Luther: Series 2, Episode 4

My problems with Luther – especially the first two episodes of this season – were a little about what it does (serial killers targeting women in alleys and children in buses, as seen in every other torture porn and procedural ever), but mostly how it does it; that is, when it uses the shot composition of torture porns and the plot resolutions of procedurals.

Rather than open with an immediate continuation of last episode, this episode uses its cold open to cut to the aftermath, Yes, it makes shooting a little easier, so maybe it was pragmatic, but there’s also only so much watching cool-mannered-bloodshed one can take. This way skips the bludgeoning, then uses shakycam to avoid bringing any wounds into focus at all. The one on-screen stabbing is realized with a pool of blood spreading on the ground, rather than the victim’s shirt. Heavy, resigned breathing takes us into the credits.

Even the silhouette is sexy.

That’s better.

Post-credits, we’ visit the Jenny plotline just long enough for Luther to tell her how to cover it up before he’s off again. Why every show always jumps straight to covering-up in cases of female self-defense is the subject of another essay, but it’s not helping convince real-life women they’re not a faultless victim, that’s for sure. (I’m looking at you, Friday Night Lights.)

The aftermath at the underground has been mostly cleaned up by the time Luther gets there, mirroring what Jenny is supposedly doing back home. Luther looks around, then goes back to the station to look at security photos and determine these are twins, playing a game. Why they have to be twins is beyond me, but the competition aspect is fascinating, albeit not helping convince real-life non-gamers that RPGs do not, in fact, drive their participants to murderous rampages.

Pretty nice hotel room. What do twin psychopaths do for a day job?Since the Free Twin has dropped his wallet, he’s traced back to a hotel where he has lived for quite some time, and papered the walls with various comics in true madman style. (It’s got to be OCD or Over-The-Top, there’s no in between for madmen). Luther divines he is using the Gideon Bible as a codebook, which is fairly ingenious. He tosses the Bible at Ripley and goes off to stave off Frank’s search for Toby / Toby’s body.

The intercut scenes between Luther on the roof and Frank in Luther’s house, then both of them headed towards the street, are fairly well edited (it helps pains were taken at the beginning of the episode to establish the layout of Luther’s flat and its building). Tension is well built, then quickly dispersed, and we’re back to the main game of tracking down a psychopath. We’ll get a nice payoff on the tension later, when we and Frank realize exactly what it is Luther did in the alley.

In the midst of all this, DS Gray is called in to a meeting. Unbeknownst to anyone, she blew her whistle and called Luther on his unauthorized computer use, only nothing untowards was found, and now she’s endangered her career. She storms out, angrily quoting Orwell at her confused coworkers.

It’d be interesting to know what Orwell would make of this, though Huxley and Bradbury may have been more apropo. Television must create more and more psychotic, absurd, cold-blooded mass murderers, to . . . what? Keep up with appetite? Stay ‘realistic’? Match production value?

This episode reverses what has bothered me about Luther this season. It’s the content. It’s the insistence on focusing on the psychopath’s ultra-violence, and not in the way the first series did, which was to use visual cues to mirror Luther’s (and our) inner demons, but in a way which just magnifies and revels in it, but then hey, the good guy wins and gives a speech about his protective nature and lack of Thug Enforcer qualities, only a dozen or so people die, so we turn the TV off happy.

And sure, I'll take more Idris Elba eating ice cream.‘So now what?’ Jenny asks. Well, hopefully, Series 3 brings back some Alice interplay in small doses (they practically promise it, with Jenny asking about Alice moments before), shows off more of the extreme camera work and shot composition from Season 1, and does better at pointing out the small demons in all the characters and all of us, rather than showcasing the ridiculously grotesque demons in diminutive white Londoners.

Stray Observations

  • Let’s talk about the intrepid cop/actor who did all that running in a suit and leather slip-on dress shoes.
  • “If we act like scared people, we’re going to get caught.”
  • The Serious and Serial Crimes Unit. As opposed to The Trivial and Sporadic Crimes Unit.
  • The editing of the scene inside the truck right after shooting is off. Way off. The soon-after low angle shot of Luther walking through the lens flare, though, is nice.
  • WHO has a gold AK-47 lampstand? Seriously.

AND a tiger. This set designer rocks.

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