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Series / The Fall (2013)
aka: The Fall

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From left to right: Paul Spector and DSU Stella Gibson.

"A woman, I forget who, once asked a male friend why men felt threatened by women. He replied that they were afraid that women might laugh at them. When she asked a group of women why women felt threatened by men. they said, 'We're afraid they might kill us'."

The Fall is a British crime drama series created by Allan Cubitt. The series revolves around the investigation of a string of murders in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and how the lives of the various people involved in it collide. The series stars Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, a senior police officer of the London Metropolitan Police, and Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector, the Serial Killer Stella's hunting as well as the Deuteragonist of the show.

After the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is unable to close the case of a Serial Killer attacking young professional women in Belfast, Stella Gibson is sent in from London to take over the investigation as Detective Superintendent. Under her new leadership the local detectives race against time to track down and stop the killer before he can strike again, all while working against increasingly negative media scrutiny and the still-simmering tensions of The Troubles which constantly threaten to explode into full-on violence against the police. Meanwhile the Serial Killer they're hunting, bereavement counselor and seemingly mild-mannered Paul Spector, plans his next attack whilst juggling the demands of family life and the children he genuinely loves, his job and the domestic abuse case he has become dangerously emotionally invested in, increasing suspicion from his wife of his strange behavior, and the unwanted attentions of an underage babysitter.

Due to good reception, BBC has aired the show for two seasons with a third season having just ended. While Cubitt mentioned that Spector will appear in the third season for the last time, he and Anderson mentioned that they'd have no problems doing more seasons, in part to explore Stella Gibson's background.

A French remake was produced by TF1 with the title Dans l'ombre du tueur (In the Shadow of the Killer), although the title changed to Insoupçonnable (Unsuspected). Production started in September 2016 and it aired in 2018.

It has no relation to the 1956 novel, the British post-punk band, the 2006 film or the 2014 video game.

The Fall provides examples of:

