The Fall season 3 recap
Let's talk about all the episodes
Season 3 of The Fall is back, which means we finally get to find out what happens to Paul Spector, Stella Gibson, and everyone we love in Belfast. Now that the entire season is up on Netflix, we’re breaking down what happens in all six episodes. There’s one episode recap per page, so dig in!
EPISODE 1: “Silence and Suffering”
It’s official: We’ve made it to round three of the Paul Spector-Stella Gibson battle. And believe it or not, it’s still unclear who will walk away the victor. Sure, you could make the argument that Paul has confessed to multiple murders, but there’s also the little fact that he was shot in police custody and is currently residing in the ICU, monitored by nothing more than one nurse (who looks eerily like someone he’d have picked as a victim).
The third (and final?) season of The Fall picks up right where we left off, with Paul — and eventually, Anderson — being rushed to the hospital after being shot by hot-head James Tyler, who died at the scene. Also at the hospital is Rose Stagg, who is stable after surviving in the trunk of her car for days on end.
With multiple people fighting for their lives, Stella is left to fight for her job. Or rather, Burns does it for her. When Burns is called to HQ, he assures them that Stella should remain the lead on this case. He also assures them that he can “manage her,” which we all know is a lie.
As Paul is rushed into surgery, Stella checks in on Tom, who was shot in the arm and could have career-ending nerve damage. (Key word: could. We’re not sure yet.) But it’s not his career that Tom wants to discuss. “Why did you run to him,” he asks Stella. In the moment that both he and Paul were shot, Stella went straight for Paul, and as Tom puts it, she sounded “anguished.”
Stella explains that she knew Paul’s injuries were worse, but when Tom pushes her, she admits that she didn’t want it to end like that — no court, no punishment, no closure for the victims’ families. As she says, “I want him to live so that he can be tried and sentenced and spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Needless to say, Paul makes it through his surgery and ends up in the very same ICU where Tom Stagg is currently visiting Rose, who’s yet to say anything. As for Paul’s family, Sally tells her kids — Paul’s son makes a long-awaited reappearance! — that their father was involved in a “car accident,” which apparently sets something off in Olivia’s mind because next thing we know, Olivia is stealing her mother’s computer to look at a photo of her father with the words “The Face of a Killer?” written above it. So that should be fun.
And then of course there’s Katie, who hears that Paul was shot on the news and freaks out before her mother reminds her that she can’t see him due to her bail conditions.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, things get … weird. After Stella sneaks into Paul’s room to watch him breathe, she returns to the general ICU area, where some old woman calls her “sweetheart” and tells her “I’m glad you’ve come.” Stella sits next to her and holds her hand but says nothing. Are we to believe this is Stella’s mother? I’m so confused.
More importantly, back in Paul’s room, he opens his eyes … only to close them as soon as the nurse turns around. Translation: He’s not only awake, but he’s already scheming. Let round three truly begin!
Episode grade: B
NEXT: Episode 2
EPISODE 2: “His Troubled Thoughts”
What once was a cat-and-mouse game has now turned into something much more complex. The Fall season 3 is asking bigger questions: Once you have the killer, how do you make sure that your mistakes won’t set him free? (Translation: How easy is it actually to bring a killer to justice?) And furthermore, if Paul isn’t faking — I’m undecided — and actually can’t remember what he’s been arrested for, do you jail a man who can’t remember his crimes?
It’s complicated. It’s messy. And I love it.
Let’s start with the first question, which takes a closer look at police conduct. After Burns informs Stella that he’s going to release Spector’s name to the public, he questions why she put Anderson on her task force. Furthermore, he reminds her that he himself questioned whether Anderson was “man enough” for the task of being shackled to Spector. As Burns reminds Stella, her every decision is going to be analyzed in this case.
Personally, Stella thinks Jim questioning Anderson’s manliness is “pathetic,” but if she thinks that’s pathetic, just wait until Burns admits he kept digging until he realized that Stella and Anderson had driven to work together that morning. So yeah, you’re looking at a jealous man.
While Jim heads to a private session with the policing executive — where he continues to defend Stella’s job — Stella runs into Dani Ferrington. After shooting James Tyler, she’s been suspended from frontline duties, so Stella invites her to be a part of the task force. As Stella puts it, “We’ve chosen to work in a masculine paramilitary patriarchal culture. Let’s not let it beat us.”
