[Contains minor spoilers for Season 1 of Luther]
I’m rewatching season 1 of Luther in preparation for watching season 2, which I just got in the mail.
The strength and magic of LUTHER is grounded in it not being the standard cop show about the serial killer or the case, those are ancillary to the real story. which is about Luther trying to make all the dysfunctional pieces of his life, particularly the women in his life… work, to be right.
His greatest challenge not surviving the serial killers, but something far more deadly and relate-able, trying to emotionally survive and make happy the women in his life, from his boss, to his wife, to his… arch-enemy/friend. And it’s only when the writer loses that plot, that heart of the story of Luther, that it suffers… badly, and devolves into its sub-par 1st season conclusion.
See my previous review, for my detailed list of problems with season 1, but in brief, a poorly written and cliched final episode (couple of episodes actually) that marred an otherwise tremendous, and amazing series.
Now that said, perhaps I didn’t give enough love to the first 4 (4.5) episodes. Those episodes are really powerhouse television, the quality of which you seldom see.
And a big reason is the quality of the actors. Idris Elba of course is phenomenal, as is Ruth Wilson who plays the red-headed Alice, as well as the rest of the principal cast. But I wanted to give attention to two actresses that I saw in this series first, and have since come on my radar for other work they’ve done.
One is the gorgeous Indira Varma, who plays Luther’s less than faithful wife. She also played the cheating wife in the first season of ROME. She seems to be making a career of playing cheating women as well as playing women who do not end well, with this series, ROME, and MOSES JONES (ugggh— traumatized me. A good series, but one that is too violent for its own good). She’s a convoluted character here in LUTHER, as his estranged wife she is in many ways more damaging to Luther, by far (in her hot/cold nature), than any of the monsters he has to face. She doesn’t set out to be cruel, though there is a bit of that there, but mostly it’s more a half hearted indifference, which is all the more crushing. It’s another strong performance by Indira Varma.
But the 2nd actress I want to give praise to, and the one I really wrote this post to mention, starred in only one episode of Luther, but left an indelible impression. I’m speaking of Nicola Walker, who stars in episode 4′s tale of a purse fetish serial killer. The salacious and slightly silly description of the killer, doesn’t really do justice to the uneasiness of the episode, or the wrenching, and episode making performance of Nicola Walker.
Following seeing her on LUTHER, I caught her earlier work on SPOOKS, and in that she was equally… brilliant. She brings a very unique presence to the screen, something thoughtful, and considered, and deeply heartfelt, she is so… there. In a world where so many people are shutdown, from themselves and others, there is something so rich and full and impassioned and human about her in the noblest most caring definition of that word. She’s not the ravishing beauty of say Indira Varma, but she has something that can only be called… more. Something within, a stillness, a sense of depth, something both furtive and fathomless, fragility married to something slightly frightening, her intensity, kept subdued… just out of sight, something haunting.
To put not too fine a point on it… I adore this actress’s presence, her performances, her ability to channel humanity– definitive, in a world that is anything but… humane.
So yeah that’s the refresher on LUTHER, and a couple actresses who deserved mention. I’ll post on season 2 soon.
[Season 2 Review: Contains Spoilers]
Addendum: I just watched season 2 of LUTHER, if you can call 4 episodes a season. It’s utter rubbish!
Well, why don’t I tell you how I really feel?
The main problem with season 2 is it veers sharply to the irrational, and soulless, and more than just a little bit trite and tired.
Trite uninteresting villains, once smart cops inexplicably made moronic, including the lead Luther. And it makes the mistake, that the original series initially didn’t, of concentrating on the villains, and losing all the intriguing personal ties that made LUTHER interesting and captivating television in the first place.
Unlike many shows LUTHER originally understood something seemingly lost on most crime shows, the fact that criminals are a boring lot, and it’s the procedural and the dynamics of Luther’s life and the extended family around him that was the draw.
Season 2 undoes all that originality, and just makes Luther and all the cops incompetent, feckless caricatures rather than fleshed out characters. Add to this the fact that the new cast I just don’t care for, and you have a show working at a significant disadvantage; a show that plays, while you are watching it, as just so tired, and so disappointing and irresponsible, and so worthy of fast-forwarding.
The best way to describe it is that it performs as if writer Neil Cross had 4 episodes worth of story for season 1, and after that completely ran out of ideas and anything close to originality, for the ending of season 1 and the entirety of season 2 (With the exception of the very ending of Season 2, the coda if you will, I thought that was a nice scene to go out on, but everything leading up to that 5 minutes was largely rubbish, from the overlong plot of killer twins, that was nicked from a far better episode of Tom Fontana’s HOMICIDE, to the completely annoying and useless characters from Erin Gray, as the new detective, to the mother, to the killers. It’s just a lot of hackneyed and overwrought, and unforgiveably tedious characters, that just don’t remotely interest).
I have seldom seen such a sharp fall from grace from the same writer in such a short period of time. Bottom line: Season 2 of LUTHER is just plain awful, which is unfortunate for a series which in terms of performances and look and sound is laudable and had such potential.
Final Grade: D-/F.