  • A Million Is a Statistic:
    • An overarching theme of the series seems to be how much havoc Jimmy Tyler is creating, but because he's "only" a small time thug, and "only" a wife beater rather than a murderer, he's flying under the police and media's radar.
    • On the same note, Marian Kay, the sister of one of the murder victim, confides in DSU Gibson her worries that her sister will just become a faceless statistic and is losing her identity.
  • Abandoned Area: Spector spots an eerie, abandoned house in some woods outside of Sally-Ann's parents' house. He fixes it up with new locks and sets up a mannequin in there with his preferred clothing and poses. He ultimately uses it to hide Rose Stagg after kidnapping her, and record creepy videos of her in distress in the upstairs bedroom.
  • Above Good and Evil: Discussed in-universe between Spector and Stella during their phone conversation. Spector taunts her "moral relativism" and claims to be free from the shackles of moral conventions.
  • Affably Evil: Paul Spector. By day, a handsome and athletic man, loving husband and father with a perfect nuclear family, and a talented bereavement counsellor. By night, a perverted, voyeuristic serial killer and torturer.
  • The Alcoholic: ACC Jim Burns starts the series as a teetotal, but eventually collapses into old habits when the pressures of Operation Musicman and the Monroe corruption scandal catch up to him.
  • Alone with the Psycho:
    • How it ends for Spector's victims, unfortunately. He sneaks into their homes, ambushing them while they're alone. Backfires spectacularly during Annie Brawley's murder, when her brother unexpectedly shows up.
    • This nearly happens to Katie, who was the Spector family's babysitter. She develops an obsession with Spector and attempts to seduce him. He nearly loses control and murders her but is able to control himself (she's none the wiser).
    • In the second series, the final episode gives us a long conversation between Paul and Stella, alone in a police interrogation room.
  • Amoral Attorney:
    • In season 3, Sally-Ann hires Sean Healey to represent Paul - an infamously hard-nosed, hotshot lawyer with a reputation as a winner. Healey and his paralegal Wallace have no qualms with representing the Belfast Strangler, and both enthusiastically work overtime to disrupt and discredit the Police's case against Spector.
    • Inverted after Paul violently attacks and beats DSI Gibson during a police interview. Wallace becomes spooked and vows never to be in the same room with Paul ever again. Healey is completely unfazed by the attack and coldly insists on continuing to defend and represent Paul; Wallace promptly resigns on the spot.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Once Stella starts questioning Paul about his relationship with Katie, he finally gets rattled.
  • The Artifact: Liam Spector. In the first episode Paul is shown to have two children: Olivia and Liam. Olivia figures heavily into the plot and is seen almost every episode. Liam doesn't factor in at all and is only seen onscreen two or three times. But every time Spector's children are mentioned, Liam will be referenced, lest the audience completely forget about him.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Joseph Brawley hears Spector attacking Annie and tries to fend him off. Unfortunately, Spector overpowers him and stabs him to death with scissors, but Annie does end up surviving the attack.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The second series in spades: Stella has extracted a confession from Spector, and found Rose Stagg alive. Jimmy Tyler does not kill his ex-wife Liz after finding her. BUT, he does burst into the police search for Rose with all guns blazing, and shoots Spector and DS Anderson before being shot dead by PC Ferrington. The resulting bloodbath leaves three mortally-wounded people on the ground, no first aid immediately available, and the prospect of Spector evading justice.
    • The third series even more so than the second: Spector succeeds in evading justice by committing suicide and Stella's job is at risk. Katie is self-harming and likely to spend significant time behind bars.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The second series ends with Spector being shot by an enraged Jimmy and being left dying in Gibson's arms.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the end of a long, unmanned video recording of Rose Stagg crying and begging for mercy, Spector suddenly takes the camera, looks straight into it, and asks the viewer a pertinent question:
    Spector: Why the fuck are you watching this? You sick shit. What the fuck is wrong with you?
  • Break Them by Talking:
    • DS Jamie Olson attempts this with the minor crook he arrests in the first episode. It doesn't go so well, as the crook just smiles the whole time before creepily remarking "I know where you live". He's shot dead outside his home by a hooded assailant the next night.
    • Stella later attempts this on Spector as they're talking on the phone. She gets in some good armor-piercing questions, but unfortunately isn't very successful in getting new information.
  • British Brevity: The first series was only five episodes, the second had six.
  • By-the-Book Cop:
    • DCI Matthew Eastwood is a straight arrow and probably the most outwardly professional senior copper in the show. He finds himself distrusted and disliked by both DSI Gibson and ACC Burns at various points, purely for calling out their flaws (Burns' drinking, Gibson's 'sweet nights' with random coppers). and refusing to take sides.
    • Gibson herself is also very by the book with almost all aspects of her job. She is only too happy to cooperate with snotty internal affairs officers that threaten her career, as she never, ever has anything to hide.