Stella then heads into an interview of her own, where she’s questioned about her actions the day Spector was shot. Stella has answers to MOST of the questions, but when it comes to the question of why Spector was standing out in the open with no protective gear, she falls quiet.
Following her interview, Stella heads to the task force’s new office to tell her team that now is not the time to take their foot off the gas. They need to find more evidence, they need to plug any gaps in the narrative, and most importantly, they cannot make any more mistakes.
Now, moving onto the second big question of the episode: Can you jail a man who doesn’t remember his crimes? (Or is Paul faking?)
Long story short, this is the episode where Paul wakes up. It’s also the episode where Katie goes crazy and squirts lemon juice in the eyes of her friend who gave an interview about the time she met Paul. Oh, and let’s not forget that Olivia gets in trouble at school for accessing a computer without permission and using a staff-only phone. But we’ll get back to her in a moment.
Paul wakes up shortly after Sally arranges to get him a lawyer, but the twist is that Paul doesn’t understand why he needs one. According to Paul, he believes he was in a car accident and the year is 2006. The doctor tells him that he was shot while in police custody, but wants to allow Paul’s lawyer to tell him why he’s in police custody.
Even Sally can’t tell him when she stops by with Olivia. It seems once Olivia told her mom what she’d read, Sally caved. And yet, the visit isn’t what Olivia expected, because Paul struggles to identify her as his daughter. After all, in his mind, she’s still “small.”
Whether Paul is telling the truth or this is a long con is yet to be determined. Either way, I’m loving the twist it puts on this season.
Elsewhere in the ICU, Rose catches a glimpse of Paul and decides she wants to go home. By the end of the episode, she’s reunited with her daughter and discharged from the hospital.
As for the final moments of the hour, Stella discovers a locker that Paul had under the name “Baldwin.” In it is the stolen car filled with food that Stella believes he was bringing to Rose, undergarments he’s kept over the years, and more of his journals (aside from the ones he previously burned). With nine or 10 new journals, Stella and her team are left to decide if there are more victims out there.
Episode grade: B+
NEXT: Episode 3
EPISODE 3: “The Gates of Light”
Overwhelmed with new evidence, the task force is left to analyze what they’ve found, and first and foremost, to identify the women in the new journals and find them. They need to know if they’re alive or dead.
But what Stella doesn’t know is that her biggest problem has nothing to do with these journals, but rather, it’s lying in a hospital bed in the ICU. With someone new accessing him, Paul’s doing his best to answer questions about his life. Yes, he’s heard of Facebook. No, he has no idea what Twitter is (though, to be fair, a “tweet” is a sound that a bird makes). In his mind, Olivia is 2 years old, he doesn’t have a son, and he has no idea what he’s done to be in police custody. As he puts it, “I think I might be different, but I don’t know how. I feel like I’m an alright person.”
The therapist (?) tells him that he can relearn anything that he’s forgotten. But as he so brillianty says, “But the ownership is gone.” So the ownership over his crimes is gone, but could he still go to jail for them?
It doesn’t take long for Stella to learn about Paul’s long-term memory loss, which can’t be fully accessed until they get an MRI, which they cannot perform while he has bullet fragments in his body. The good news is that the law doesn’t concern itself with present state of mind; it only cares about his state of mind when he committed the crimes. The bad news? The case is currently founded on memory-based evidence, which will pose problems.
Eventually, once Paul is stable enough to be moved, he’ll be assessed by a forensic psychiatrist, but for now, Stella tries to get them to drop the charges against Sally. Having lost her marriage, her work, and her unborn child, Sally’s already paid a high price for her involvement in Paul’s crimes. But Burns doesn’t see it that way. Quite frankly, he’s surprised Stella would want to “treat her paternalistically.” For now, they’re moving forward with Sally’s charges.
At the hospital, Paul meets with his lawyers, where they tell him, in detail, why he was in police custody. They take him through all of his victims, one by one. He recognizes no one … until they show him Rose’s photo. But as far as he remembers it, he last saw Rose in 2002 and has no idea why he would leave her to die.
