Tag Archives: Gillian Anderson

Happy Valley

MV5BMTQzODQ3OTA3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUyNzI0MjE@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_Yes, another police procedural. But, I really liked this one. Netflix suggested it to me because I liked the Fall. I can see why (police, strong female protagonist, evil man to catch), but they’re actually really different. Gillian Anderson in the Fall is very upper class, very separate from the common officers on the street. In Happy Valley, the whole show takes place at a working class level in a fairly working class area of Yorkshire.

It aired in April on BBC One, and was put on Netflix last month in the US. It has been renewed for a second season.

The show stars Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood. And oh boy does she have a life I wouldn’t want.  About 8 years ago, her daughter was raped and became pregnant. She delivered the baby, but hanged herself shortly thereafter. Catherine decided to keep and raise her grandson, against the objections of her husband and their son. Divorce and ostracism followed. The men of the family couldn’t look at the baby without seeing the rape and the suicide.

Now, Catherine still wonders if she made the right decision. Catherine and her recovering addict sister Clare (played by Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran), and the two of them can barely handle the boy, Ryan, and their hectic lives.

Siobhan Finneran as Clare and Sarah Lancashire as Catherine in Happy Valley

Ryan has a bad temper, and you can’t hear that without wondering how much of his father is inside him.

Speaking of his father.  He was just released from prison. Not for rape. He was never caught for what he did to Catherine’s daughter, so you can imagine that revenge on him is just about the only thing Cahterine cares about when she hears he is released.  And, I can’t blame her, because he’s a sick and disgusting villain.

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On the other side of town, in a little bit better neighborhood, lives Kevin Weatherill. And if he isn’t the world’s biggest asshole, I don’t know who is.  Yes, I do, it’s Rupert Murdoch. But still. This guy is a douche.

p01xkx77He wants to send his daughter to private school, but he doesn’t have the money. So he asks his boss, Nevison, who he feels owes him something.  His boss says no, because if he did it for Kevin, he’d have to do it for everyone.

You can see Kevin’s big flaw in just this little bit of information. He has a problem, and he wants someone to solve it for him. When the boss says no, Kevin sees it as all the boss’s fault. Some people would take a second job, or cut back on vacations, but not Kevin. Kevin thinks the world owes him. He’s angry, so, naturally, he suggests to a criminal he knows that maybe the boss’s daughter could get kidnapped and he could get a cut of the money. That’s his solution.

So the criminal, Ashley, gets together his two workers, Lewis and Tommy Lee Royce. Tommy Lee Royce, by the way, is the guy who raped Catherine’s daughter. And together they organize and carry out the kidnapping.

As you can imagine, these two sides of the story meet in the end. And it’s superbly done. Dramatic, tense, disturbing, sad. Enraging.  By the end of the show, the person I was most angry with was Kevin. Even after it’s all said and done, and he’s dragged down his whole family in his ruin and disgrace, he still blames his boss. If his boss had just given him the raise, then the daughter would never have been kidnapped/raped/almost killed.  He’s a complete loon.

Here’s what’s great about this show: The women. They are tough. Smart. Capable. Most importantly, they are survivors. We see the men commit mistake after mistake, miscalculate, break down, cry. We see the women push forward and do what they think is right. Not just Catherine. Ann, the kidnapped girl, is an absolute survivor. Catherine saves her life, and Ann saves her right back. The men cannot be depended upon, and none of them prove anything other than a disappointment.

Before you cry misandry, let me remind you how many shows feature an almost entirely male cast. How many shows feature women as victims, women unable to do more than cry? Even Broadchurch, which had a female co-star and smart detective, left us with the question of how could she be so stupid as not to know about her husband. Happy Valley leaves us with no doubt that Catherine will continue her work, will take down drug dealers and murderers, rapists and kidnappers, and whomever else she needs to. It’s great to see her on television. And it’s rare. So…deal with the tables being turned for once.

The Fall

The-fall-highres_8colI don’t think I knew about this show when it originally aired in the UK (early summer 2013). It’s on Netflix Instant here; it never aired on US TV.