  • Call-Back:
    • When Paul is in police custody, he peels an orange in the exact same fashion as he did when he snuck into Sarah Kay's house and ate an orange.
    • Katie sneaking into the Spectors' home and taking a mirror selfie is almost a shot-for-shot Call-Back of Paul himself when he does exactly the same in the pilot while stalking a victim.
    • Spector is given a twenty-pound banknote with a Bible verse on it, "He who loves not abides in death," by a nurse. He discards it with contempt at the first opportunity, and Gibson picks it up. In the end, she posts it up in her home as a memento.
  • Central Theme: The quote at the top. The two leads are often seen as two sides of the same coin, but that disregards the fact that the most misandric thing Stella does is laugh at men. Paul kills women. This is made poignant in their final meeting. Stella tells him of her contempt for him and gives him a contemptuous half smile at the end. Paul's response is to use heavy violence.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Averted. Gibson has to requalify to carry a sidearm early in the series, and is shown to be a dead shot. As of Season 3, she has never used her gun.
  • Creepy Doll: Spector has a particular "type" of woman. Partway through the first series, he gets himself a creepy lair in an abandoned house, where he has a mannequin that looks like this type, which he dresses up and gropes. After one of his killings goes horribly awry, he smashes it in a rage. In the second series, he takes one of his daughter's dolls and gives it a similar treatment.
  • Cruel Mercy: After Paul kidnaps Rose, he takes her to his abandoned lair and makes her film a series of disturbing videos (ranging from raging at him to pleading with him to trying to seduce him). Then he locks her in the trunk of her car and abandons her in the woods. But he leaves her food and water. He's surprised when she's found alive.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Stella, who's deadpan most of the time but isn't above dropping a dry, sarcastic remark from time to time.
  • Desk Jockey: Very much inverted with all of the coppers in Operation Musicman. Gibson is almost never at her desk or even her hotel room due to her hectic police work, and even partakes in low-level interviews with suspects and witnesses, despite her job title (Detective Superintendent) generally being associated with desk work. Burns, the Assistant Chief Constable (an even more traditionally desk-bound job) is even shown interviewing Father Jensen in prison by himself, in order to get information on Spector.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • The whole of the second season sets up how little attention the increasingly violent thug Jimmy Tyler is attracting from the police, because he is being somewhat overshadowed by Spector. So he can pretty much stroll up to Spector and shoot him and a police officer, point blank, at the finale.
    • Eastwood closes in on the corrupt Breedlove with a watertight case against him, and asks him to hand his gun over before placing him under arrest. A weary Breedlove goes to comply, but then makes a snap decision to kill himself with a shot to the head, at touching distance from Eastwood, who is left shaken, catatonic and sprayed in blood. He comments to Gibson later that he should have seen it coming.
  • The Dragon: Katie Benedetto becomes this to Paul Spector in Series 2.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Fearing for his life and his career as a police officer, DI Rob Breedlove kills himself rather than face retribution from the same gangsters who gunned down his partner and the impending inquiries into the illegal activities to which he, DS Olson, and Aaron Monroe had been linked.
    • Paul Spector's mother killed herself for unknown reasons when he was 7, and thus began his stay in several children's homes.
  • Ethical Slut: Stella fits this. She's staunchly feminist and open and unashamed of her sexuality. It can come off as a deconstruction though. Stella's right to point out that there's a Double Standard, but some would argue that it actually works in her favor. If a male police officer was repeatedly making passes at his subordinates the way she does it would almost certainly be treated as sexual harassment, though to be fair she wasn't DSI at the time she propositioned James Olsen and it seems like men tend to throw themselves at Stella whether she invites the attention or not (which isn't surprising as she's very beautiful).
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Spector truly loves his wife and children, and seems shaken when Stella reveals during their phone conversation that she knows he has children and taunts him by asking what they'll think of their father when his crimes come to light.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Spector actually has many standards. In fact, he seems to be a pretty stand-up guy... aside from the from the whole serial killer thing.
    • In his day job as a grief counselor, he recognizes that one of his patients is a victim of spousal abuse. He goes out of his way to help her (though helping her seemed to be incidental to the fact that he was stalking Annie Brawley and his patient happened to live nearby while he was casing Brawley's home), facing punishment at his job and harassment by the husband's former gang buddies.
