Luther: Series 2, Episode 3
It is a unspoken rule that if the camera singles out and follows a random woman doing anything insignificant, that woman is about to have something bad done to her. It’s cinematic shorthand, along with dramatic strings, bum-bum-BUMs, and people reacting in full sentences.
As you may have noticed, I’m much less thrilled with Luther’s second series than its first. More sensationalism, less stunning cinematography. More drama, less dramatic. So when the opening scene of 2.3 subverted all of the cliches mentioned above, while faking me out (twice), and not using a note of music to pad the tension, I was hopeful it was back to first-series form.
Well, closer. We’re still dealing with the unfortunate Jenny storyline, born out of a rescue gone heroic and the writers’ need to give every policeperson a child to deal with. It’s not the actress or even her specific stuggles which strike a false note, but the way she, her mother, and her handlers affect Luther and his world.
After a scene in which Luther and Jenny bond before he’s called into work – called to work on his intentionally taken vacation day to as to underline both how indispensable he is and how he’s married to his job – we’re examining the crime scene in broad daylight. The camera moves slowly and methodically during the crime scene, and more rapidly and with more rotation during Luther’s examination. The shots being inside vs outside seem to be chosen indiscriminately, but framing them through the glass windows and door the targets were watching from is a good choice.
Two of the targets had stayed behind those windows, two had rushed out and become injured. Ripley posits the crime may have been racially motivated, and this theory never really made sense (is having three minorities at a gas station in London really so rare?) and fairly quickly becomes debunked, so why mention it at all? I think to point to what would otherwise be a too-subtle masterstroke of writing/casting/directing genius: the people who get most riled are the white men. The people who get upset but force themselves not to react are women and/or racial minorities. Because they are people used to having to take abuse from white men, and they recognize to protest is dangerous.
Other details, as usual, are wonderful. The way DS Erin Gray keeps apologizing about the fire drill. The 9-9-9 calls, in which a man worries a dog running wild may “bite a baby’s face or something.” This show lives in the details. It had one faint visual echo of Luther and the main perpetrator having the same mental processes; nothing so much as the first season, but it was there. Unlike Alice. The whole show is starting to feel more like several short stories or mini-series about a detective named Luther, with supporting characters, motifs, looks, and directing styles coming and going.
The plotlines are also somewhat uneven. Luther is making himself the maverick again, this time it’s Gray who is onto him and trying to determine what is right. I honestly don’t care much about this storyline, or Gray, because the show isn’t giving me a reason to. Maybe that, too, will change soon.
The style of this episode is slow, methodical, and builds tension well. The violent attack which finally tips Luther to Bad Guy’s location is as understated as the opening scene. The attacker walks through a doorway (a Luther motif), the camera stays there while we hear muffled female screaming off-screen, the attacker comes outside with keys and a motorcycle helmet and rides away. This episode is back to the Series 1 theory that less torture porn means more suspense. In the next scene, we see some hammer blows, acid splashing, and bloody aftermath, but the camera doesn’t lovingly linger on it.
As for the last shot, I’ll be angry if it’s twins, but I cannot deny it makes one need to watch the next episode. Also, the preview scenes interspersed with the credits was done bloody brilliantly.
- Bold move, to write all these scenes in convenience stores, with branded merchandise everywhere!
- Luther does look ‘normal,’ as Jenny says, standing in the kitchen making eggs. It’s comforting, sexy, and strange, all at once. ‘You look weird when you look normal,’ she adds. That’s it.
- Luther’s apartment set design is great . . . for another detective. You cannot convince me a man who wears suits that beautiful can’t throw together a decent living room.
- ‘He’s not a dirty copper. He’s a man, over a girl. That’s a completely different thing, and you handle it a completely different way.’
- WHY DOES NOT A SINGLE WOMAN IN THIS WHOLE DAMN SHOW CHECK BEFORE OPENING A DOOR!?