There are a lot of police procedurals on TV. Way more than the world will ever need. There have been nearly 750 episodes of CSI and its spinoffs. And they just ordered another CSI spinoff focusing on computer crime. And don’t get me started on Law and Order (original, Criminal Intent, SVU, UK, Elevator Inspector’s Unit). So…most of them aren’t even good shows. They’re completely unrealistic with their ludicrously attractive casts, featuring police women in 6″ stiletto Louboutin shoes, lab scientists who are inexplicably present during police raids, SWAT missions, interrogations, the incredibly posh sets that no government could afford for what little lab resources they have, and their superhuman ability to zoom and ‘enhance’ CCTV footage to make a picture clear enough to identify perps and even take their fingerprints off the water bottle they can see through the camera. They are all stupid shows. The only good ones are those that either a-makes the situation goofy or b-show the darkness that comes with the job. Psych is my favorite version of the former, and Luther is a great version of the latter.

The Fall is neither as dark or as devastating as Luther. But it has a lot going for it, and is infinitely more worth watching than any episode of CSI (even that one Quentin Tarantino directed).

Reason the first: Gillian Anderson.

3619467-high_res-the-fall.jpgI have seen very little of her acting, as the X-Files scared the crap out of me when it was on TV–I was 12 when it premiered.

But I did see her in the recent miniseries of Bleak House and she was wonderful in it. In The Fall, she plays DSI Stella Gibson. She travels from the Metro Police to Belfast because of a missing woman. If Stella Gibson were a man, the character wouldn’t be much different, and would be a bit of a cliché. Cold, unemotional, focused on the hunt for the killer. Serial killer, Gibson believes after examining several similar cases. Gibson is smart, logical, eminently capable, and confident to a fault.  She asks to be introduced to a fellow cop because she thinks he’s handsome (she doesn’t say that last part). When she starts talking to him, she just casually (but pointedly) mentions her hotel’s name and her hotel room number. I don’t think I would ever have the guts to do something like that, but omg I wish I had that sort of confidence. I had to stare at the screen for a minute with my mouth open to recover from that scene.  The guy gets the hint and shows up later, and Stella is just as take-charge in that scene as she is during press conferences. Her character and her performance are very interesting and fascinating to watch.  She does approach her job as a hunt, and uses her ability to understand the killer to help find him.

Which brings us to reason the second: Paul Spector

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Jamie Dornan plays the killer. He hasn’t been in much before (an American show, Once Upon a Time), but he’s about to be much more famous. He’s playing the lead in the 50 Shades of Grey movie.  A movie I plan to avoid with all resources available to me. Same strategy I’ve applied to the books, and it’s worked so far.

In the Fall, the viewer spends almost equal time between Gibson and Spector. We see the killer prepare, research, stalk.  We see him kill. We also see him at his mediocre job, with his wife and children. We see his infatuation with the babysitter. It’s a bit like Dexter, in that we see from both points of view. But though Dexter is a terrifying person and a serial killer with a much higher body count, I find Spector far more terrifying. Dexter has his ‘code’, his set of morals, and that makes the bitter pill easier to swallow.  Spector goes after professional women, brunette, pretty. He strangles them, slowly. He bathes them and paints their fingernails after they’re dead. And then he goes home to his wife (a neonatal nurse) and 2 children. His daughter suffers from night terrors. He has a normal life, and when he is with his family he seems like a normal man. In the end, he is able to keep his family together, which keeps him from being exposed as a killer. He is able to feign normalcy well enough to be assumed innocent.

Which leads us to the big problem with this show.  The ending. After 5 nailbiting episodes, the show ends with a cliffhanger.  The hunt is on a break, because Spector has left town. It’s not just a cliffhanger, it’s more of a no-ender. No resolution, no pause to collect thoughts, just a fade that leaves you thinking you must have accidentally hit pause and of course there should be another 5-10 minutes to this damn show! Frustrating!

The good news is that they are filming the second series soon. From what I’ve read, it should pick up exactly where the last one stopped. Right back to the pursuit.

This is a minimalist show. Not a lot of dialogue. Sparse. This makes it difficult for me to qualitatively describe what I liked so much about it.  I can only say that it was well-made, well-written, well-acted, and kept me interested without the need for big twists and unexpected coincidences. And how many shows can you actually say that about nowadays? Very few. I totally recommend watching it.  But keep in mind that you will be irritated when you reach the end.