    • When he finds out that Sarah Kay was pregnant at the time he murdered her, he actually writes a letter to the police department, addressed to her father, apologizing for the act and stating outright that, had he known she was pregnant, he would not have killed her. It's debatable whether he regrets killing her because he is genuinely remorseful as, being a father himself, he wouldn't hurt a child, or if it's because his perfect kill had been ruined (again for the same reason).
    • After Annie Brawley wakes up after the attack on her and tearfully wonders if it was her fault, Spector (posing as a therapist) assures her that it certainly was not her fault and the guy that attacked her was a psychopath.
    • During the final riot at the psychiatric unit, Spector goes well out of his way to strangle fellow inmate Mark Bailey to death, after hearing that he raped and murdered his 12 year old sister.
  • Everyone Is Armed: Unlike other British territorial police forces, all members of the PSNI routinely carry firearms due to the higher levels of gun violence present in Northern Ireland. Even Gibson is issued with one, despite only being a visiting representative from the Met, who don't carry guns (aside from their armed response team). The criminals also far more often have guns, with a police officer even being killed by one in the pilot (hence the police being armed). Many are former terrorists who've taken up regular crime after the Troubles ended, so civilians and police are far more likely to get shot in the province than the British mainland.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Spector seems to fall into this, as he has concerns about his daughter's seeming sociopathic tendencies. He tells his wife that it's just a phase, but it's clear he suspects that she's like him and he actively tries to steer her away from it.
  • Exiled to the Couch: A self-imposed variation. Rose Stagg, whom Spector had tried to strangle during sex 9 years ago, had not told many other people at the time about the incident, including her husband, who was her boyfriend at the time. When she finally breaks it to him (at Gibson's request for her own safety), they argue and he decides to camp out on the couch. Unfortunately, that was also the night that Spector decided to pay Rose Stagg a visit and kidnap her.
  • Fair Cop: With the ladies, there's DSI Stella Gibson and PC Dani Ferrington. With the men, there's DS Tom Anderson and DS James Olson. This is lampshaded variously with Anderson, who Gibson invites to Operation Musicman purely because of his youthful good looks. He is deliberately made to interview Katie Benedetto due to his age, and he also enjoys a one-night stand with Gibson.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The bodies of the murder victims have been posed naked and have had makeup applied postmortem. Their bodies are viewed in a very clinical fashion, as befitting of the scenes where we see them (being examined either at the crime scene or in the mortuary).
    • Possibly invoked; after nearly every shot of the murder victims, the next scene is of Spector. It's as if the producers don't want us to forget: this is the man responsible for doing this, for brutally murdering these women and creating these horrors. It makes it harder to romanticize him, unlike the characters in-universe who overlook his murderous tendencies in favor of his good looks.
  • Fish out of Water: Stella, who at the beginning of the series hasn't been to Belfast in some time and has to quickly adapt to the circumstances there (including general unrest between the population and the police, as well as the rampant corruption). Some of the PSNI officers do not like how as an Englishwoman she takes control of the investigation. At one point some local thugs try to intimidate her. When Paul tries to explain his actions to Katie, he claims that he was deliberately trolling her because she was a proud Englishwoman beside some "potatohead Irishmen."
  • Friendship Moment: Right at the very end of the series, Gibson finally lets her guard down and hugs an emotional Ferrington, as the taskforce is closed and the office is cleared out.
  • Friend to All Children: Spector's interactions with children other than his own is limited, but he bonds very quickly with the daughter of his kidnapping victim, teaching her the "Peter Piper" tongue-twister.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subtly hinted at when it's revealed that Spector is an orphan. His wife remarks that his lack of family creeps her out a bit. It turns out that his father is in prison for murder and his mother killed herself. Later we learn he grew up in a number of rough children’s homes, and in one of them he was routinely sexually abused by the priest who ran it.
  • Goths Have It Hard: Deconstructed. Teenager Katie has been traumatized by the death of her father, and falls in love/lust with Paul, which leads to her becoming even more obsessed after she learns he's a serial killer. In Series 2, she starts dressing far more gothically, wearing all black, and fetishizing violence and death. However, this is pretty clearly self-aware posturing on her part, but Stella lays into her that she's living in a fantasy land and she's abetting a psychopath because of some warped crush.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Spector attempts one with Stella during their phone conversation, but she rebuts it.
  • Happily Married: Spector's cover story, and it seems to be a happy marriage on his wife's part. At least before she finds out that he's been "cheating" on her. She decides to keep their relationship together for the kids and agrees to move north to attempt to repair their relationship after Spector suggests it. Little does she know he's actually trying to get away from Belfast and the rapidly closing-in Stella.
