“The reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated”, those were the first words to leave the mouth of a long-time source of mine when we sat down to discuss The Fall last month.
It was on March 10th, after months of talks between the BBC, Artists Studio and series creator Allan Cubitt, that BBC Two Controller Kim Shillinglaw and outgoing BBC Drama boss Ben Stephenson finally pulled the trigger on a third season renewal for the Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan fronted series.
Myriad reports proclaimed that the five episode third season would be the show’s last. A notion that came from a quote provided by Ben Stephenson in which he proclaimed that “the cat and mouse game between Gillian and Jamie has one last act to play out”.
But according to my sources that may not be entirely true. “I think that was mis-read”, one source tells me, noting that, in an effort to placate some of the critics, everyone wanted to make it clear that this would be the final season to feature Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector. That, however, doesn’t preclude a fourth season without the character.
I hear that the auspices behind the show, including Allan Cubitt and Gillian Anderson, have ideas of how to “continue the story of Stella Gibson” beyond the Paul Spector storyline. “It might be a tough sell”, another source adds, “but, no, we’ve not had a formal decision from high atop the cliff…stating that this [season three] is it”. Furthermore, at the time of the announcement a senior BBC PR said not to read too much into the quote about the “final act”.
That said, it should be stressed that the focus of the team behind The Fall is not on ensuring the longevity of the series but guaranteeing a “high quality” third season that everyone involved can be “proud of”. I’m told that Allan Cubitt is currently penning the scripts and all the focus is on pre-production, hoping to avoid some of the problems that plagued the show’s second season.
Scheduling and other creative issues (as well as a tight delivery schedule) led to some late re-writes last season which saw some characters simply disappear from the narrative without explanation. In one case, sources say that an edict came down that the show should focus more on the police investigation and less on the politics of policing in Northern Ireland.
That resulted in an entire storyline being cut in post-production and saw Game Of Thrones alum Ian McElhinney’s (already filmed) multi-episode arc being all but edited out of the second season and reduced to a cameo in the season premiere. I’m told this also had a ripple effect on the story arc of Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns (John Lynch).
(In the interest of balance it should be noted that when asked about this while filming on season two was still underway a BBC representative denied the production issues. I stand by my sources).
It is with those kinds of issues in mind that producers are looking to get as much “set” and agreed to before filming gets underway. Part of that is finding an “organic” block of time when the talent involved can come together to film these five episodes.
That in and of itself is something that is not entirely easy given the busy schedules of both Gillian Anderson, who is gearing up to reprise her role as Dana Scully on Fox’s The X-Files revival; and Jamie Dornan, whose career is really starting to take off. At present it looks like production will finally get underway late this year in Belfast, but that may well slip to early 2016, I’m told.
But just who is being lined up to return beyond Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan? While nobody has deals, my sources say that a “core group” including John Lynch, Bronagh Waugh and Archie Panjabi will be back. Further cast members who are eyed to return include Colin Morgan, Jonjo O’Neill and Emmett Scanlan. Update, December 9th 2015: Despite hopes that it would go otherwise, I’m now told Archie Panjabi wont be returning for season three after all, due to scheduling issues that could not be resolved.
I’m also told that, while no formal decision has been made just yet, Alan Cubitt may return to the director’s seat, as well as serving as writer and executive producer alongside Gillian Anderson, Stephen Wright, Patrick Irwin and Justin Thomson-Glover. And if the last two seasons are anything to go by, I’d fully expect Gillian Anderson to spring for an Ice Cream Truck for the dedicated crew on wrap day.