Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
So here’s the brief for the production team. What’s required is a dark police procedural, i.e. we get an emotionally disturbing crime in each episode for the officers to investigate, and the key characters are in a perpetual state of turmoil. That way, we flirt with the horror genre where the humanity of the characters is under threat from what they experience and how everyone reacts. Key to all this is that both DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) and Zoe Luther (Indira Varna), his wife, feel a terrible sense of guilt (albeit for different reasons). Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), of course, is a sociopath and feels no guilt for anything she does, including emotionally torturing the Luthers. The problem with this structure is that it can become monotonous. Although the more minor characters are relatively normal, their contribution is not enough to leaven the overall frenetic tone. It’s all hyper by virtue of the individual crimes and the interaction between Zoe and Mark North (Paul McGann), Luther and Alice. So in the first episode, we have a crime which is considered particularly terrible. A daughter kills both her parents. If Luther is seeking justice for the dead, he should be implacable in his pursuit of Alice. So far, it looks as if she’s bright enough to avoid giving him enough evidence to secure a conviction. The irony, of course, is that in their different ways, both Luther and Alice are monsters so they understand each other and, to some extent, are attracted to each other.
OK so here we go with Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010) and, yet again, high-intensity music blares out as two police officers are shot to death under a railway bridge. It’s another of these melodramatic starts to an episode, set in darkness with long shadows and exaggerated camera angles. . . until we’re back to Luther standing on top of a roof as if he might be going to jump. Well no such luck! Mark North comes into the police station and admits he threw the first punch which began the fight the arresting officers saw. This lets Luther off the hook, and Mark is in Zoe’s good books for setting the record straight. This leaves Luther to talk with DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) until he’s sent off to examine the scene of the police shooting. It all looks staged as an execution. Further investigation shows the shooter took out the video cameras in the area except for the one capturing our man walking into the area. The body language on display enables Luther to identify the man as a soldier. Alice telephones to say she’s investigating how Henry Madson (Anton Saunders) comes to be in a coma. She says she’ll take the results of her investigation to Zoe. That really puts Luther in a good mood. Terry Lynch (Sean Pertwee) comes into the frame as the executioner, but he’s in jail. So that leaves his son Owen (Sam Spruell) who might be taking revenge on the police for locking up his father. So to prove the point, we see Owen shooting a police woman responding to a prank call. This brings multiple officers to the scene and he then shoots six dead as a sniper. DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves) gives a pep talk and sends out the beleaguered troops to find the bad guy.
To help the police, Owen posts a video to YouTube attacking the British government and demanding the release of his father. He claims his father should not be locked up for attacking a police officer. It was post-traumatic stress wot made him done it. Ever thoughtful, Alice offers to help in the investigation, but ends up threatening Luther. Alarmed, our husband manqué asks Zoe to leave London. This leads to a big argument between Zoe and Mark who doesn’t believe the threat is credible. He thinks Luther is playing mind games, looking to control his wife.
Meanwhile Luther goes to visit Terry Lynch in prison. They reminisce. Luther had a father in the army, but when he was old enough to defy his father, gave up trying to please him. But Luther opines that young Master Lynch has been sent out to do a job. Papa says he won’t call his son back unless he gets his sentence reduced. Reed searches the old man’s cell and finds a sim card. He suspects a trap, but with no other lead, they triangulate where the phone can be found. The SWAT team go into the empty house and find a bomb. Four die and six are injured. This bumps the case up to the anti-terrorism unit. Luther’s off the case. As if. So Luther goes back to Daddy and they exchange threats.
To keep the melodrama going, Alice breaks into Zoe’s home with Mark, and they discuss Luther. Zoe says she proud of Luther but doesn’t want to stay married him. Alice asks Zoe whether she believes Luther tried to kill Madson on behalf of the dead. Zoe says she doesn’t think Madson deserved to live.
Meanwhile, using the medium of television, Luther has made a target of himself. He goes into a council estate, broadcasting his presence on a police radio knowing the son can overhear. We then have a ludicrous Russian Roulette sequence until, having distracted the nutty lad by allowing the trigger to be pulled five times without it going “bang”, Luther overpowers the boy and slaps the handcuffs on his wrists. Another case solved by the man with the magic head (it’s magic because he can prevent the gun from going off). This is patently absurd. We’re supposed to think Luther has been suicidal because he was standing on the edge of the roof. That’s why he’s willing to die himself but not willing to let the idiotic soldier to kill himself. Except he allowed number one son to put the gun to his head twice and pull the trigger. He only acted when he knew it was a sure thing. What’s worse is all the cod psychology of the son failing to live up to his father’s high expectations. I don’t believe tough Daddy would have caved into the threats and given Luther all this dirt on his son.
Luther then calls up Alice and, when they meet on the bridge, says he’ll kill her unless she agrees to leave Zoe alone. Alice claims she’s now his friend. She thinks Zoe is admirable and she gives her word she will not contact Zoe again, well Brownie’s honour (as if chocolate cake has any honour). Satisfied by this peace accord, they go for a cup of coffee, not as friends, of course. I’m still on the fence. I’m finding it difficult to adjust to Idris Elba as Luther. The performance seems to lack consistency. Ruth Wilson as Alice, however, is rather endearing in a macabre kind of way. She’s the one factor keeping my interest. Hopefully, her role will be maintained and provide Luther’s character with a little more ballast to avoid being swamped by his inner demons. For now, I’ll persist.
For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.
Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (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).