2015’s Top TV: FARGO Season Two

(Image ©FX)

One of the biggest surprises of 2014 was that this seemingly-superfluous series based on a film from two decades ago was actually very, very good.

Under the guidance of showrunner Noah Hawley, the show impressively maintained the best qualities of the Oscar-winning film that shared its name, which had a memorable mixture of shocking violence, quirky mobsters, endearing characters, funny accents, ordinary people ending up in bad situations due to even worse decisions, and a light touch of the absurd and the mythical.

After being hailed with praise, the show returned with increased confidence and it was great fun to watch.

This season went back in time to explore a case Molly Solverson’s dad Lou worked on in 1979. The case was briefly discussed in season one and it sounded pretty horrific.

As the characters get into deeper trouble, costly mistakes are made, the body count begins to rise and Old Lou’s words rattle round our heads, there’s an increasingly strong feeling of inevitable doom, that the characters are unknowingly heading towards a place where Something Terrible is going to happen and any attempts to avoid what’s coming will fail miserably.

The second season of Fargo is a more complicated affair than its predecessor, doubling the amount of main characters, widening its scope, including more political and historical commentary and playfully experimenting with the way it tells its ‘true’ story.

Unlike that other critically-acclaimed miniseries that returned for a second season last year, it manages to juggle many things – more characters, more locations, more intertwining storylines, a new look and tone which is drastically different to the previous season but still keeps what people liked about the show in the first place, and a clear but subtle opinion on the state of the nation at the time – without falling flat on its face and becoming an unlikeable, overwrought mess.

Setting all of this up does make the first three episodes a bit slow, aside from a messy confrontation at a diner that sets the events of the season into motion. They lay the groundwork for even messier outbreaks of violence later on with plenty of exceptionally well-written conversations and typically-quirky character moments.

Then the pace builds, the stakes rise and the tension often becomes unbearable as the season races towards a grisly climax in Sioux Falls. The final episode is a long exhalation of breath, a calm epilogue which wraps up loose ends, mops up the blood and examines how the survivors are coping with what they’ve experienced.

The show has an exceptional cast and even the minor characters get a memorable scene in their limited screen time. Kirsten Dunst is especially good as highly-strung hairdresser Peggy Blomquist. She and her dopey, long-suffering husband Ed (Jesse Plemons) get caught in the middle of a confrontation between the mob and a local crime family that could escalate into all-out war.

To show this conflict, the season tries out new televisual tricks in the same gleeful manner of a child that just got a lot of new toys for Christmas, jumping into black and white, messing with the aspect ratio, changing the framing device of the narrative for an episode, inserting flashbacks without warning, doing a few inventive montages, adding in a freeze-frame or two and using a lot of split-screen.

But every visual flourish has clearly been carefully thought out and it rarely feels indulgent. It’s oddly exciting. You never really know quite what sort of rabbit the show’s gonna pull out of its hat next, since it delights in subverting expectations and trying new things, and this applies to the storytelling as well as the show’s beautiful visual style.

It’s also complemented by an eclectic soundtrack of period-appropriate ’70s music and new versions of songs from other Coen brothers films.

Though it would be best to watch the show in order, and even watch the film, if you have time,  before the show, it’s not at all necessary. Many of the references to the film in season one and references to season one in season two won’t affect your enjoyment of the show and most of them are fairly minor.

Well, apart from one scene at the end of the most recent season where the writers bend over backwards to nonsensically link the fate of one character to another from season one, which was a rare mis-step for the show. But don’t let that put you off.

Since Hannibal has sadly had its last meal and that other miniseries that was on my 2014 Best Of list has nosedived in quality, Fargo has become my favourite show on TV… and it’s taking a year off. Sigh. At least it gives you lot plenty of time to catch up!

Yes, sadly, season three won’t be on our screens until 2017. But will it be worth the wait?

Oh, you betcha.

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2015’s Top TV: 3 BBC Book Adaptations

(Image ©BBC)

In 2015 the BBC ambitiously attempted adaptations of three very different books: a complex historical drama, a magical fantasy epic and a classic murder mystery, and they became three of my favourite dramas of last year.

Hilary Mantel’s big bestsellers Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies were carefully squeezed into 6 hour-long episodes of high-class conspiracy, courtly intrigue, royal marriage woes and dimly-lit conversations. Anchored by an incredible performance by Mark Rylance as  the quietly cunning Thomas Cromwell, with good support from Damian Lewis’ unusually svelte Henry VIII and Clare Foy as his unfortunate wife Anne Boleyn, the series was an award-winning success.

