole day to day life. Though not like in a Dexter-deep-down-a-good-guy-with-an-inner-monologue-and-Christ-I-mean-he’s-the-star-of-the-goddamned-show-so-let’s-all-just-root-for-him sense; he’s not a good guy and nothing in this show is that lazy. His story aside, the real headliner is Gillian Anderson. Yes, Agent Scully. But she ain’t Scully here, brother, oh no! — here she is Stella Gibson, hotshot police inspector chief detective whatever, brought into Belfast from London to handle some sensitive high profile cop show exposition cliche, but she is seriously an amazing character and in frighteningly good hands with Anderson. No joke, her blood runs so cold that it literally gives her a British accent! The whole story is a fascinating glimpse of these two equally cunning predators wedged into a world full of sheep more than it is some tedious cat-and-mouse game. They don’t even speak to each other until the last episode, and they have yet to meet face to face, but damn this is a good five-hour ride!

The Fall works at a steady medium burn so it really doesn’t need the dark humor of Breaking Bad nor the awkward vulnerability of The Wire to get you invested in the characters. Of course maybe in Northern Ireland viewers can find some relative lightheartedness in the show, but Stateside it’s pretty fair to call it deadly serious and straightforward, as in you seriously will not laugh once. The flipside of that approach is that it also doesn’t feel obligated to throw any crazy get-up-from-the-couch-and-yell-at-the-TV endings at you every episode. As much as I like yelling at the TV I also appreciate that sort of even consistency, but as far as binge watching goes it might not hook you in the same way that other well produced suspense series would. Chalk that up to the Britishness of it maybe, but still it works without disrespecting the viewer, and what it lacks in sizzle it makes up for with unwavering focus. Hell, it’s only five bloody hours!

Also worth mentioning, this show is a great example of how to write believable and dynamic female roles whose gender still play significantly into the story. Seriously, they make it look so easy I didn’t even realize that it was an almost entirely female cast until the last episode. Then again, that comes down a lot to how they handle focus and so forth (a surprising number of men get killed off in a show about a serial killer who preys on women), but it still strikes me as a skill to be able to have women acting like real women without drawing attention to the fact that they are explicitly acting like “real women.” Furthermore, {{TWO CENTS ALERT!!}} if the growing cultural debate on misrepresentation of women in Hollywood has led to conscious attempts at genuine female characters then that was a great start, but not having to underline that facet as a selling point is an actual sign of progress.

So, in fact, just forget I even brought it up.

To sum up: good production values, excellent writing, great characters with great performances, very heavy yet definitely not overwrought, but low on the binge watching quotient (BWQ) due to it’s own weight. Official Addiction Recommendation: 4/5 Move it to the Top**.

 

**Official Addiction Recommendations are based on a descending scale as follows:

Play it Now (5/5. This alone would be worth signing up for Netflix to begin with, so take a break from whatever you’re plowing through at the moment and surrender your free time to this instead.)

Move it to the Top (4/5. Still worth way more than your measly eight bucks a month, so you better find time to watch it before the fickle ‘Flix gods take it away from us.)

Put it in the Queue (3/5. Solid recommendation and definitely better than 80% of the filler programs crowding your Because You Watched Some Total Garbage list so it’s worth a shot, right?)

Give it Five Minutes (2/5. You never know when your particular tastes could line up exactly right with something everyone else doesn’t get, so this might just be your cup of shitty tea.)

Don’t Even Click It (1/5. Honestly, don’t even let your mouse hover over this one lest the ‘Flix gods notice and start adding old Bowflex infomercials to your Queue because, hell, you’ll obviously watch anything.)

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