Recently, in mainstream media, the portrayal of sensitive topics — such as sexual assault and suicide — has fueled the ongoing debate about whether dramatizing these issues creates a platform for discussion, or rather illustrates them in a glorified manner.
One lesser-known British TV show, The Fall, is a stellar example of TV tackling complex issues in a sensitive manner, without oversimplifying them.
The Fall stars Gillian Anderson, who plays the ice-cold police superintendent Stella Gibson, pitted against the charming Jamie Dornan, who plays Paul Spector — a family man by day and serial killer by night.
The three-season series is set up to seem like a typical good versus evil manhunt, but quickly evolves into a criticism of the use of such dichotomies in mainstream television.
It takes on issues such as sexual assault, consent, consent among minors, views on female promiscuity, and the problems women face in male-dominated work forces, carefully dissecting them in a way that reveals the danger of approaching anything as black and white.
In addition to exploring such difficult topics, the show is refreshing in its diversion from a typical whodunit storyline, instead favouring the psychological aspects behind the behaviourisms of the killer.
In fact, much of the third season focuses on the serial killer’s past, instilling doubt about the origins of evil and where to cast blame. It completely destroys the notions of ‘good guy, bad guy’ that were so carefully built up in the first two seasons, effectively forcing the viewer to confront their own beliefs about good and evil, morality, and the justice system.
The show is a must watch for anyone interested in the functions of the human mind or the relationship between moral and legal culpability. It culminates in a shocking finale that leaves the viewer with virtually no answers — with the story lingering in the mind for weeks afterward.
However, this show is most certainly not for everyone. As expected, it leaves little to the imagination — so anyone who cannot make it through an episode of Criminal Minds should probably steer clear.
Moreover, although the plot reads like a drama, the British show stays true to its nature by being almost entirely devoid of over-the-top demonstrations of emotion, instead letting the viewer interpret a character’s inner thoughts for themselves.
However, if you prefer to skip cheesy love triangles and get right to the good stuff, I’d add The Fall to the list.