Luther: Series 1, Episode 3
Most procedurals wait until at least double digits to play the ‘creepy as all fuck’ card. Not Luther. Is this a sign of where the series is going to go, or just a sign of how high the bar has been raised for what is needed to shock general viewers? We know who the abductor is from the very first; in what’s becoming Luther’s M.O., the hour is just about how to get the clever perp, and what said perp is doing in the meantime.
Right off, the extreme blocking makes our abductor loom over his victim. As the audience sides with the victim, it makes us feel that much more frustrated and powerless (even if we’re mentally screaming ‘run, idiot, run!’). The extremely soft focus on the tiniest smidgen of non-focused-character in the foreground corner of the frame, however, needs to stop.. The one-character-sits-cut-to-another-character-sitting we will let slide for the time being.
Our willing suspension of disbelief requirement is raised when they director insists on staging dramatic shots. Are we really to believe he carried a bound woman out to his trunk of the car parked in *front* of the house, in broad daylight, with a gag that obviously doesn’t work (as proven a few scenes later) and . . . that’s it?
Our imagination is not called on much more the rest of the episode though. The camera lovingly dwells on even the smallest details, cutting out only the actual bloodletting, but letting the camera sit long enough our mind has filled in the gaps with minimal effort.
I had a long talk the other night with my production manager for the show I’m on. One of his favorite movies is A Clockwork Orange. I told him I loathed the film, not because it deviated from the book, but because of how it did. Kubrick is a master, but a master’s talents used wrongly produce a work much more offensive than that of a novice. A Clockwork Orange as a book presents things (both done by and done to Alex) which are repulsive. A Clockwork Orange as a movie presents the same things as titillation, not to prove the viewer is also debased, but to excite the viewer, while encouraging identification with Alex. It’s not just showing the gross and perverted, it is the gross and perverted.
While Luther doesn’t encourage us to identify with Burgess, it certainly glorifies, romanticizes, and dwells on him and his fetishes. (Though I’m almost certain its a coincidence, the use of the name Burgess is an interesting one.) The whole basement scene is like an ‘art snuff’ film. Burgess is obviously being sexually awakened as the viewers pulse races with the intensity of the scene and fight-or-flight mechanism. It’s one think to talk about “sexual arousal from thoughts of violence.” Its another to be the cause, especially when there’s no discussion of it in any context other than 1. psychos 2. vapid young women who dwell on torture porn. Being well-shot and pretending to condemn (by making your antagonist creepy and pale and somewhat effeminate) the thing you propagate is no excuse for being a mashup between latter-seasons True Blood, Hannibal, A Clockwork Orange, and 50 Shades of Grey. If you think that sounds like something utterly unwatchable, you’d be correct.
The other storylines are smaller. Zoe and Mark are having understandable differences of opinion. We side with Zoe in defending Luther, but comprehend how Mark would see her defense as ridiculous, biased, and signs of something worse. Neither is the Bad Guy, though Zoe’s having cheated on Luther paints her as somewhat less sympathetic – a well-done trope reversal, one The Newsroom tried with much worse execution.
The Luther/Alice relationship is toned down to the proper level and amount.
The scene on the boat between Ripley and Luther and the bit with the superior trying to lay down the law were both well done, the former with the proper amounts of uncertainty and righteous fervor, the latter with just the right note of exasperation and humor.
Ultimately, the episode works, except, you know, the important parts: the perp half of the entire main storyline, and the last 30 seconds, minus the last 5 seconds. [SPOILER ALERT] Seriously, fuck that. Not only did they make a quasi-sympathetic female character seem to be a fickle bitch, they made the hero a sucker for said fickle bitch, AND they paid off the sexual tension far, far too early without enough foreplay. I love that Alice was watching, though. If only this had happened several episodes further out.
Thankfully, as I’m playing catchup, I can go immediately and see what happens next. Episode 4 review soon to follow. If it’s going to go the way of this episode, though, I’ll become disenchanted quickly. If it weren’t for Idris Elba, an installment like this right off the bat would turn me off any series.
- The lines! Horizontal, diagonal, vertical, everywhere, the strong, beautiful lines!
- Those trousers! Those beautiful, slim (pegged?) trousers Luther wears on the dock!
- I spent most of Ripley’s onscreen time lusting after his raincoat.
- The conversation and cadence between Ripley and the superior in the interrogation room – ‘But are you saying it? ‘ “I’m just saying it could be said’ – is a riff on Romeo and Juliet. I could see Ripley as Mercutio.
- I want to write a thesis about the hyper-specific trope, “white sexually deviant male serial killers and their effeminate laughs.”
- The use of clocks isn’t exactly important, but nice nonetheless. Poor continuity supervisor!
- Love that Luther finally said it out loud: ‘This thing, this weird thing between us . . .’