Paul’s lawyers tell him they want him to appear in court as soon as possible, to which he agrees, but only after they show him a photo of Stella. He doesn’t recognize her.
Finally able to talk, Rose pays Stella a visit and updates her on the night that Paul took her and the videos he recorded. According to her memory, he never sexually assaulted her. He never did anything other than record those videos.
And now, it’s time for Paul to appear in court, where he’s being charged with four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of unlawful imprisonment. Paul appears via a video camera that they’ve set up at the hospital, but when he can’t remember his address, his lawyers update the judge on his condition.
Paul’s lawyers raise the issue of competence and argue that he cannot actively participate in his defense, but that doesn’t change anything. The judge informs Paul that once he’s better, he’ll be transferred to a secure psychiatric clinic for evaluation.
And the man evaluating him is Dr. Larson, who calls Stella to determine the level of risk that comes along with Spector. She simply informs him that “Paul Spector is a violent sexual sadist.” She then agrees to help Dr. Larson in any way that she can, though she does warn him that there’s a chance Paul is faking the memory loss.
Back at the hospital, Paul asks his nurse, Kira, why she’s so nice to him. She then tells him that she heard he cried during his surgery, which leads him to tell her all about his experience in the tunnel, when he saw the light but stayed to be with Olivia. She believes that’s why he cried. And right now, she’s on Team Paul.
Meanwhile, Team Stella might have found something. Tom brings a murder case to Stella. Susan Harper was a law student who was murdered in London in 2002 — a gap in Spector’s timeline during which they don’t know where he was. It seems someone is doing time for said murder, but that someone spent time at one of the same children’s homes as Spector.
Getting to the end of the hour, Sally seemingly drugs her children and drives them all to the beach … is she contemplating a murder-suicide? Then there’s Katie, who’s clearly planning something as she all but stalks Paul’s trial.
And finally, there’s Paul, who ends the hour with a look at the camera that seems to mean he’s still in there. Translation: He remembers everything. He’s still playing the game.
Episode grade: A-
NEXT: Episode 4
EPISODE 4: “The Hell Within Him”
We open on Stella in a candle-lit bath. Steam slowly rises from the sudsy water. Hands reach out and begin caressing and massaging hers. She opens her eyes — it’s Paul. He lunges forward and begins to drown her in the tub. It’s clearly a dream sequence, but is it Stella’s or Paul’s? We eventually find out it’s Stella’s, but how telling would it have been if it were Paul’s?
At the precinct, Team Stella begins re-examining photos from Susan Harper’s murder for which David Alvarez had been convicted. At this point in time, they have no evidence to place Paul Spector/Peter Baldwin in London in 2002. Meanwhile, Team Paul is working on his defense — and considering there’s a recorded confession, they’re exploring all options, including opression. Lady Lawyer thinks this could be a viable claim considering the “unusual circumstances” of Stella’s conversations with Paul. Given Stella’s non-standard technique, Lady Lawyer thinks it possible (and plausible) that Paul was seduced into a confession. They decide to sequester the dream journal of Stella’s, in which Paul left his own message.
In the hospital, Paul is finally having the MRI that had to wait because of the bullet fragments still in his body. When his lawyers arrive to hear the results, the doctor delivers a screed of medical jargon (infarc?), none of which really explains Paul’s memory loss. (So, perhaps, more support for him faking it.)
Paul isn’t the only one who appears to be experiencing a break from reality: We learn rather quickly that, yes, Sally Ann did intend to kill herself and their children. But a passerby caught sight of the family car being engulfed by the waves and rescued them. So the entire family, in a cruel twist, is now reunited under one roof — albeit the roof of Belfast General Hospital.
“What frame of mind was she in to think they’d be better off dead?” Stella asks Burns, in a rightful I-told-you-so moment. Stella goes to the hospital to check on Sally Ann and the children. Stella asks Olivia how she is, and instead of an answer, Olivia reaches out for a hug. Heartbreaking.