  • Has a Type: Spector's victims are all professional brunettes in their early thirties. It's so specific that any woman who doesn't fall into this category (particularly the teenage babysitter and his blonde wife) are never in any serious physical danger from him.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Sarah Kay is a very beautiful female solicitor.
  • Home Porn Movie: As part of their twisted partnership/relationship, Paul and Katie video chat with one another from each one's bed, and Katie asks him to prove that he's really naked. He starts to masturbate, but unbeknownst to him, she records that part of their conversation.
  • Internal Affairs: DCI Eastwood starts off as an anti-corruption officer investigating DI Breedlove and DS Olson during season 1. He is formally seconded to Operation Musicman and made Gibson's deputy SIO in season 2.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Implied with Spector's daughter, Olivia, who seems to show some of Spector's sociopathic tendencies. It's ambiguous, however, as she has terrible nightmares from glimpsing Spector's mannequin in the attic and later seeing Spector violently wrestling with the naked babysitter through a cracked door.
    • It's later revealed that Spector's birth father is in prison for murder as well.
  • Just Between You and Me: Spector calls the police station and demands to speak with Stella. When she answers the phone, he immediately asks for her personal number so he can talk to her privately, since he knows the other investigators are listening/recording the conversation. Unbeknownst to him, Stella hooks up a device to her cell phone that allows her to record their "private" conversation.
  • Left Hanging: A significant number of characters and plotlines move briefly into focus before disappearing. The investigation into the Monroe family, the corruption of DS Olson and DI Breedlove, the venality of ACC Burns, and a great deal more. A huge portion of the show's power is that it doesn't take place in a bubble, but in a larger, vibrant world.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Katie Benedetto, the 15-16 year old babysitter for the Spectors, is completely infatuated with Paul and even makes several attempts to seduce him in increasingly desperate ways. Come the second series, she even aids and abets his crimes by destroying evidence.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Stella notes that the media tends to have this, dividing women into virgins or vamps. She specifically asks someone to remove "innocent" from a press release about the victim. Not that she wasn't innocent, but Stella didn't want to give the impression that she is pure or virginal, which would backfire if the killer's next victim was a prostitute. She doesn't want people to think that someone less "pure" would possibly deserve her killing in some way.
  • Mirror Character: The show overall follows both Stella and Spector, juxtaposing their similarities and personalities. In-universe, Spector actually says this to Stella during their phone conversation, claiming their only major difference is that he's unburdened by conscience. Stella flatly rejects this, telling Spector that he's just a commonplace misogynist.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome:
    • An interesting case is used within the series— while all of the victims are reported on, and all the victims fit the profile of white brunette professional women in their 30s, much of the coverage is focused on one particular victim, Alice Parker Monroe, who was the ex-daughter-in-law of a Unionist member of the Northern Ireland parliament. There is even a memorial fund formed in her name.
    • Gibson is also shown repeatedly omitting Joseph Brawley's name when she mentions Spector's murder victims, implying that his death is not worth noting, simply because he's a male and not a female like the rest. Spector picks up on this and mocks Gibson for her callous bias during his police interviews.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Invoked. When Spector's wife starts getting suspicious (especially after he asks her to lie to the cops about his whereabouts on the day of Annie Brawley's death), he concocts a fake affair with the underage babysitter to cover up his serial killing.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Paul Spector spends a lot of screentime running and doing shirtless stretching and flexing.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Stella Gibson spends a lot of screentime in a swimsuit and in lingerie and nightgowns.
  • My Greatest Failure: Ferrington becomes utterly wracked with guilt when she realises she was right outside Sarah Kay's home while she was being murdered, leading her to confess to Stella and becoming her Number Two in an attempt to atone for it.
  • Mundanger: Despite the serial killer on the prowl premise of the series, there are still more mundane fears that people worry about.
    • At one point, Sally-Ann finds out that her daughter has been taken from their school by the former babysitter under false pretenses à la Fatal Attraction.
    • Liz Tyler, who has been living in a women's shelter come the second series, lives in constant fear of her abusive ex-con husband finding her. Guess what happens towards the end of the series...
