Luther: Series 3, Episode 1

If you were wondering whether Luther would be back on the force after all the events of last season . . . well, much as I’d watch a show called Luther On The Run, we knew he would be. Even with the windshield wiper subterfuge and a garage door rolling slowly up to show feet . . . then knees . . . then torsos . . . oh, there’s Luther!, the show gets there fairly quickly.

Which we appreciate, thanks very much.

Cut to a blonde woman walking alone, shorthand for Not Good. The sequence of her prepping tea, closing the curtains, undressing, going to bed, the big reveal complete with sudden screech of strings and drumroll, please, is properly rife with suspense, but it’s part of the problem with where this show has gone especially since the start of series two: lingering lovingly over violation of women, or expectations thereof. To top it all off, the womens’ bodies are often violated and/or composed in grotesque ways after the fact. It’s not accidental the man whose beating and murder is being examined gets shown in a tiny snippet of smartphone footage.

I came for Idris Elba, I stayed for the beautiful shooting style and the psychological interplay of Luther and his compadres and countervillains. Now I’m getting increasingly angry at the way this tripe is forced into every episode. If I wanted cheap murder thrills, there’s later-series CSI: Las Vegas, and if you’re telling me your audience has to see the lead-up in all its glory, you’re pandering to the wrong audience. In addition, the revolutionary, extreme-thirds, stunningly lit, well-blocked style of the first season still hasn’t made a reappearance. In fact, this show is turning into Law And Order: London, while being out-edited by Sherlock, out-shot by Hannibal, and out-blocked by Orphan Black. Why am I still here, again? Damn it, Idris Elba, I don’t know how to quit you!

I’m not the only one fascinated by him. There’s a whole clandestine division (of two people) examining Luther for the deaths of his friends and acquaintances. This is set up as the main plot for this series around the 12-minute mark, which is also when we get our first mention of Alice: “Missing.”

The actual mysteries Luther is investigating, meanwhile, are ‘solved’ with a couple phone calls, conjectures, cold case files, and Luther holding two pictures up next to each other. It’s as flimsy as Luther making a phone call which he puts down the moment the other end picks up, because he’s distracted by Justin. Sure, it could be yet another way of the show attempting to point out how Luther’s job keeps getting interrupted by the people in his life, his past sins conspiring to put his future good acts out of commission. But it comes across as not more than contrivance, like the single piano notes playing over the house’s establishing shot as the lights go out. Plink, plunk, something bad is going to happen. And that something is going to be a dude crawling up into his attic, where the killer has taken time to crawl (presumably and from shot suggestion after sneaking in the back door 10 minutes earlier, when the aforementioned dude was out looking for the cat) and wrap himself in plastic and sit suuuuuper still until the guy and his flashlight come close enough to POUNCE!

Because now the cases are ‘solved,’ we just watch the show revel in the serial completions until Luther and/or Ripley catches up. Meanwhile they’re both having their own crises. 

Luther has never been about solving mysteries, it’s been about the titular cop and his demons. About halfway through last series, though, it became instead a horror show about making the audience jump. Look, I like when TV tries something. I’ll defend playing with genre, I’ll even defend a certain show’s deciding to become a murder mystery six seasons in (though not everything else surrounding it, ok?). But this is uncalled for, unbelievable, cliched stuff of low-budget slasher horror. And this is not what I signed up for, and it’s not what the first season gave me, and where is the TV Show Return Window? That doesn’t exist? Oh, ok. My bad.

The best-composed shots of the whole episode are all when Luther is on his phone.

Stray Observations

– I’d actually love the gas station scene from last series, if it weren’t indicative of the way the show is going to show every last shocking crime it investigates.

– I like Gray more she’s not playing Ms Nice Detective.

– The editing is really unclear about where Luther meets blond car driver; did he go to her hotel and stand on the roof, or did he book a hotel and ask her to come there? Either way, nope. Nope nope NOPE.

– Speaking of, we’re all on the same page about blonde car driver being in on the not-IA investigation right?

2 Responses to “Luther: Series 3, Episode 1”
  1. vexundorma says:

    ‘Luther’ only works when Alice Morgan is around; it is their fabulous twisted dynamic that makes the show. Remove Alice and there’s an emptiness that not even the strong figure of Luther can fill. Probably one of the reasons the show ended.
    If you liked the previous seasons of ‘Luther’ you should try ‘The Fall’ and ‘Broadchurch’, two astounding depictions of the human soul and condition, and if possible binge-watch them.

    • Melanie says:

      I know there’s not a fourth series announced, but is it for sure the show has ended? (Or, since I have all the episodes but haven’t had time to review them, thus have not watched them, perhaps that would spoil too much.)

      I liked Alice, but actually wasn’t entirely sold on the way she was so omnipresent in the first series. As soon as she left, 1) I missed her 2) everything they brought in to fill her place was escalating levels of dreadful. Though, I’ve yet to finish passing judgement on DCI Grey’s arc.

      I’ve been meaning to try The Fall, but I’ve heard almost nothing about Broadchurch, so good to have a ringing endorsement. I do see FOX is developing an American version, which I fully expect to be dreadful. Mostly, England does ensemble / community mystery pieces so much better than the US, it’s a wonder we continue to bother, especially since we’re getting more and more access to wonderful imports.

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