Overlooked: The Fall

BBC drama is not your typical psychological thriller

Overlooked: <i>The Fall</i>

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.

Overlooked: Peaky Blinders

Lose yourself in 1920s Birmingham with only the Shelbies as your guides

Overlooked: <i>Peaky Blinders</i>

I started watching Peaky Blinders a year ago on two separate recommendations from two friends, whose opinions on such things I value implicitly.

From the first shot of Thomas Shelby slowly riding through the grim streets of Birmingham on a dark horse, I knew that I had stumbled upon a cinematic masterpiece. I raved on and on about it to anyone who would listen — and to many who would not. As I watched more of the series, I began to feel that even my own glowing commentary on the show was an understatement.

At its simplest, Peaky Blinders follows the lives and antics of 1920s English gangsters. But even at its simplest, Peaky Blinders is anything but simple.

Though the show’s focus on organized crime may seem trite after the success of shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, Peaky Blinders provides insight into a period and a place where the topic has not yet been explored, doubling down on themes of skewed family dynamics and post traumatic stress disorder after the First World War.

Musically, the show uses Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s “Red Right Hand” to introduce and define the lead character. This is emblematic of ’90s theme songs, and stands out uniquely in a world where most shows only bother to toss out a quick title card.

The rest of the show’s soundtrack — heavily dominated by Arctic Monkeys records — feels like an extension of the opening theme, conveying the same grittiness with every beat, and almost acting as an additional cast member.

Speaking of the cast, Peaky Blinders features top-tier actors and actresses in every facet of the Shelby narrative. Christopher Nolan’s own personal muse of unquestionable talent, Cillian Murphy, plays the show’s lead. Helen McCrory of Penny Dreadful and the Harry Potter franchise plays his aunt. Even Tom Hardy and his wife, Charlotte Riley, play crucial roles in this BBC drama.

So why doesn’t Peaky Blinders pull in the viewership and attention of other shows like, say, Riverdale? Audiences may have a difficult time investing in a show that isn’t always selling itself to us through social media and memes.

This isn’t because millennials are superficial, but because these social interactions are so normalized that they’ve become expected. Without them surrounding a show, we might not see what’s really out there.

Even so, I encourage everyone to lose themselves in the Birmingham of the ’20s, with only the Shelbies and company as your designated tour guides.

Overlooked is a recurring feature in the Arts & Culture section that puts the spotlight on underappreciated pieces of pop culture. To participate, email arts@thevarsity.ca.