Tuesday, 15 December 2015

TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 1)

"What do we do with something like this?"

It doesn't quite seem right, calling this a new series of Luther when it is just two episodes, but the return of Idris Elba's maverick DCI is something to be celebrated nonetheless. Neil Cross' two-parter finds John Luther on a leave of absence from the Met (as opposed to having jacked it all in as we might have thought), sequestered in a coastal cottage hideaway and still reckoning with the loss of his cop partner DS Ripley after the events of the last series. Almost straightaway though, the show runs into the problems that mark the whole episode.

Two of Luther's colleagues (Rose Leslie's DS Lane and Darren Boyd's DCI Bloom) turn up to inform him of the demise of the totemic nemesis/saviour figure of Alice Morgan (the glorious Ruth Wilson, never better than in the first ever episode way back when). They're both new to the franchise (though weirdly not unfamiliar to Luther) but as there's so little time, we have to assume an instant familiarity with them, and with the circumstances of Alice's death and a new serial killer who is eating his way through East London. 

So naturally the pacing is beyond breakneck - victim after victim falls prey to John Heffernan's excellently creepy killer, Luther tracks gangland suspects to get to the bottom of what happened to Alice but soon finds himself drawn back into the police fold when the show solves the problem of having to get to know at least one of the new characters (poor Boyd, I thought he was doing a cracking job actually). 

Which is all well and good, but the beauty of Luther has been its creeping sense of real menace that it has cultivated time and time again in previous stories, (the sinuous strangeness of Massive Attack's 'Paradise Circus' the perfect theme tune in this regard). with so many scenarios given the time to crawl under the skin and really mess with the mind. There just doesn't seem to be time for that here and consequently Elba's performance responds accordingly, more bombastic than brooding.

It's still good TV though and it'll be interesting to see Laura Haddock's character get something to do, how Rose Leslie develops as Luther's replacement for Ripley, what mystery has been cooked up around Alice (who's betting against a brief reappearance with 5 minutes to go) and what juicy climax Heffernan will deliver. Bring on part two, or the series finale..
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