  • Musical Theme Naming: The writer REALLY likes guitars. Stella and Gibson are brands of guitar, as are Bacon & Day, Benedetto, Brawley, Breedlove, Burns, Eastwood, Hagstrom, Kay, Martin, Music Man, Paul Reed Smith, Spector, Stagg and Tom Anderson.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Stella's reaction to Rose Stagg's kidnapping. Previously, Rose Stagg had given an informal testimony in which she identified Paul Spector as a former boyfriend under a different name 9 years prior and gave a description for a police sketch. Both the sketch and the alternate name were released by the PSNI to the public, and Paul was able to deduce it was her all along.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: A technician examining Spector's computer interrupts Gibson while she's watching one of the interrogations, telling her there's some videos on it that she'd better see.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Spector not only makes the usual remarks on vaguely morally relativistic lines to excuse his acts, but quotes Nietzsche himself multiple times.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Subverted Spector cleans off the victims and the crime scene because of this.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Spector finally loses his cool in the last episode, where he single-handedly beats the shit out of Gibson and breaks Anderson's arm in the interview room. Later at the psychiatric unit, he viciously beats Dr. Larsson unconscious in a similar manner.
  • Not So Stoic: On the other hand, both Gibson and Spector have their moments of weakness. Spector gets one such moment in their phone conversation when Gibson points out that she knows he has children. Stella herself gets one such moment after Paul lets her know that he has read her private, personal dream diary, and most poignantly, when she has to watch Rose Stagg's kidnapping video.
  • Off the Record: A reporter tries this with Stella. She flatly rebuffs him with "You and I both know there's no such thing". Later on, Spector tries this with Stella by calling her personal cell phone rather than the police station's official line. Luckily, Stella manages to covertly record the conversation with a device plugged into her phone.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the PSNI finds out that Spector got amnesia from the shooting in the 2nd season.
  • Omniscient Database: Averted with the nail polish on Sarah Kay's body. It takes at least several days before Stella and her investigation team find out the specific brand the killer used.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: While Gillian Anderson is probably better positioned to play an English detective than most American actresses, given that she lives in the UK and lived in London up to the age of 11, there are scenes where she hides her American accent about as minimally as Elisabeth Moss does in Top of the Lake, sometimes even going full rhotic. This is odd as she has been noted before for an ability to switch between her accents.
  • Operation: [Blank]:
    • The show is centrally focused on "Operation Musicman", a police taskforce led by DSI Stella Gibson, aimed at catching the "Belfast Strangler".
    • In season 1 episode 3, DCI Brink is shown reading off a list of generic "Operation <Blank>" names, with Gibson casually rejecting them all out of hand:
    Brink: I've been on to HQ, we have a list of operational names. Eden.
    Gibson: A place where the woman gets the blame.
    Brink: Top Hat.
    Gibson: Too posh.
    Brink: Alamo.
    Gibson: Too Texan.
    Brink: Musicman.
    Gibson: Too male.
    Brink: Genesis.
    Gibson: My least favourite band. Well, aside from U2.
    Mcelroy: Hey, steady on!
    Brink: Ashdown.
    Gibson: Too foresty.
    Brink: What?
    Gibson: Reminds me of shallow graves...
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: A notable aversion in this series. At the end of the first series, the Belfast Strangler has slipped off the radar, and by the beginning of the second season, the PSNI's funding and resources have been stretched thin and DSU Gibson has to submit a request for a £1.8 million grant to continue the investigation.
  • Pedophile Priest:
    • Spector spent time in a children's home run by one, but claims to have avoided being molested. The (now former) priest is completely unrepentant of his crimes when questioned.
    • It is later revealed that not only was he a victim, he was the special favorite, something a man who grew up in the same home describes as being akin to A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Perverted Sniffing: Spector usually sneaks into his future victims' homes before killing them and rummages through their underwear drawer to find ones he'd like to smell.
  • Precision F-Strike: Stella to Spector during their phone conversation when he claims he'll get away with the murders and that she'll never find him.
    "No. You fucked up."
  • Put on a Bus: Gibson's deputy on Operation Musicman was originally DCI Garrett Brink. He disappears after season 1 and is replaced as deputy SIO by DCI Eastwood. Burns comments that Brink is "tied up with a court case".
  • Secret Identity:
    • The most obvious one would be Paul Spector's strangulation fetish and murders, which he keeps away from his home life as a husband and father of two children and his professional life as a bereavement counselor.
    • Gibson also has one of these, as in compartmentalization. She and Professor Reed Smith discuss this trope, which they call doubling, keeping two different aspects of their lives apart. For Gibson, it's her work as a police detective in contrast to her life of one night stands. She is not happy when DS Olson tries to hook up with her again and sends her unsolicited photos of himself, saying that she "read him wrong."
  • Shout-Out: Stella says at one point, "A woman, I forget who, once asked a male friend why men felt threatened by women. He replied that they were afraid that women might laugh at them. When she asked a group of women why women felt threatened by men. they said, 'We're afraid they might kill us'." The woman in question was Margaret Atwood, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
