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ASK MATTHEW

A love letter to Gillian Anderson, continued

Also: Will there be more ‘Flesh and Blood’?

Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in "The Fall."
Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in "The Fall."Steffan Hill/BBC

Q. I liked “The X-Files” as much as the next guy, but your obsession with Gillian Anderson is hard for me to understand. She was good, but you opened your review of “The Crown” with a love letter to her that I don’t think is deserved.

OVERRATED

A. No. No, no, no. Here’s the thing. “X-Files” Gillian is totally not the Gillian I’m crazy about. She had a certain cool mystique back then (let’s pretend the recent series revival never happened, shall we?), and I liked her understated work OK. But the Gillian that has emerged over the years since then has consistently impressed me.

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The first time I realized that she had a lot more potential than she was able to prove within the formula of a network series was her turn as the tragic Lily Bart in the 2000 movie “The House of Mirth.” She was quietly devastating, the perfect doomed Edith Wharton heroine. And since then, I have been repeatedly dazzled. In 2005, she popped up in PBS’s excellent adaptation of “Bleak House,” playing Lady Dedlock, a woman trapped by her past. Anderson suffered magnificently, frozen faced at her window, all while pronouncing Lady Dedlock’s lines with slow, weighty sighs. She casts a compelling air of tragedy and regret over the entire production.

Next: Netflix’s “The Fall,” the British series in which she plays a relentless investigator on the trail of a serial killer. Her Stella Gibson is fine-tuned to pick up sexism and misogyny among her male colleagues, and steely when necessary. But Anderson instills her with great charisma and, if you watch her closely, which you will do every time she is on screen, you can detect clues to her true feelings. She is a dramatic heavyweight here, while, in Netflix’s “Sex Education,” she provides some of the show’s comic relief with her expert timing. She plays an enlightened sex therapist who may not quite understand her own commitment issues.

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Add in her brilliance as Margaret Thatcher in “The Crown,” her enigmatic work on “Hannibal,” and her bit as Wallis Simpson on “Any Human Heart,” and you’ve got a seriously notable body of work.

MATTHEW GILBERT

Francesca Annis and Stephen Rea in "Flesh and Blood" on "Masterpiece."
Francesca Annis and Stephen Rea in "Flesh and Blood" on "Masterpiece."Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

Q. I watched “Flesh and Blood” on PBS’s “Masterpiece,” and I was surprised it ended without resolution. Will it be back for another season? I hope so.

CLIFFHANGER FOREVER?

A. Yeah, this is the second time recently that “Masterpiece” has aired the first season of a British series whose future is up in the air (which is a softer way of saying “unlikely”). It’s veddy, veddy annoying. Fans of “Sanditon,” too, have been lobbying for a second season of the loose Jane Austen “Masterpiece” adaptation, hoping to get their happy-ever-after despite the ongoing lack of official word.

“Flesh and Blood,” with Francesca Annis, Russell Tovey, Imelda Staunton, and Stephen Rea, has also not been officially renewed, even though it ended with a number of strings dangling. You know, nearly dead character in hospital bed suddenly opens his or her eyes. … In September, Tovey told a British publication, “I’m hoping something is on the cards for ‘Flesh and Blood’ next year, but there’s nothing official. It’s about availability. Imelda [Staunton] is playing The Queen in ‘The Crown,’ so that’s a bit of a problem! But I’d love to do more!”

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MATTHEW GILBERT


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.