Paul’s lawyers are in the hospital too, and they’re reviewing the damning evidence of his case with him. Of course, he doesn’t “remember” any of it, and looks ill. Especially when they reach the Katie portion and he learns she’s only 16 (and was supposedly sleeping with her). Frustrated and disgusted, he begins to hit himself in the head — repeatedly. That is, until his lawyers call for Kira, who eventually soothes him. And speaking of Katie, she’s lurking in the hospital too, in the hopes of delivering a letter to Paul. But she’s intercepted by a police officer before she can hand it off to his lawyers.
Elsewhere, Anderson is dispatched to London to further investigate Susan Harper’s case files — as it turns out, Stella’s boss back home has agreed to give them access.
Paul is finally discharged and thanks Kira for everything. (We can’t have seen the last of her, right?) Stella has arrived at the psychiatric unit ahead of Paul, to brief his new doctor on the case. She shares his disturbing journal entries and warns the physician not to underestimate him. As Paul arrives, in cuffs, we see him open his fist to reveal a 20-pound note, on it written “He that loves not abides in death.” Did I miss someone handing that to him? Where did he get it? He flings it out of his palm right before he crosses the facility’s threshold. Stella — having seen him drop it on the security footage — picks it up on her way out.
The episode concludes with another (and perhaps final) interview between Stella and Rose Stagg. Rose relays the final moments of her captivity, before asking to speak with Stella in private (i.e. with the tape recorder turned off). It’s then that Rose reveals she hasn’t been entirely honest: Paul didn’t choke her just once when they were dating. Apparently their bondage activities became more and more intense as time went on. She recalled Paul wanting her to play dead. Paul wanting her to put a plastic bag over her head. And Paul, ultimately, reviving her after a particularly rough interaction.
“Men could become gods on earth through a certain type of sex,” he apparently told her.
“And women?” Stella asks.
“I think so. I’m sorry. I can’t really explain it.”
Rose concludes that after she and Paul broke up, she believes he moved to London. (The timeline thickens…)
It’s then Stella’s turn to confess a secret: It’s very likely her actions during the investigation led Paul straight to Rose’s door. But instead of being angry, Rose forgives her: “I’m glad I’m not the only one to have made mistakes.”
Episode grade: B
NEXT: Episode 5
EPISODE 5: “Wounds of Deadly Hate”
Yes, it seems dreams (and nightmares!) are something of a motif in this third and final season of The Fall. And the two opening scenes in “Wounds of Deadly Hate” serve as an interesting juxtaposition.
Dr. Larson, having received a copy of Stella’s dream journal in order to read the entry Paul left behind, calls to inquire about the diary — out of equal parts professional duty and personal curiosity. When Stella explains that she keeps paper and pen by her bed because she’s trained herself to wake up and jot down important insights, he’s further intrigued.
“So you see dreams as a kind of problem-solving?” he asks.
“I think maybe the sleeping brain makes connections more quickly than the waking mind,” she explains.
Cut to Paul standing precariously at the edge of a very tall building looking down at the traffic below. He leans forward and lets gravity takes its course. Once again, it’s a dream. What connections has Paul made?
At the psychiatric unit, Larson is debriefing his staff on Spector: his mother’s suicide when he was only 8 years old, the absentee father, the multiple children’s homes, the memory loss (whether real or contrived). His guidance is to approach Paul with “respectful skepticism.”
Paul’s biggest fan, Katie, meanwhile, finds herself facing a judge (seems to be the same judge that Paul faced), in regards to breaking her curfew and her other misdeeds. No amount of her mother’s pleading can keep Katie from ultimately being sent to a juvenile facility. (Katie telling the judge to f— off and that she only listens to Paul didn’t particularly help either.)
As for Paul’s defense, his lawyers file an abuse of process application and concoct some wild, slut-shamey theories as to why Stella didn’t do her due diligence to protect Paul in the woods. (He may have known about all her inter-office dalliances, and she wanted to silence him. *Insert patriarchy-shattering eye roll here*) Regardless, evidence continues to mount against Paul. In London, Anderson and Dani have unearthed David Alvarez’s testimony in the Susan Harper case, and to characterize the police’s behavior as “leading” would be a gross understatement. (If you watched Making a Murderer, you’ll understand what I mean when I say they Brendan Dassey-ed him.) The duo also re-examine the CCTV footage of Alvarez and Susan leaving the bar the night of her murder, and who seems to be right behind them? You guessed it: Paul Spector. In Belfast: Another clue. One of the investigators uncovered records of a Peter Baldwin working in a London restaurant in the summer of 2002 and — get this — receiving a reprimand from his boss the very night before Susan’s murder. There’s no longer any denying Paul lived in London in 2002.
