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Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

It’s impossible to discuss this without detailed spoilers so do not read this unless you have seen the episode.

Well, DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), the loyal sergeant, gets his reward for being back on the stairway to heaven, police procedural style, by being kidnapped by Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby), the nutter. We shall pass calmly over the practicality of how the nutter gets into the police car without being detected, overpowers the big policeman, persuades him to leave the car, and then transports him away from the area (presumably thrown over the back of a llama or some other means with an artistic flourish). Anyway, now DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) is on the scene of the abduction, DCI Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) is already worried his man’s anger will get in the way of a cleanly run investigation. This set-up has all the hallmarks of another criminal ending up in a hospital in a coma and that’s not going to look good on anyone’s record. So having got the formalities out of the way, it’s on with the hunt. In the meantime, the loyal sergeant has problems. It’s all to do with a blowtorch, a hot iron and suspense as to what’s going to happen.

Jennie Jones (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is still handcuffed to a chair with Mark North (Paul McGann) acting as jailor with bathroom privileges a challenge. Heavies approach Caroline Jones (Kierston Wareing) (her mother) to get their prostitute back. Except when they explore options with the mother, it seems it may all be part of a plan to entrap Luther. This gives us a twin track narrative. The nutter telephones and Luther ignores him. Our hero has done his psychoanalysis 101 and decides the only way to beat this nutter is to treat him as if he does not exist. He’s to be an “absence”. As an idea, this is clever. I’ve no idea whether this form of provocation would work in the real world. Either way, it doesn’t stop the episode from having a pleasingly dynamic quality. Hey, Luther’s right. What a surprise. The nutter gets upset by being treated as if he has no importance and starts talking to the loyal sergeant instead of torturing him. No, wait. Spouting this rubbish is torturing the loyal sergeant. But at least they’re talking.

Luther and Alice Morgan in a moment of intimacy

Luther and Alice Morgan in a moment of intimacy

It seems the nutter inherited some money when his mother died so Luther has everyone searching for where it went. He also announces to the media that he’s scaling back the hunt for the missing policeman. Shenk and the DS Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird) interview and intimidate people they identify as having helped the nutter set up a new identity. It turns out he’s bought a bus and a large amount of sodium hydroxide. Leaving the loyal sergeant tied to a metal bracket bolted to a brick wall, the nutter is off to pick up children from a local school. While the cat’s away, the loyal mouse plays with the bracket and eventually breaks free (rusty brackets have no strength when the cat’s away). Shenk and Grey go off to find the bus. Luther picks up the sergeant, embracing him like a long-lost brother. They check the GPS on the nutter’s car conveniently left next to the hideout. This enables them to identify the probable place where the children will be taken.

Anyway, in the second narrative strand, the bad people led by Baba (Pam Ferris) take Caroline Jones hostage, drive a nail through Luther’s hand to show they mean business, and tell him to find out where the police are holding a man who will implicate her grandson, Toby Kent (David Dawson) in people-tracking activities. These bad guys act all psychopathic to frighten Luther, but he’s just angry he has this nail in his hand when he should be out catching the nutter. Except he can’t ignore the threats to Caroloine and Jennie so, with Benny Silver (Michael Smiley) doing the research, our hero breaks into the safe house with Mark’s help and he instructs the witness to withdraw his statement implicating Toby Kent.

Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) proving competent in an interview

Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) proving competent in an interview

In the main narrative thread, we have the silly situation of Luther and his loyal sergeant getting to the factory unit before every other police officer in London. They reduce the nutter to a snivelling wreck by refusing to treat him as a serious threat to the children he has locked up in his van. With everything happily resolved on this front, Luther returns to his seedy flat where he finds Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) waiting for him. She’s escaped from the secure mental hospital and asks him to run away with her to distant lands featuring places beginning with M. He refuses. Disappointed she gives him a kiss and leaves. He goes to get Jennie and brings her back to his place. Not having read the script, he assures her she’ll be safe there.

Although elements of the episode are idiotic, e.g. cars crashing into each other or through iron railings and still being driveable, the overall effect is as gripping as television episodes ever can be. Luther continues to be restrained, which is a major improvement, and Shenk proves interestingly competent. The loyal sergeant gets to show a heroic quality while the others in the team remain ciphers. In a one-hour episode, there’s no time for everyone to get their moment in the spotlight. This leaves me a chance to offer a word of praise for the villains in these first two episodes who have managed to come across as rather more credible than the more melodramatic criminals from the first season. This has provided Luther with direct antagonists and given the episodes a better balance.

