(Please do not read this meditation on a Netflix TV crime pshychodrama - if you dont like things rambling. The write is long and unstructured and written for myself and has spoilers. It's here so it doesn't get lost! Just know - if you can, don't miss this incredible drama.)
It's startling how dangerous stillness can be. And when there is much of it, how violent it can get. Facades convey nothing of the turmoil churning inside. There is a thin line which separates the ones who then let the violence spill out of themselves.
That's the line which separates Stella, an investigating officer, from Paul, a serial killer. And The Fall examines their lives in parallel, and how they converge metaphysically first, much before they do physically. And how each person handles the black holes inside themselves. Paul lost his mother and exploded. Stella lost her father and imploded. And beneath their immaculate masks they both lived lives of seeming normalcy.
The difference between their trajectories was the touch in their lives of fortune or depravity. But both used people for their ends, and brought doom and destruction. But whilst the essential goodness brought redemption in one's circle, there was only death in the other.
We all have circles of influence. We don't even know where it extends to, whom it seeps into. But we are all agents of change. We are all capable of influence. We are all connected. So what we do with this power often defines our place in the world, and the world's place inside us.
Stella goes to talk to Katie, a 16 year old who is in love with Paul, and is ready to produce false alibi to save him. In correctional detention, she self-harms herself. And has this conversation with Stella.
Katie Benedetto: My father killed himself.
DSI Gibson: I thought it was an accident.
Katie Benedetto: He chose to ride a motorbike. Even though I worried about him every time he went out every night he was late home. He loved the bike more than he loved me. Loved the thrill of speed more than he loved his only daughter. I don't call that an accident.
DSI Gibson: Is that why you're throwing your life away? You know you can't get him back. No matter how hard you try.
We all have those voices in our heads, that tell us we're a disappointment, that tell us our work is insignificant. That it's not good enough, it takes too long, it's too hard. But when times are tough, we need tough dreams. But real dreams, not lies. Not an unreality like Paul. You need to fight for yourself, Katie, because right now you're in danger.
We all need love and we all need nurture. There's too much death and destruction. But friends who love you should warm you like the sun. Make you feel good about yourself. Not freeze you in their contempt and in their hate. Anger corrodes our belief that anything good can happen to us. Paul's been destroyed by his anger, his rage. And you, you hurt a friend, to impress him. But he doesn't care. He doesn't even know you exist.
It's almost as if Stella was speaking to herself.
In the final interrogation scene, Paul speaks of alienation and loneliness and the wretchedness of his childhood. And then he says-
We're all wearing masks to some extent. You certainly are. There are memories, thoughts that feel like memories that are starting to come back to me.
There's a voice. There's a voice saying, "We're losing him, we're losing him."So, there must have been at least one person who cared whether I lived or died.
DSI Gibson: That was me. That was my voice. And I *did* care. I thought death would be too easy for you, too easy an escape. And I didn't want you to cheat the system. And I still don't. I want you to be punished for the crimes that you've committed. Rose Stagg was so right about you. She saw right through you, your infantile desire to have a captive and captivated audience. You just want to be noticed, you want to be the center of attention, to have special treatment, to make your mark. But it's all just a performance. All of it. You perform for me, for your solicitor, your doctors, your nurse, your psychiatrist, even your family. It's all just one big performance as protection against the dreaded black hole of your heart. Well, guess what, Paul, it's time to grow up. It's time to take responsibility for what you've done. Let's stop this pathetic charade.
The only sliver of hope he had, suddenly collapses. And sets the tone for the calamitous denouement.
In a small heartbreaking scene Paul's daughter opens her arms and embraces Stella, after she gets to know the truth about her father. The youngest and the most influenced rejects the dark side and moves towards light.
The story lingers with every character, and their arcs and their relevance and their lives spanning out because of the effect Stella or/and Paul have on them. The dead, the living, the barely-living, the survived.
Each of the three seasons, which can be seen all at once on Netflix (such blessings are due to them!), addresses different aspects of the relationship - first, the crimes, then the chase and then the conjoinment.
In a world where fulfilment is a pursuit beset with moral landmines, and happiness is often at the altar of innocence, there is still space for goodness. Even in the heart of pure evil lies the echo of something quintessentially pure. Nothing can ever take away the essential loneliness of life, but we can leave signs of our mistakes for people to pick up. We all have cemeteries ready for us at the end. Can we make those into signposts?