My historical knowledge of the period isn’t the best, which at first led to a bit of confusion about who was who and why they were important, and a lot of me desperately trying to remember high-school history lessons about Henry VIII. However, after the first couple of episodes it was easy to sink into the story. Lack of historical knowledge was actually helpful as it meant that the twists and turns of the plot, which mostly unfold through quiet dialogue and secret plans slowly being unveiled, came as a complete surprise.

Later in the year was a series based on Susanna Clarke’s alternate-universe Victorian drama with magicians Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. This doorstopper of a book, set around the Napoleonic wars, is one of the most highly-praised fantasy novels of the 21st century and the adaptation looked promising, but I had some reservations when I saw that it was being adapted by Peter Harness, whose last writing credit was an episode of Doctor Who where the Moon turns out to be an egg with a monster inside and everyone worries about it hatching but when it does hatch the monster immediately craps out another moon to replace it and flies away.

Seriously. How did that get past the first draft?

So it was with some relief and quite a lot of surprise that JS&MN became one of my favourite shows of the year, expertly mixing gothic otherworldly locations, spectacular special effects and wry humour into a Victorian setting.

Eddie Marsan was great as the sensible and stubborn Mr Norrell but the show was stolen by Bertie Carvel as Norrell’s polar opposite, the lovable eccentric Jonathan Strange who becomes fascinated by the dark, maddening power of forbidden magic which hasn’t been practiced in England for many years.

The two have great chemistry together which makes it easy to care about their bumpy, slightly reluctant partnership. There’s plenty of the dark, the creepy and the – ahem – Strange, nicely balanced with a fair amount of silliness.

Perhaps the embodiment of this silly/creepy balance is Marc Warren’s performance as The Gentleman, the mysterious Big Bad of the series that deals with the souls of the dead and shows up to menace and entrap those who summon him. He also happens to be a fairy with big white eyebrows wearing a ridiculous wig.

I loved the world and characters that the show brought to life and will be getting the book to experience more of it, though because of Vincent Franklin’s slightly hammy turn as Drawlight I think his yell of ‘MISTER NORRRRRRRRREELLLL’ will echo round my skull whenever I read Norrell’s name.

To close out the year, there was a three-part adaptation of the most popular murder mystery of all time, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, because everyone loves a nice bit of multiple homicide at Christmastime.

The book was lingering on a bookshelf somewhere in my room, unloved and unread like many of my ‘buy-now, get-around-to-it-eventually’ books that I seem to compulsively collect.

So when the poor unfortunate souls that get invited to a remote island for the world’s worst dinner party start dropping like flies, I had no clue whodunnit, my guess changed several times (always hopelessly wrong) and I was gripped til the very end.

The whole thing is soaked in an oppressive gloomy atmosphere, with plenty of overcast skies, grey scenery, an entertainingly over-the-top use of sinister strings in the soundtrack –  especially during the voyage to the Cornish Island of Death and Misery –  and lots of of quiet shots of the characters looking suspicious. When they arrive at the extravagant mansion where they’ll spend their final nights, they are greeted by a butler who is so clearly and hilariously untrustworthy he might as well be wearing a sign saying ‘You’re All Doomed’.

It’s not subtle, quite the opposite, but it’s enjoyably pulpy and ominous. Most of the ten corpses-in-waiting are wonderfully obnoxious and watching them as they clash, become increasingly paranoid and reveal how loathsome they really are is fun and tense.

and then there were none
DOOOOOOOMED.

It’s fair to say then that the Beeb has proved to be quite adept at adapting novels and abridging chunky bestsellers, turning them into brilliant, engaging television. Now, fresh off the success and acclaim of these three series, they’re attempting to trim one of the most intimidatingly-huge and dauntingly-dense novels of all time, War and Peace, into 6 hours.

Well… good luck with that.

It’s… ALIVE!

Hello? Hello?

Goodness, look at how dusty this place is. Sorry I’ve been gone so long since my last post in *checks* February last year? Whoops…

My new year’s resolution was to do a bit of cyber-necromancy and bring this blog back to life with new posts and a shiny new look. So, over the next few weeks and continuing into February and March (where, fingers crossed, it won’t be accidentally abandoned again) I’ll be adding a few posts about my favourite books and TV shows of last year.