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 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 1 (2011)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011) starts as we know it must. Deathwish DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) survives his morning ritual of Russian roulette and sets off to work as all happy adults must go to their own personal coal face to continue mining. There’s just the one problem with this opening sequence. At the end of the first season, we were left with something of a messy cliffhanger. I had hopes this might signal a shift into a better level of credibility. Rashly, I dared dream this season would deal with the aftermath of the shooting. There we were with three people standing over one body, police sirens wailing in the background. Glossing over this problematic situation would be unacceptable, I thought. So, of course, that’s what Neil Cross does. By his standards, it would be boring to deal with the messy details of whether Alice shooting DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) was self-defence or an execution by majority vote, Mark North (Paul McGann) supplying the second vote for death. All we see is DCI Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) interviewing Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) who’s intent on taking all the blame for killing Ian Reed. The things we do for whatever passes for love in a sociopath’s mind. When Luther meets up with Mark North, there’s no obvious consequence for either of them. No suspension for Luther whose knife wound seems to have healed nicely. No prosecution for Alice for pulling the trigger. Not even an interview shown for Mark North. It’s just life moving forward as if nothing seriously unlawful has occurred.

Alice Morgan saying, "I did it. It's a fair cop."

Alice Morgan saying, “I did it. It’s a fair cop.”

I know I should not be hankering after a season of what might have been, but just pause for a moment. Alice Morgan is clearly guilty of murder and Mark North incited the shooting, making it their common purpose to kill. Running self-defence would fail because neither Alice Morgan herself nor the others were in immediate physical danger. She’s also not provoked by the words being used so another possible defence falls by the wayside. At an early stage, Ian Reed’s excessive criminal activities over the years will be revealed. Vast numbers of criminals currently residing in HM Prisons now allege they were framed by this crooked policeman. All his files have to be reviewed and DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves) would probably be fired for failing to notice. Now we come to the interesting part. From the early days, Luther was aware of Ian Reed’s criminal connections and actions but he did not blow the whistle. In its own right that’s a criminal offence. Shenk would have a field day (or week) bringing multiple charges against Luther and seeing him locked up. This is four episodes of tense drama as we build up to Luther, Alice Morgan and Mark North going on trial for murder. Will the jury convict once they understand exactly what happened?

Ah well, you can’t always have what you want. Indeed, we’re back to normal in the big city as we watch one lone woman attacked by hooded and masked weirdo who then uses her cellphone to call all her friends (and the vet) to announce the news of her passing. I suppose that crime shows some degree of originality. The only one to have suffered any loss from events is DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) who’s working in uniform as a custody sergeant. Luther sweeps into the station and recruits him into a new serious (this time it’s to be really serious) crime. Amazingly, Shenk is in charge of the unit. He’s no longer investigating fellow police officers. He wants to get back to the real world and locking up serious criminals. Not surprisingly, he’s had to call in favours and twist arms to get the role. Saving Luther meant spending a lot of his goodwill with the “management”. Now he’s under pressure to ensure his star performer doesn’t go off the rails (again) (sorry, was he ever really on the rails?). There’s a new DS Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird) who’s worried her own career may be wrecked by working with Luther. Since these series are naturally perverse, this means she’s destined for greatness.

Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby) appealing to the world for recognition

Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby) appealing to the world for recognition

A new face, Caroline Jones (Kierston Wareing), comes into the police station to see Luther who arrested her husband for murder some years in the past. Jennie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), her daughter, was all messed up by seeing her daddy humiliated and arrested. Now grown up, she’s run away into a life as a more extreme prostitute. For her next paying gig, she’s arranged to go through a form of consensual rape which is to be filmed. Reluctantly, Luther agrees to talk with her. IT whizkid, Benny Silver (Michael Smiley), tracks down where the filming “might” be taking place. Luther goes there, finds much activity, and talks with Jennie who claims to need the money. There’s rent to pay. So he arrests her and leaves her in handcuffs with Mark North. They talk. Two damaged people forced to externalise their losses.

After a second murder, Luther scans the crowd at the murder scene, sees a likely suspect, and runs off after him. Minutes later, we’re back into darkness. This time it’s cellar territory. With the unerring accuracy of the bloodhound, he tracks the man down. They fight and the man escapes — needs must when there’s an hour to fill. Fortunately Luther has bitten the man and has a DNA sample. Now they have a name and a background. It’s Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby), a failed artist who has an obsession with Springheeled Jack and is out to make himself into a legend. He kills a third time, taunting the police with a live video feed of the dirty deed.

In an idle moment, Luther visits Alice. She may have avoided prison but is now in a secure hospital — apparently she tried to kill herself (several times). She advises him to give up the police force and live for himself and not for others. Those others are all just vampires. He thinks back to his suicidal tendencies and agrees he’s not going to hang around for long. This just leaves me a final word. If we put aside personal issues and treat this episode as a standalone, it proves to be quite an effective atmosphere piece. There’s not a lot of detecting going on but it does build up into quite a pleasingly tense sequence at the end. Although the cliffhanger is woefully contrived — the rear doors on police cars are not kept locked and open silently — it does keep the interest going.

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 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 2 (2011).

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