After debriefing Stella via Skype about all he’s uncovered in London, Anderson’s phone rings. It’s Burns — sloppy, drinking, and breathing heavily. He needs to tell Anderson something, something about the children’s home in which David and Paul lived. The depravity was such that the staff would round up the boys and make them masturbate in front of them in the dining hall for entertainment. Real sick, f—ed up sh–. Burns tells Anderson this as a sort of litmus test for Alvarez. If David was indeed there with Paul, he’ll know about this.
And the information proves vital. Alvarez does recognize the image of Paul (Peter), but he’s hesitant to reveal much more. Until, that is, Anderson mentions the dining room at the children’s home. David stops resisting: He relays a story about how Paul protected him from the headmaster, who had a penchant for a new “special boy” every year. And how he felt like he owed Paul.
Back in Belfast, Paul has been having regular meetings with Dr. Anderson to unfurl his past. We learn how — just days after his eighth birthday — he found his mom hanging from belts, having killed herself. We get an explanation for his voyeuristic tendencies, which began around the age of 13. It wasn’t just to catch a glimpse of a naked neighbor. He looked into those houses to see real, warm homes. And it only made him feel more lonely. While these chats with Anderson are telling — revealing even more of a tragic backstory than we knew — I can’t help but long for the Stella-Paul repartee of yore.
And, well, we don’t have to wait long for the two to finally come face to face once again. But, this time, Stella remains mute. She and Anderson call Paul in for questioning about the contents of the recently discovered storage unit. But, it’s something of a bait and switch, as they then slide David Alvarez’s picture across the table and ask if he knows the man. Stella continues to just stare at Paul. And the few times they do make eye contact are interesting. He’s keenly aware of her presence, you can tell, but whether it’s because he knows her or is just curious about the strange woman staring at him from across the table remains to be seen. Nonetheless, Paul is caught off-guard by the line of questioning. Eastwood then comes in to arrest him for the murder of Susan Harper.
Outside of the interrogation room, Paul’s lawyers want answers from him.
“The police are being clever,” he says. “They have something on me I can actually remember.”
[Editor’s Note: You’ve probably noticed I have yet to mention Mark Bailey. I’m going to continue to gloss over Paul’s new weird psychiatric unit friend until it feels like he has some (any!) bearing on this story. Other than window dressing, that is.]
Episode grade: A-
EPISODE 6: “Their Solitary Way”
This is not how I imagined The Fall concluding. Especially after the cliffhanger season 2 finale in which Paul Spector’s life hung in the balance. Why bring him back from the brink of death only to have him meet his ultimate fate weeks later? (Albeit at his own hands.) It’s both futile and poetic, I suppose. And surprising — I’ll give creator and executive producer Allan Cubitt that. All of that isn’t to say, however, that this was a bum finale. No, in fact, I enjoyed it quite a bit despite a few out-of-step twists and turns.
We open with Paul explaining to his lawyers how he was involved with the death of Susan Harper. He and David Alvarez had met Susan at a club, and afterward, she invited them back to her place. She and David had sex while Paul watched. When David left to find more alcohol, Paul invited Susan to “try something a bit different.” Which, if we know anything about Paul, can’t be good. He explains it was a sex game gone too far and Susan’s death was accidental. His lawyer cautiously asks: “Have you remembered more in regard to the other charges?” He does not.
Paul and his lawyer then rejoin Anderson and Stella in the interrogation room, where Paul relays the story once again — this time with the added details that the manner of death was autoerotic asphyxiation. Paul had put Susan’s head in a plastic bag while he went down on her and didn’t take it off in time: She suffocated. He then cleaned up the scene and left. Like, really left. He moved back to Belfast and changed his name from Peter Baldwin to Paul Spector, with not a worry in the world that the police would ever find him or connect him to the death. After all, David Alvarez, who wasn’t even in the room, took the fall, and Paul claims he has no idea why.
It’s here that Stella addresses Paul for the first time.
