Luther (2015)

Luther time rolled in at about 9:00 PM on BBC America last night. Basically I knew Luther, played by Idris Elba, from the three seasons that had previously aired. Besides that, I knew Elba from The Wire, Beasts of No Nation, and the disappointing Ridley Scott space epic – Prometheus.

I found him to be a very watchable actor. Up front I liked Ruth Wilson as Luther’s nemesis/ally Alice Morgan, but she’s moved on to The Affair, and isn’t in this Luther. Physically. But she’s a presence in this latest all the same

I only heard about this Luther late yesterday afternoon, via a Facebook post sent to me. Otherwise I would have missed it. But I was set up on the sofa, and ready at 9:00 PM. When the closing credits rolled at around 11:40 I formed an immediate opinion.

Great character but unfortunately, a less than stellar script this time. One has to love the recklessness and the bravado that Luther displays throughout, even when it is borderline ridiculous. But the story was nothing new.  A serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies has been done before.

I also wasn’t thrilled about the structural set up which basically bifurcated the story into four separate and distinct quadrants. More on that to follow along, but before we get to that,  let’s go straightaway with a mandatory spoiler warning. Don’t read further, until you have watched the show.

As the episode opens, Luther is on an extended leave of absence. He’s set up in a house on a cliff’s edge overlooking the sea somewhere, and for the lack of specifics, I’ll just call the place World’s End. [Edit] I’ve since found out the location was in Beachy Head in East Sussex, southeast of London, on the U.K.’s south coast. In a bit of serendipity, just prior to watching Luther, I had tuned in for Episode 4 of the 2nd Season of Broadchurch, another British murder mystery set in another British coastal town, and actually shot near West Bay, in Dorset, which also has cliffs.

Luther is heading back to his cliff side cottage on foot, no doubt he had been on a small shopping excursion. Two detectives from his old squad arrive to talk to him. They bear bad news. Alice Morgan has been found dead in Antwerp. They wanted to know if he knew, and could offer any insights.

He hadn’t known, and the long and the short of it is, that Morgan’s demise did not appear to be from a criminal event. While Detective (DCI) Theo Bloom (Darren Boyd) is searching around Luther’s place, Detective (DS) Emma Lane (Rose Leslie)

sets about to make some tea. Bloom doesn’t find anything, and before the tea is made, Bloom gets a phone call directing himself and Lane back to HQ to get cracking on a new murder.

Unbeknownst to anyone at Luther’s cottage, there was another visitor, who manage to both nick a file from Luther’s desk and get away cleanly. Luther happened to check the drawer, after the coppers had left, and immediately notice that file was now missing. Which made his mind up. He’d report back to work at once.

And there’s not only your opening, but the start of three of the four quadrants. Luther would be dealing with the serial murderer, trying to resolve whether Alice Morgan had met a natural or the other kind of death, discussing Alice with the mysterious (that’s her hiding from Detective Bloom above) and possibly psychic Megan Cantor (Laura Haddock) who apparently knew stuff that Luther had only told to Morgan, and four – Luther dealing with George Cornelius (Patrick Malahide), a jewel thief and someone who would help ‘fence’ some diamonds for Morgan on a 70-30 split

Cornelius: Which police?

Cornelius: Which police?

Luther: The Police

Luther: The Police

Now Cornelius would go on to deny that he had anything to do with Morgan’s death. But he did say that he thought that Morgan had been able to keep her hands on the stolen diamonds, and had sent Cornelius’s man to the hospital. As Cornelius put it, At the end of the day, I am a thief. But now he was out the millions.

Luther grilled Cornelius and then in a bit of violence, dragged Cornelius out of his own home, thereby humiliating him. Plus Luther had left Cornelius handcuffed to a radiator in an abandoned flat which happened to be Luther’s former flat in London. Understandably, Cornelius was pissed. So there’s no surprise when we learn that Cornelius had put out a contract on Luther. And there’s your 4th quadrant – Luther has to both be vigilant and watchful for the goons who would be coming out of the woodwork to do him in.

I didn’t care for the quadrants protocol, and I guess that’s because the time of the switches to one from the other seemed more tied to a clock than to dramatic points in the story. Meaning they always seemed a bit forced to me.

Other overall gripes – I thought the production was a bit dull, kind of colorless, and despite the fact that the killer would consume hearts, livers, and brains – was a bit too bloodless for me.

They found the killer far too easily. A check of all the victims banking records pointed them in the right direction. One Steven Rose had been the techie involved as all the victims had purchased a computer/home security system. Rose installed the system all right, but he had also installed spy cams in each of their homes so he could learn their schedules and habits.

Then came a couple of mind-blowing serious gaffes in the attempted apprehension of Rose.  The police gathered en masse at the end of the block. London was undergoing a serious rain storm that night. But there stood the police with the rain pelting down in heavy sheets, and with all their vehicles fully lit up with flashing lights. Only the dead would not have noticed.

Luther disobeys a direct order from his boss, DSU Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) to wait until the bomb squad notified them that there was no bombing mechanism that would be triggered by a front door breach. So off he goes in the heavy storm for the front door.

Dermot Crowley as Schenk

Dermot Crowley as Schenk

Rose, already aware of the sizable police presence at the end of the block, set his computer purge into play, and then made his escape via an air duct. This air duct had a grill in front of it, and besides that was hidden behind a refrigerator. Luther, in a fit of anger that Rose had gotten away – knocked over the refrigerator and thus he saw the air duct.

The question is – the air duct was quite small, one would have to enter the air duct head first, then lie on one’ s stomach and crawl/wriggle forward to get away. No way to stand, no way to turn around in the air duct – so how did the refrigerator and the grill get back into place?

Luther follows the air duct which eventually empties into a bus garage. And a chase on foot ensues. From entering the apartment to emerging in the bus depot to the on-foot chase took maybe six or seven minutes, but when Luther hit the streets again, there was no sign of any rain at all. That’s just lazy continuity to me.

I did like Luther’s comment when one victim was found missing both head and hands.

Maybe he took them because they meant something to him. Or maybe he took them because they meant something to a lot of people, and thus could never be discovered.

Or his comment about the killer’s motivation:

He’s trying to recover something he lost, but he never will, hence he keeps going with the killings.

Of course that would have to be a lost love, which is not confirmed until the end when Rose says to a woman – I want you back.

The reality of this Luther was that it was classic Luther. The clothes, the walk, the talk, everything about him was the same. We knew what to expect. And as always, Luther would be without a weapon at the final showdown.

Yes, there were gaffes, and some head scratching turns. But Detective John Luther remains eminently watchable. I still like Luther’s boss Schenk, and Luther is still given to making a profound announcement every forty minutes in this particular event. I didn’t feel much in the way of chemistry between Luther and his new partner DS Emma Lane, so this was rather a passionless event.

But don’t let that stop you. Luther is back, and even if this show is a flawed, it is still worthwhile. If you missed it last night, your cable company should be showing it on-demand.

Here’s the BBC trailer:

 

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