  • Shown Their Work: The PSNI being shown with Glock 17s as their sidearms, which is allowed under British law due to the sectarian violence and armed criminals who take advantage of it in Northern Ireland.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Stella gives one to Spector when he tries to pull an Above Good and Evil.
    Stella: "You try to dignify what you do, but it's just misogyny. Age-old male violence against women."
  • Sinister Suffocation: Paul Spector strangles his victims with his bare hands and is depicted as letting them breathe at least once, if not multiple times, as a form of torture before finally killing them. This is also an extension of Erotic Asphyxiation for him, as he is mentioned as having done this (under the guise of Casual Kink before it became clear to her he had far more violent intentions) to his ex-girlfriend.
  • Slut-Shaming: Several men attempt this on Stella in the first series, what with her having had a one-night stand with Olsen. She shuts them both down with no shame, pointing out their own hypocrisy or pettiness.
  • Straw Nihilist: Spector defends his acts by quoting Nietzsche at length (though he does appear to feel somewhat bad about them, but rationalizes it as impulses which he cannot control).
  • Take That, Audience!: Spector's remark in his video.
  • The Stoic:
    • Spector for obvious reasons: he's a sociopath who has to fake most socially-expected emotions. He does, however, genuinely love his family.
    • Gibson has no visible reaction to the news that Olson was murdered, despite happening only one day after she had a one-night stand with him.
      • It does prompt her to sign up for a firearm however, out of fear for her safety.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Quick-thinking PC Ferrington suddenly becomes a hero, when she drops the psychotic Jimmy Tyler with several point-blank shots to the head and chest, preventing an all-out massacre in the forest. She is rewarded for her bravery with suspension from front-line duty and the possibility of being dismissed from the Police in an inquest. Luckily, Gibson invites her to work in a desk role on Operation Musicman.
  • Uncertain Doom: At the beginning of season 2, Rose Stagg is shown being dragged kicking and screaming into an abandoned house by Spector. She is almost never seen again in subsequent episodes. Many days and nights go by, with Gibson making the tough decision to endlessly monitor and surveil Paul for what seems like an eternity, in the hope that he will lead them to Rose. She is finally found right at the end of season 2, locked into a cramped car boot in the middle of a dense forest, literally minutes away from death.
  • Wham Episode: The sixth episode of the third season. The police have found evidence demonstrating that Paul's abuse as a child was far more horrific than he'd admitted, and that he'd killed a woman in London and that, despite his amnesia, he remembered that murder. Paul drops the friendly façade he's maintained all season, revealing the psychopath underneath for the rest of the interview. As his attorney walks him out, he beats Stella to the floor, snaps the other detective's arm, then starts kicking Stella, all in less than a minute. Back at the clinic where he's being evaluated, he convinces another inmate to stage a scene, attacks the lead clinician, and breaks into his locker. Then he murders the other inmate (now locked in his room) and hangs himself.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Spector writes a letter to the police station addressed to Sarah Kay's father saying that he wouldn't have killed her if he'd known she was pregnant. He also doesn't kill Rose Stagg's daughter, and even bonds with her for a while, but threatens to do so when he kidnaps Rose.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Katie, who believes herself to be Wise Beyond Their Years and believes her relationship with Paul Spector to be Belligerent Sexual Tension that will evolve into Slap-Slap-Kiss. Also, thinking she's Genre Savvy, she writes several diary entries of her supposed trysts with Paul to provide him with alibis for the time of murders. When the diary falls into the PSNI's custody, Stella sees right through the diary as the fantasies of a teenager's obsessions.
  • You Are Too Late: A rather tragic case with Ferrington when Sarah Kay is murdered. Sarah called the police a few days before because someone broke into her house and left her underwear on her bed. Ferrington and her partner are skeptical, and their scrutiny makes Sarah feel ashamed of the incident and she asks them to leave. A few days later, Ferrington has second thoughts and begins to regret dismissing Sarah. She decides to check on Sarah. She goes to the house and knocks on the door, but no one answers. She also takes the prerogative to leave a message on her home phone... and the camera cuts to Sarah being gagged and smothered on the other side of the door.
  • You Bastard!: Invoked by Paul at the end of his film about Rose's kidnapping, and the video is played several times in the show.
    Paul: Why the fuck are you watching this? You sick shit. What the fuck is wrong with you?
    Stella: Who were you talking to? Yourself? Me? The people who like to read and watch programs about people like you? Who?


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Fall


Climbing Jacob's Ladder

Paul Spector is confronted by James Tyler after a counseling session. He asks Paul if he has to pay for what he did in the past for his son's death. He did later ask Paul if he believes in God. Says he does and he mentions about angels going up/down Jacob's Ladder.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

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