Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 5 and 6: The Fall
Written by Damian Wayling; Directed by Robert Bierman
The conjoined corpses of a man and a woman, shot dead with the same bullet during a sex act, are discovered when the floor of a concealed room gives ways in a former City bank, which went down the tubes in the aftermath of 1992’s Black Wednesday. The man is identified as Mervyn Simmel (Nigel Whitmey), one of the bank’s directors, while the woman turns out to be Katherine Keane (Alison Doody), a journalist known for having a string of affairs with wealthy older men, many of whom hold down prominent government positions. The team’s investigation reveals several potential suspects, one of whom, Lucien Calvin (Peter Capaldi), a former partner at the bank, now clearly deranged and lecturing on the evils of capitalism, seems to be the likeliest.
This episode is undoubtedly a step up from its dire predecessor, but, watching it, one gets the impression that the writer relied a little too heavily on The Da Vinci Code for inspiration - not a good state of affairs by any stretch of the imagination. What this means is that, while Peter Boyd is a considerably more interesting character than Robert Langton (not that it’s difficult to be more interesting than Robert Langton), he does spend rather a lot of time chasing self-flagellating members of a secret society - yet another secret society with the spectre of religion hanging over it, which, hot on the heels of Wren Boys’ sinister nunnery and Deus Ex Machina’s Islamic overtones, means that things are beginning to feel a bit samey.
The highlight of this episode is undoubtedly Peter Capaldi, a fantastic character actor who plays the character of Calvin brilliantly, imbuing him with just the right mix of eccentricity and sinisterness. In the scenes in which he appears, the episode comes alive, and his interaction with Boyd and Grace is fascinating on many levels. In the most straightforward sense, it’s a pleasure to watch three extremely talented actors playing off each other; on a deeper level, writer Damian Wayling weaves a fascinating “family” undercurrent, with Boyd and Grace fairly obviously serving, in Calvin’s eyes, as surrogates for his own domineering father and docile mother, respectively. In Series 6 and 7 there is, on the whole, very little of the Boyd/Grace dynamic that helped make the first five series so enjoyable, so it’s very nice to see it making a welcome, albeit brief, return here.