Luther has the jumps, but is it losing the plot?
DCI John Luther, a man in pursuit; a man pursued and misunderstood. He looks tired – two murder investigations, a new ‘relationship’, a rocky relationship with long-term partner and friend, DS Ripley and the ever present clandestine and (corrupt) anti-corruption investigation hangs over his head. It’s enough to weary most people and to stretch one’s character to breaking point. Scenes of Luther doing multiple 360 degree spins in his chair as he tries to piece together the evidence, should be cause for concern.
In this second of four episodes, the anti-corruption investigation advances even as it stalls and stutters. DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and drink-addled DSU George Stark (David O’Hara) continue to slither in the shadow and basements, or on the top level of a grubby car park where they hold meetings. DCI Gray’s lip bite and wavering bravado wrapped in a huffy smile linger at the end of one such meeting with Luther. Hinting at things to come as she vows to continue the investigation. No surprise then that in a showdown, Luther walks away leaving the fragile threads of their investigation in tatters and with Luther putting the squeeze on, this pushes them to play their trump card.
The beautiful stranger in the shape of ‘thirsty’ car-crash victim, Mary Day lets slip the tail of the white rabbit. A desperate and allegedly lame joke followed by a bold kiss suggest that Luther is on the receiving end of a fatal attraction. Ever the obsessive thinker, Luther, I am sure, may be in it to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. I hope…
We revisit the lone serial killer, who seems to have an obsession with looking at his hands in horror and hand sanitizers. No sooner did I begin to wonder if he feels remorse than Luther corners him and it’s all over. Sadly, what is revealed about the killer and each of his victims left me wanting to find a reason to hate or fear the killer and empathise deeply with the plight of the victims. Poor character development of victims and villains may have cost this aspect of the storyline to fall flat, and ultimately the sacrifice is the tension we felt in the first episode of the series is missing in this second instalment. Overall the acting is superb, with Idris Elba turning in another star performance and Warren Brown giving an excellent turn as a man caught between his loyalty and sense of justice. In other scenes with mute serial killer, Paul Ellis (Kevin Fuller) and William Carney (Ned Dennehy) as the evil puppet master and cancer-ridden patient, the acting seems to skip a beat in places and mixed in with the gritty graphic novel feel, are unfortunate spots of over-acting.
By the time DS Ripley handcuffs the murderer of the spiteful online troll, all I can think is ‘don’t ever put your hand in a running blender’. I forgot why he was being arrested and it didn’t matter. Luther remains true to its brand: everyone either dies or has a dark secret. All the more ominous is Gil Scott-Heron’s song, ‘Me and the Devil’: “Early this morning / when you knocked upon my door / Early this morning / when you knocked upon my door / an I say: Hello Satan / I believe its time to go …”.