The final episode of season 3 of The Fall is “Their Solitary Way.” The story did not end the way Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) wanted. It didn’t end well for Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) either. Everyone Paul Spector came into contact with was damaged by knowing him. Beware the spoilers.
There’s so much underlying message and symbolism in this episode. There are poems and stories and symbolic messages that add depth. The title “Their Solitary Way” is significant in that everyone is alone, on a solitary journey filled with pain.
Let’s start from the beginning. Paul Spector confesses to his lawyers Wallace (Ruth Bradley) and Healy (Aidan McArdle) that he killed Susan Harper in 2002 but claims it was an accident.
Healy and Spector return to the interrogation with Stella and DS Anderson (Colin Morgan). Spector tells them about Susan Harper and how she accidentally died. He says he then moved to Belfast and became Paul Spector. He claims to have no idea why David Alvarez would have confessed to the death.
Spector keeps admitting more and more, even though his lawyer tries to shut him up. He says he’s fascinated by the Paul Spector, the killer, “The speculation intrigues me. I’m told that I laid out Sarah Kay’s underwear on her bed, in the shape of her body. That’s what I used to do as a child. Lay out my mother’s clothes on her bed, in her shape, imagine she was there. It aroused me. When I was a wee bit older – 12, 13 – whenever I could, I would obtain female underwear. I’d use it to masturbate. Is that perverse? Was that the start of something that led me here? Or was it earlier? Gortnacul? Or earlier still, my mother’s death? I want to know. I want to know the real me.”
Stella brings up Gortnacul House and Spector’s role as Jensen’s special boy. She tells him, “. . . 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 lawyer calls the questioning. Everyone gets up to leave. Paul leaps up and punches Stella in the face several times.
When she falls, he kicks her. Anderson tries to pull him off and Spector breaks Anderson’s arm. By then everyone watching on monitors, including a crazed Jim Burns (John Lynch) come running. It takes 4 men to carry off Spector. When DCI Eastwood (Stuart Graham) pulls Burns back, he asks him if he’s been drinking. Burns leaves, in tears. My interpretation of Burns’ tears is that he is in pain because he didn’t protect the woman he loves. Or maybe he’s just boohooing because he knows his career as a boozer at work is over.
It’s definitely over for Spector now. By showing his true colors while in a room with Stella and surrounded by cops, he sealed his fate.
Healy thinks Paul’s behavior can be used for an insanity plea. Wallace won’t have it. She won’t be in the same room with Spector and she won’t defend him. She tells Healy that she’s through with the case. Right on, Wallace.
Stella spends the night in the hospital, where Dr. O’Donnell (Richard Coyle) comes into her room for a 2 AM game of 20 questions. He asks her who is stronger, men or women. She says, “What do you think?” and he answers, “Oh, women, without a doubt. In fact, it’s time you hurried up and took over. I mean, it’s going to happen, so why not get on with it?” Right on, Doc.
Katie (Aisling Franciosi) finds a sharp bone in her stew and uses it to cut her arm in about 100 places. Stella could ignore this news, but she goes to see Katie.
Stella tells Katie she has scars, too – hidden on her thigh and the bottoms of her feet. Katie asks why and Stella says, “Anger, just like you.” They talk about their dead fathers. Stella tells Katie to find someone who will cherish her, not someone from a dream like Paul Spector, who doesn’t even know she’s alive. Stella is called away suddenly by a call from the psychiatric unit where Spector is.
Let’s back up a few minutes to what Spector is up to in the psych unit. He asks the guy he hates for raping his 12 year old sister, Mark Bailey (Conor MacNeill) to create a disturbance. Bailey does. This gives Spector the chance to attack the psychiatrist Dr. Larson (Krister Henriksson), beat him into unconsciousness and steal his belt. When the nurses and guards finally get Bailey shoved into his room and behind a locked door, Spector is hiding in Bailey’s bathroom. He uses the belt to strangle Bailey. He puts Bailey in his bed with a cover over him.
Still in Bailey’s room, he puts a plastic bag over his head, ties the belt around his own neck, and hangs himself. Artfully arranged, true to form, even when killing himself. The camera lingers on him as he slowly twitches into unconsciousness.
That news was the phone call Stella got while in juvenile detention with Katie.
Stella goes to the psych unit. She looks at Spector on the floor, dead. She’s weaving weakly on her feet. She turns and walks away. I don’t know what Stella is thinking about this, but to me it’s like Spector cheated her out of the satisfaction of putting him in prison for life. I hate that, and I think Stella might, too.
There is a slow winding-down. Burns holds a press conference to announce all this news. He praises Stella Gibson, who walks away from the TV and stops listening when she hears that. He also resigns.
We see Rose Stagg (Valene Kane) reading a bedtime story to her daughter – the scary version, not the Disney version. We see someone informing the Spector children about their dad. There’s no sign of Sally Ann – she must still be staring at the walls.
Stella is last to leave the office and Dani Ferrington (Niamh McGrady) comes in to give her a big hug.
Stella goes home to London. Her home is empty. Mail litters the floor. Faded flowers sit dried in a vase on the kitchen island. She pulls the note that Nurse Sheridan gave to Paul Spector from her pocket. It
says, “He That Loves Not Abides in Death.”
Nurse Sheridan reminds me of poor Frances in Happy Valley, who thought she could save Tommy Lee Royce with loving kindness.
The message in the note echoes what Stella was telling Katie earlier. Stella pins it to her kitchen cork board. We don’t see anything of Stella’s home but the entry and the kitchen, but it’s a beautiful place. Spacious and full of light.
Stella pours a glass of wine and sits, thinking.
A slow pace characterized this series from the beginning. Sometimes I felt like creator and director Allan Cubitt told his actors to hear a line, count to 5, and then respond with the next line. I know from Twitter that some people couldn’t take the pacing. Not everything is an action movie. The Fall is a psychological drama, and I think it excels at the form.
Looking inward is slow and painful. You have to sit with it. That’s what The Fall requires.
Obviously, Paul Spector’s story is over. But I’d love to see Stella Gibson carry on with her next case. She’s a marvel of a character and Gillian Anderson plays her with self-contained brilliance. Maybe not a sexual predator next time, though. Let Stella chase some other type of rat bastard, please.
The score by Keefus Ciancia and David Holmes deserves a mention. Slow, pulsing, it is the heartbeat dragging us from moment to moment.
In case you haven’t already checked it out, The Fall Facebook page contains several excellent clips from season 3, including a deleted scene.
What did you think of season 3 and of the way the story ended?