Luther: Series 1, Episode 2

That's an intense lean for how minuscule it is.

‘Get a reputation for answering phones, and all they do is ring.’

Luther has himself a reputation for solving crimes, and all they do is keep ringing him up to solve them. He can’t stop answering; as his wife knows, it’s not only his love, but his ‘calling.’ A clever twist of words used 35 minutes apart and not pointed out to the audience, but just allowed to subtly tie together the episode. It also points out how the exes are still very much in tune, and know each other – especially Luther – very well.

Yet the split is not overly acrimonious, nor is it entirely amicable, and though Zoe’s new love seems solid enough, the past causes tension. This is a line very precarious to walk, and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

Speaking of setting up future plotlines, we’ve got a journalist love interest – more likely, sex interest – for Luther in the future. The cop/journalist coupling and its inherent potholes never cease to fascinate me.

The editing is now a little less linear (note when our killer is preparing and dressing himself for his video) but the extreme blocking and shot composition is a little more integrated and less distracting. The depth of focus is still quite shallow in most 2-person-shots, always with the speaker in focus. The wide shots are just phenomenal; maybe it’s because I’m so used to New York or Chicago or LA vistas that I’m immune to them, but Luther‘s city overviews thrill me to the core. The show is finding its style, and I must say I love it. Check out the confrontation between Alice, Zoe and Mark. Look how multiple times, in creative ways, they ‘lose’ the left and top of the frame and place the characters in the bottom right 2/3 or 1/3, making it more claustrophobic, bringing those characters into a tight corner.

I’m not so thrilled with Alice’s character, and though I’ve steadily avoided show spoilers, I did see (not sure how old the news was or if its moot now) talk of developing a spinoff around her. That worries me. I do love when she calls a spade a spade; ‘flattery to appease a malignant narcissist, that’s a frivolous tactic.’ All her qualities – the creepy sexuality, getting off on pain; the twisted, self-aware femme fatale; the super IQ; the physical threat to The Ones He Loves – wrapped into one redhead are just overkill. She sometimes crosses over to cartoonish. The BBC’s Sherlock also does the over-the-top schtick with Moriary, who plays the same foil to that titular detective as Alice plays to Luther. Sherlock does it more and harder, but this is only Episode 2, so I’m worried about a downward spiral. Take it down a notch and we’ll be OK.

Part of the reason Alice – and the plotlines in general – can be so dramatic and epic is the series is short. They couldn’t sustain this pitch over 22 episodes without crossing quickly into melodrama; something else US network television has yet to figure out. Another part is that Idris Elba acts the hell out of every scene. I have a feeling we’re going to see another epic show of fury before this series is over.

Stray Observations

  • Is Britain really that much less sexist, or do the writers just know better than to unnecessarily play up the woman-in-charge?
  • The accents struct me as perfect this time. Maybe some people just had to get back in the groove, or maybe I was wrong the first review.
  • Luther keeps spare ties at his office.
  • Someone actually uses the phrase ‘put the kettle on.’ She uses to to mean ‘Hey, I’m off work now.’ I’m going to start that. This, ladies and gents, is why this show is so much better on the BBC than it would be on ShowTime.
  • ‘We let tactical do their jobs, and go in hard and noisy, and when they’re done we buy them a drink and tell them their biceps are sexy.’ [Replace ‘tactical’ with ‘PA’ and you’ve got my life for the next month. Not a bad gig, if you can get it.]
  • This is the first time I can remember hearing the show’s slogan spoken so blatantly by a character: ‘What if you’re on the devil’s side without even knowing it?’ They obvious intend to make this The Theme of the series [British usage], if not the series [American usage].

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