“He said he felt in your debt,” she says to him.
“She speaks,” he replies sardonically.
She not only speaks, she pushes. Hard. She tells him she knows Father Jensen abused him even though he claimed before that he made himself as disgusting as possible to ward him off.
“No one escaped,” she continues. “In fact some boys were singled out for special treatment and you were one of Father Jensen’s favorites. He even had a pet name for you. He called you “pretty boy.” He chose you to be his favorite for a whole year. When it came time for you to choose your successor you looked right past David Alvarez. You chose another boy and for that he was eternally grateful.”
Paul is agitated, and so he pushes too. He says that when people first began telling him what he did as Paul Spector, he was horrified. But little by little, it started to intrigue him. He’s clearly relishing his rapt audience — something Stella soon points out.
“Rose Stagg was so right about you,” she says. “She saw right through you. Your infantile desire to have a captive and captivated audience. You just want to be noticed. To be the center of attention. To have special treatment. To make your mark.” She knows it’s all a performance, one to protect “against the dreaded black hole of your heart.” She concludes by telling him: “It’s time to grow up.”
At that, Paul’s lawyer asks for a break so they can prepare a statement about Susan Harper’s death. And then, as Stella and Anderson make to leave the room, something happens that I never could have imagined: Paul beats the s— out of Stella. Is it weird to say I thought better of this serial killer? Punching Stella seems out of character for him, honestly. I would have thought him above that. Nonetheless, she’s left bloody on the ground while Paul turns to Anderson and breaks his arm. It takes four guards to finally subdue Paul. (Who, remember, just went through several surgeries not too long ago. Is this man super human?) Burns (or I should say, a likely drunk Burns) runs to the room to try to attack Paul himself, but he’s held back.
In the hospital, Stella’s prognosis is better than you’d expect. A few lacerations and perhaps a mild fracture. She’s loath to stay overnight, but the doctor insists. He even comes in to keep her company later, in a nice little moment.
Back at the psychiatric unit, Paul meets with Dr. Larson, who has been told by Paul’s hospital psychiatrist that he should conclude Paul’s amnesia is faked. Dr. Larson continues to do his due diligence, though. He asks if Paul has any happy memories. He cites one: a moment in which his infant daughter fell asleep in is arms. Having a daughter filled the black hole in his heart, he says. (An intentional reference to Stella’s earlier remark?)
“Do you think I’m treatable?” Paul asks.
“Of course,” Larson says.
Back in action, Stella gets word that Katie has been self-harming with a bone she retrieved from one of her meals. She pays her a visit to check in. After they exchange stories about their dead dads, Stella gets to the point of her visit: Katie must stop obsessing over Paul or she’s going to lose her life. She tells Katie that Paul doesn’t care about her. That he doesn’t even know she exists. It’s then that Stella’s phone rings — she’s told of the horrible incident at Paul’s psychiatric unit.
As it turns out, Paul’s creepy friend Mark does end up playing an integral role. A very integral role. (Sorry for having doubted you, Mark!) Paul asks him for a favor to which he agrees: Mark feigns a breakdown over a diabetic chocolate bar to create a distraction so Paul can slip out and run a few errands. It looks as though he’s trying to escape but that’s not his ultimate goal. He collides with Dr. Larson in the hallway and does to him what he did to Stella. As the doctor lies there unconscious, Paul steals his belt and sneaks into Mark’s room, seconds before the nurses drag Mark there, literally kicking and screaming. Paul first uses the belt to choke Mark to death. Then, Paul puts a plastic bag over his own head and loops the belt around his neck. And just like his mother, he affixes the belt to the back of a door and hangs himself. By the time the nurses stumbled upon Larson and track down Paul, he is dead.
Stella arrives at the facility, takes a look at Paul’s dead body, and leaves.
Burns is the one to deliver the news on TV that Paul is dead. He concludes by thanking Stella and delivering his own resignation.
We close with shots of Stella making her way back to London intercut with Rose Stagg reading The Frog Prince to her daughter. Stella arrives home to an empty flat. She pours herself a glass of wine and from her pocket retrieves one final souvenir: The 20-pound note Paul had dropped outside of the psychiatric facility:
“He that loves not abides in death.”
Episode grade: A-