Dornan’s strangler clings to life as The Fall makes return

editorial image

If you like nail-biting tension, the kind of television that leaves you utterly gripped, is there anything out there to rival The Fall?

Series three of the Belfast-based BBC drama started on our screens last night, with so many questions carried over from the end of series two, not least with the life of serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) hanging by a thread.

If there are those who questioned the merit of a third series, with Spector previously unmasked as the notorious Belfast strangler and either facing death from gunshot wounds or life behind bars, then last night’s hour-long opening episode should assuage any fears.

For at least the first 40 minutes there was barely time to pause for breath.

The episode opened with Spector lurching precariously between life and death, hallucinating about an impending car smash, while an ambulance rushes him to Belfast General Hospital.

The viewer shares the potent mix of emotions felt by a watching Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson).

While Spector has been guilty of appalling crimes, we want him to survive and the tension is palpable as Belfast’s best medical staff strive desperately to save his life.

As his fight for life continues in the operating theatre, we question Gibson’s feelings for the killer she spent so much energy trying to catch.

In a telephone call with Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns (John Lynch), Gibson sounds distraught that Spector won’t survive while at the same time admitting to Lynch that she has no idea about the condition of her own love interest DS Anderson (Colin Morgan), who was shot in the same incident.

Everything about The Fall impresses, from the soundtrack to the exact attention to detail, not least in the fictitious Belfast hospital.

Once again, the programme-makers manage to strike a delicate balance.

Dornan’s profile has soared since the The Fall was first filmed and there is no doubting we want Spector to live, but there are still plenty of references to the consequences of his crimes.

There are poignant scenes between his surviving victim Rose Stagg and her devastated husband, while in the Spector home his wife Sally Ann (Bronagh Waugh) tries in vain to keep the deadly secret from their two children.

By the end Spector looks to have pulled through, but when his daughter Olivia (Sarah Beattie) reads news reports of his crimes on her mother’s laptop it’s a timely reminder that this surely won’t end well.