Last time I did a ‘Top TV’ thing every show was discussed in the same post, but this year I’m splitting a few of the shows off the list into their own seperate entries because I’ve been away too long and I’ve got too many thoughts to fit onto one post without it becoming a never-ending scroll that would break mouse wheels and send anyone that dared read it mad with frustration.

So look for the first ‘2015’s Top TV’ entry in the next few days. The books one will be along soon too, in the same format as last year.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

(Image © Sales and Marketing Solutions.)

2014’s Top TV

There was a lot of good TV on in 2014. There are more quality dramas and comedies on at the moment than ever before. But I am just one man. I do not have the time or the patience to watch everything.

Just like in 2013, there are still plenty of acclaimed shows that I haven’t seen or am still catching up on (for example, I finished watching True Detective just a few hours ago so that I could fit it on this list).

Nevertheless, here, in no particular order, are the best episodes of TV in 2014.

That I’ve seen.

Which is quite a narrow selection, really, but there we are.

HANNIBAL – KAISEKI/MIZUMONO

hannibal 2

Hannibal’s second season is incredible.

It’s difficult to pick out favourite episodes, partly because they’re all so good, and partly because of the fact that the episodes being named after courses in a Japanese meal makes it difficult to remember what happened in which one. They all start to blend together into a nightmarish haze, punctuated by grotesque crime scenes, tense conversations, shocking moments that I dare not spoil, and the occasional bit of dark, dark humour.

Hmm, “Takiawase” – is that the one with the corpse in a horse? No, wait, that’s “Su-zakana”. Or is that the one with a corpse in a tree? Or the one with Will on trial? Or the one where a man cuts off bits of his own face? Oh, forget it, I’ll just put the first and last episode of the season on this list, because they, and all the episodes in between, are excellent.

I praised the first season in a lengthy gush of words that could be summed up as ‘OHMYGOD THIS IS SO GOOD WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING IT?’, but I didn’t expect that it could get so much better.

The show seemed to be more confident this season, and it showed in every area. The storytelling was perfectly paced and confidently done, the case-of-the-week stories never felt like filler, were often used to highlight themes that the main story arc was exploring, and featured some of the weirdest murder victims on the show yet, which is really saying something (see above – corpse in a horse. Corpse. In. A. Horse.).

It seemed like the writers were gleefully pushing the envelope as far as it could possibly go, and in doing so pointing out the hypocrisy of the NBC censors, who stop them from showing any naked bums but do allow some of the grossest images that have ever aired on American network television.

The beautifully stylish, surreal look of the show was turned up to 11 and the musical score was more adventurous and strange than ever before.

There were plenty of moments where the bombastic sound design and the horrific visuals worked together horribly well and actually made me turn away from the screen and mute the sound, which is a rare feat, and these weren’t always because of the disturbing deaths. The show could cause a similar reaction without a single drop of blood being spilt, such as when a repressed memory came to light or during an unconvential therapy session.

Oh, and the finale. The finale deserves special mention.

Last year I wrote, in a breathless and hyperactive stream-of-consciousness way that seemed like a good idea at the time but in hindsight looks a bit amateurish, about the massively-distressing but ultimately inevitable climax that Breaking Bad reached in two episodes of its final season, which provoked a visceral reaction from me that I’d never had to any episode of TV before.

Now, less than a year later, I had a similar reaction again to a similarly devastating and similarly inevitable climax where everything goes horribly for our heroes. It’s impressive for a show to provoke that reaction at all, but to do it in less than half the time than Breaking Bad did is really something.

It’s bloody good, is basically what I’m saying here. It’s bloody. And good.

Unless you’re squeamish. Then maybe give it a miss.

TRUE DETECTIVE – WHO GOES THERE

true-detective

Every media publication in the universe has gone on at length about this bloomin’ show and how incredibly good it is and how it’s some of the best television in years and how brilliant the performances are and how you have to drop whatever you’re holding – food, paperwork, babies – and watch it immediately.

From all the hype, I was braced for a letdown. But the critics were right. True Detective is indeed brilliant.

It’s a bit of a slow burn at first but it’s never boring and always thoroughly engaging. This is mainly due to Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who both give tremendous performances as Rust and Marty.

Rust is, to put it mildly, a bit of a pessimist, rambling on about the futility of life and the darkness inherent in all humans, much to the annoyance of his colleague. McConaughey gets plenty of great material to dig his teeth into, and he’s amazing. It’s easy to get transfixed and hang on his every word. His performance threatens to steal not just the scene, but the entire show.

