Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
What a tense start for Luther: season 1, episode 1 (2010) by Neil Cross. It’s the melodrama of a chase through darkest London. . . the music is going full pelt. DCI John Luther (Idris Elba), our hero, corners the suspect in a derelict building. This is Henry Madson (Anton Saunders) a suspected paedophile. He’s going to fall unless our hero pulls him up so, under pressure, he confesses to hiding the little girl in an area hidden behind a false wall in the living room of his home. Luther makes the call. DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) finds and revives the girl. Unfortunately, Madson falls but doesn’t die. Sorry that may be the wrong way round. Madson falls but unfortunately doesn’t die. Seven months later, he’s still in a coma. There are no witnesses so, after an inquiry exonerates him, our hero is allowed to resume his duties by DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves). This despite the warnings of her boss DCSU Russell Cornish (Matthew Marsh). So there you have it. The man’s a loose canon, physically violent but ruthlessly intelligent, obsessed with the need to solve crimes and bring wrongdoers to justice. To celebrate his reinstatement, he’s teamed with DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown). It seems the stupid boy has been begging to work with Luther for months: hero worship for a paedophile disabler.
To show the pace of crime in the bustling heart of the Metropolis, the moment Luther is returned to duty, the police are called to a home invasion by Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). She’s the daughter. Both parents and the dog have been shot dead. It was her father’s birthday. Her mother had taken sleeping pills and was lying down in her separate bedroom. The front door was left unlocked so someone was watching the house and entered when Alice popped out to the shops. The daughter was a prodigy who went to Oxbridge when she was thirteen. She’s now a research scientist. She hated her parents for pushing her, but that doesn’t mean she killed her parents. Luther is convinced she did, but there’s no evidence she did, just an absence of evidence she did not. She can’t be charged and leaves the police station with a smile on her lips.
After being separated from her while on suspension, Luther calls his wife, Zoe Luther (Indira Varna). She claims to be pleased he’s been cleared and is back at work. Except she’s having an affair with Mark North (Paul McGann). Why not tell him earlier? It’s cruel to keep lying. When he comes round and she gives him the bad news, he breaks the door in anger. The first day back at work and now dumped by his wife. All the challenge of a new case and now disappointment. So as insights in his character go, this is weird. What was it about their relationship that Luther felt he couldn’t stay with his wife while on suspension? Was he so self-absorbed he couldn’t be good company? Why did he feel his wife couldn’t help him stay positive? Put like this, it’s hardly surprising she found someone else to love while this streak of misery was in abeyance. It’s like his life stopped when he couldn’t be a policeman and he could only go back to his old life when when he was reinstated. His self-image was out of joint. He was a good cop with a beautiful wife. When he couldn’t be a cop, he couldn’t be with his wife. Hmmm. Not the right view of love or relationships, is it?
Our Alice makes a thorough Google search of the Luther family. Because she’s a narcissist, she needs to impress Luther. She’s committed the perfect crime. How is she to deal with people who upset or annoy her? So Luther sets out to annoy her in the hope she’ll do something rash. In response, Alice puts fear into Zoe and there’s no evidence again.
Luther speculates Alice hid the gun in the dog. The gun being plastic would melt when the dog was cremated. To prove it to himself, he breaks into her flat and steals the urn. When he looks inside, he sees gun fragments in the ashes. They are not evidence because he acquired them illegally and there’s no way any of the fragments would show evidence she handled the completed gun. He throws the urn into the river but keeps some of the gun parts. He threatens that he’ll frame someone else for the murder so she will be forgotten. To show he’s accepted his wife has ended the relationship in favour of another man, he goes round, fights with the new man and gets escorted to a police station. Alice celebrates another day of not being arrested by going to visit the hospital where Madson is in a coma. It’s a fun time for everyone except the viewers. I have the sense this is a potboiler, patched together out of stock characters and situations.
I’m not at all sure I find the prospect of a marriage between the Luthers even remotely credible. She’s a high-powered lawyer. He’s bright but essentially a thug with poor self-control. Given the hyper style of all the behaviour we’ve seen, I don’t believe he could have wooed and married this woman. Even if he did manage to stay together emotionally long enough to marry her, the moment he began investigating serious cases, he would have alienated her. I can’t even begin to see why she would stay with him. Given he’s weird, it seems the series is being set up with Alice as his Moriarty. When he doesn’t have a hot case, he’s going to be obsessing about how to catch her. It’s time for birds of a feather to do a bit of flocking. Overall I’m suspending judgement. There are some signs of interest in the banter between Luther and Alice. It may become more watchable. Only time will tell. As an aside, the novel based on these characters is far better.
For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.
For reviews of other episodes in the television series, see:
Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 6 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)
Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011).