As a character, Marty seems fairly ordinary by comparison. He’s an all-American family man who loves his kids and is devoted to his job. But Harrelson gets plenty of chances to shine, too, as the case which he and Rust investigate progresses and the cracks in his perfect life begin to show.

There’s murder afoot in mid-90’s Louisiana, with possible links to the occult, but it’s not our main concern. The investigation is more of an excuse to spend time with these two characters, to learn more about them and see how they change.

We see them in the present, recounting the details of the case to their colleagues, while flashbacks show how it all played out. Past Rust is stern and sober, while Present Rust is a haggard alcoholic who looks like he’s on death’s door. Past Marty is happily married, while Present Marty isn’t wearing a wedding ring. Finding out what happened to them is the show’s real hook.

True Detective has the feel of an eight-hour movie rather than a TV show, partly because of the two award-winning movie stars that headline it, partly because the whole thing’s directed and written by the same two people, and partly because of how it looks.

Nothing looks like a set, every location seems real and lived-in. From the wide, sweeping shots of Louisianan marshland to the close-up, moodily-lit interiors full of dust, smoke and haze, the show is dripping with atmosphere. Almost everywhere is decayed and old, faded, rusted and dim. The place is as much of a character as the actual characters.

‘Who Goes There’ is where the show’s slow-burn storytelling explodes, ending in an intense, unbroken six-minute shot following Past Rust as he tries to salvage an undercover operation gone wrong and escape alive. Compared to the leisurely pace of the previous episodes, it’s a jolt of adrenaline that makes you fear for Rust’s safety despite knowing that he’s still alive in the present.

It’s a sequence I watched over and over, each time marvelling at how on earth it was done. The amount of effort and co-ordination and perfect timing that must have been needed to get it right is just mind-boggling. The fact that the next episode is just as good without resorting to anything as flashy is also impressive.

Oh look, I’m rambling again. Safe to say, it’s worth a watch.

And now for something completely different.

Continue reading “2014’s Top TV”

Best Books I Read in 2014

I used to love reading. As a child I had a book in my hand wherever I went. This love of reading continued as a teenager, but faded during my uni years as academic reading took priority over fun reading.

This year, I resolved to get back into books and read 25 in one year, a considerable increase from the 4 or 5 I read last year. And I just about managed to do it.

These were my favourites.

Copyright:

Mort by Terry Pratchett

In 2013 I began the slightly daunting task of reading through the 40-odd books that make up Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed Discworld series.

After umming and ahhing over where to start (some are standalone, so you can jump into the series easily, but some are part of little series within the series that focus on a particular character, and even the standalone ones feature several nods and references to previous books that newbies will miss and, oh, what a headache), I decided to simply start at the start, despite reading that the earliest Discworld books are not even close to Sir Terry’s best work.

I enjoyed The Colour of Magic enough to continue onto The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites, but was still feeling slightly underwhelmed. I liked the world that Pratchett was slowly putting together, the spoofs of fantasy conventions were fun, I liked the creative locations and characters and the nonsensical but oddly logical rules and traditions of the Discworld, but I wasn’t amazed.

I wasn’t disappointed, as I knew the early Discworld books weren’t the best and were very much about Sir Terry figuring out what he wanted to do with his imaginative creation and find his feet before he could really get into the swing of things, but I had yet to be bowled over. There had not been a moment where everything clicked and I thought ‘Ah, so this is what all the fuss is about.’

But then, in 2014, I read Mort. And I loved it.

I knew it was something special when it made me laugh. I don’t really laugh when reading books. Plenty of them, including the first three Discworld novels, are advertised with quotes that use words like ‘Hilarious’, ‘laugh-out-loud,’ ‘side-splittingly, gut-bustingly funny’, ‘so rib-destroyingly hilarious you’ll shit yourself’, etc, but usually these books massively under-deliver on their promised hilarity. They provoke the occasional appreciative smile, a quiet ‘Heh’, or maybe even a chuckle or two.

Not Mort. It snuck up on me. It charmed me, lured me in, then it caught me off guard. It threw in a particularly clever bit of wordplay or a wonderfully awful pun or a wry aside during a descriptive passage or a bone-dry one liner from Death himself, and I burst out laughing. Not a smile or a ‘Heh’ or a chuckle, a loud guffaw. This happened several times, and I after I’d stopped laughing, I’d go back, reread the last sentence and laugh again.

I’m not sure why this, of all the Discworld books that I had read, made me laugh so much. None of the humour was any different to that of the first three books. The footnotes, the puns, the silly similes, they had all been there. Death had appeared in them, too, but only for brief cameos (which, incidentally, were always a highlight).

Perhaps the broad silliness had been refined, perhaps the bizarre world that had been introduced to me three books ago now felt familiar and comfortable, perhaps I have a really morbid sense of humour, perhaps the sheer amount of comic potential to be mined from Death getting an apprentice and then having a day off for the first time in several millennia was just so huge it couldn’t not be hilarious.

Whatever the reason, it was a delightful ‘Aha!’ moment. I understood the hype. Impressively, the book also managed to tackle a fairly weighty and serious subject that can send even the most level-headed person into a deep and despairing existential crisis. It used jokes to make the subject more palatable but never to water it down or dilute its serious nature.

The book had raised my expectations very high indeed, so when I moved on to Sourcery, I was a bit disappointed. It was a light, likeable and perfectly fine tale that was similar to Colour of Magic  and Light Fantastic, both of which I had enjoyed, but it felt like a step backwards after Mort. I started to worry that perhaps I had raised my expectations too high and now my enjoyment of the rest of the series would suffer because of it.

Then I finished Sourcery and moved on to Wyrd Sisters.

I laughed three times on the first page alone. Ah, this is gonna be fun.

I didn’t want to clog up my blog’s front page with a lengthy entry, so I hid the rest of the best under this Continue Reading button. Click it. It’ll be worth reading, honest.

Continue reading “Best Books I Read in 2014”

2014’s Top Films

I know this is a TV blog , but it’s the end of the year and I wanted to do a little retrospective for best films of the year as well as TV shows.
Besides, it’s my blog, my rules. I can do what I like.

BEST ANIMATION: The LEGO Movie

 lego movie

Everything (in this film) is awesome. Bursting at the seams with creativity, wit, silliness,  unexpected satire, and charm, The LEGO Movie was one of the first new films I saw this year and it’s easily one of the best. If you saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you’ll know what to expect. The writers of that film wrote this one, too, and you can tell – it has the same sense of humour, surreal moments, gleeful wackiness and plenty of heart.

The animation is CGI, but is made to look like stop-motion, like it was made with real LEGO, and, impressively, the effect is completely convincing. I often found myself missing jokes and lines of dialogue as I was looking at the sets in the background (where there’s often even more gags) or admiring a part of the scenery.

The film takes a typical hero-saves-the-world plot and messes with it relentlessly, acknowledging cliches, subverting standard tropes (The prophecy, the ‘special one’, etc) and packs as many visual gags, slapstick moments, sly satirical jokes, one-liners, and action scenes as it can into a 90-minute running time that whizzes by.

It’s as colourful as a Skittles explosion in a Crayola factory, funnier than most recent comedies, full of excellent voice acting from an all-star cast (including plenty of cameos), and it has a brilliant and surprisingly sentimental third act that could easily have been eye-rollingly sappy but isn’t. Worth a watch, no matter your age.

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE: Guardians of the Galaxy/Captain America: The Winter Soldier (TIE)

gotg

This is a tricky one. Spring and Summer were stuffed with superhero films, and the two best ones couldn’t have been more different, which makes choosing which is better quite difficult,

Captain America has always seemed like a dull superhero to me. He has a shield and he’s really tough and noble and yawn yawn yawn. I didn’t see his first outing until the day before I saw the second one, and it was thoroughly mediocre, the second-worst Marvel film I’d seen (Iron Man 2 is the worst, if you’re wondering). I wasn’t planning on seeing the second one at all, but the heaps of positive reviews and praise that it received piqued my interest.

What a surprise it was when I discovered that all the praise and the hype was entirely justified. Almost more of a political thriller than a superhero movie (until the obligatory everything-gets-destroyed action climax), the film examines the effects of a seismic change in the Marvel universe and shows that Captain America can actually be interesting, especially when he’s supported by Black Widow, Nick Fury and the Falcon, who each get plenty of cool moments, quips and character development.

Entrusting a big-budget sequel to the Russo brothers based solely on their direction of some action-heavy episodes of a low-budget sitcom was a bit of a risk for Marvel, but it really paid off.

Even riskier was their decision to make a film out of an obscure bunch of characters that no-one except the most die-hard comic fans had heard of. This bunch of characters also happened to inhabit a part of the Marvel universe that had barely been seen in the films so far and featured some particularly out-there ideas. The Guardians of the Galaxy film was a litmus test. If audiences reacted well to this bunch of nobodies and their deep-space adventures in weird alien civilisations, then it boded well for future films that could be equally weird.

Thanks to an offbeat sense of humour, great performances from the entire cast and an oddly-fitting ’70s soundtrack, everyone loved it, myself included. It’s easily the funniest and rudest Marvel film so far and the plot rattles along at a good pace. Director and writer James Gunn skilfully weaves bits of necessary exposition to this strange part of the universe between jokes, character introductions and fights. Despite being the least heroic heroes in Marvel, it’s difficult not to like and root for them.

It also has a maniacal weapon-obsessed talking raccoon and a strong sentient tree with a limited vocabulary and an adorable smile. They, quite rightly, steal the show.

The sweeping starry vistas, the bizarre aliens, the crazy costumes… it’s Marvel doing Star Wars. But after seeing this in cinemas twice, I’m – whisper it – actually looking forward to the Guardians sequel far more than Star Wars Episode VII.

So yes, it’s a tie. Guardians was more fun, but Cap 2 was a seriously good thriller. Both were well-directed and well-written, both had well-choreographed fight scenes and great final battles. I just can’t choose.

For my favourite comedy and sci-fi of the year, click ‘Read More’!

Continue reading “2014’s Top Films”

The Fall

the fall
Copyright: BBC.

There’s murder afoot in rainy old Belfast.

Someone’s killed a woman in her home. The police find her strangled and stripped naked on her bed. They’re baffled and they have no suspects and no motive. There’s a man responsible for this horrible crime out there somewhere, but they have no idea where he is or who he could be.

Good thing they’ve brought Gillian Anderson in to catch him, then.

Detective Inspector Stella Gibson is not so much a person as a force of nature. A walking glacier, she slides into frame in a  long white dress, pale skin, bleached-blonde hair, with a cold, blank face and a hard, icy glare that makes it very clear that she is not someone to be messed with.

She seems unshakeable, speaking in a calm monotone and reacting to most bad news with little more than a barely-noticeable raise of an eyebrow, or not reacting at all.

Stella has the unenviable task of solving a murder and catching a killer with a police force made up of a few good officers and a lot of corruption. To make matters worse, she finds that the killer has probably killed before, and there’s nothing stopping him from doing it again.

Meanwhile in a Belfast suburb, unassuming, friendly family man Paul Spector goes about his business. His hobbies include photography, spending time with his kids, murder, DIY, sniffing lingerie, interior design, stalking, breaking and entering, strangulation and babysitting.

Nice bloke. Good with his hands.

Because he looks like he should be on the cover of Esquire, no one even thinks about thinking about making him a suspect. His wife doesn’t know about his nasty night-time crimes and his daughter sleeps soundly in her room, not knowing that his killer kit is stashed in the attic above her head.

But we know. We know everything. The Fall scraps the typical whodunnit mystery in favour of something far more interesting. It puts us in the uncomfortable voyeuristic position of watching Spector plan his crime, stalk his victim, break into their house, kill them, take a few souvenirs, go home, hug his kids and make small talk with his wife. It’s tense and skin-crawlingly creepy. It forces us to get inside of the mind of someone we’d rather run far, far away from.

It presents us with a nice, charming guy with a good job and a caring family who has, to put it mildly, a bit of a twisted, perverse dark side that he expertly hides from everyone else.

The ‘who’ in whodunnit is replaced with a ‘why’. Much of the mystery comes from finding out what Spector’s like, why he does what he does, and wondering if he’ll ever be found out.

Meanwhile, Stella very slowly puts two and two together and makes progress in the case, always a couple of steps behind.

The Fall is quite slow-paced. Actually, that sounds like an insult. A better word would be deliberately-paced. It’s difficult to imagine an episode of The Fall ending in a high-speed, sirens-blaring chase through the city streets. We just watch as the days tick by and see Paul and Stella at home and at work, or indulging in one of their hobbies.

Progress is made and the investigation continues, but the case work is just part of the drama. What these characters do during their down-time speaks volumes about them. It’s where we see the nice side of a serial killer and, yes, the darker side of a detective.

That old ‘We’re not so different, you and I’ cliche is put under the microscope and carefully examined over the course of the series. Cracks appear in Gibson’s glacier and we see a softer side of Spector.

So, it’s part character study, part police drama, part tense mystery, and all the parts come together to make something that’s dark and dour and gripping. It’s a bit of a difficult watch, but it’s worth it.

Series two is airing on Thursday nights at 9pm on BBC2. All episodes of The Fall so far are on BBC iPlayer.