11 Jul 2013

[Review] - Luther, Series 3, Episodes 1 and 2

Courtesy of the BBC
John Luther isn't a bad guy. But he's his own worst enemy. And it is so very good to see him again.

Also, if there is a story about the image above, we certainly didn't learn what it was in these episodes. Let's hope Neil Cross is planning another novel, to fill in the gaps.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are really starting to like this guy.

Despite following the same format as series 2, in that two episodes will form a single mystery, but there will be a broader arc at play across the whole thing, series 3 has felt more like series 1 in a lot of ways. And not just because we meet John at the end of a destructive investigation, as if he's continued to live his life while the camera weren't on him. But it is a Luther whose life is in a certain order. Unlike in series 2, where he was recovering from the death of his wife, here time has passed and old wounds have healed. His past continues to haunt him, but his career is at least stable, he's moved out of that horrible little flat and into a squalled little house, and he's even starting to rebuild his personal life. Like in series 1, we've come into John Luther's life just when everything is perfectly poised to be taken away from him.

Had this series ended at the conclusion of episode 2, John would have even gotten a happy ending. His faith in Ripley upheld, his actions in the past not haunting his steps for the moment, and he even got the girl. Happy endings are not what this show does, I'm happy to say. Based on these two epsiodes, I'd say an early candiate for theme would be entropy, the idea that all things break down over time, into their simpilest elements. Everyone is showing signs of decay. Ripley is certainly feeling the change. Schenk seems on the edge of a breakdown. Grey is as desperate as ever. Only Luther appears to be whole, for the first time in along time. Can't see that lasting long.

Ripley took a more central role in these episodes, as his unwavering devotion to Luther apparently finally wavered, and I'm uncertain as to what actually happened there. The punch he threw at Luther seemed real enough, and there were plenty of times I assume that Stark wasn't listening in, and that the aggravation and upset he was showing was genuine. And while the final reveal that he had Luther's back the entire time felt nice, I don't think it made a whole lot of sense. I liked the growth it showed in the character, that he was finally confident enough to move out of Luther's singular and imposing shadow. That the menace or awe he might have felt had finally been eroded, and that he was ready to become his own man. Maybe it was all real, and his last minute defence of Luther was not out of loyalty, but because he recognised that while not entirely bent, Luther's particular brand of hazy middle ground produces results and takes killers off the streets.

Kudos to Cross for opting to make the villain of this series a cop, building on the premise used in bother previous series that John's actions attract attention within the Met. After Alice and Ian in series one, and the crime family in series 2, it is nice to have a villain that occupies that same moral greyness that Luther does. A series with an anti-hero at the helm really does need an anti-villain as antagonist. Stark and the ever dogged and frustrating Grey are doing a legitimate job, and are doing it (almost entirely) above board and by the book. It makes them harder to hate, when you know that they are technically right in their actions, and that they haven't (yet) resorted to Luther's own tactics, or worse.

I don't know how I feel about Mary Day, if only because considering that she is a new character and meant to be a love interest for John, she was used very sparingly in the first two episodes. There is something about her I just don't trust, and I think that it's my problem, not hers. In a world where everything seems to work against Luther, I'm suspicious of things that don't, and actually go well for him. But the way Sienna Guillory is playing Mary seems very able to be suspicious of. Like she's hiding something, and hiding it well enough not to get caught. In her introduction scene, I thought for sure she was high, but apparently she was just dazed. So maybe I'm reading subtext into the character where only text exists. Maybe Mary Day is exactly what she says on the tin: a shopkeeper with a thing for soft spoken Goliaths. But I invoke my right to be proven wrong.

Also, as they keep getting cuddly, all I kept thinking was how much Alice wasn't going to like that.

These episodes reminded us yet again that Neil Cross is a disturbed individual, and not just because he had the Doctor fight a giant space pumpkin. If you haven't, I highly recommend you read the Luther novel, The Calling. Cross develops, and describes, crimes that could never make it on television, and yet on the show he imagines a terrifying array of violence. But where the series really holds together is in the silence. So much of the show is quiet. And for a variety of reasons. The scene where John and Ripley interview the harassed parents of the dead girl, and the father slinks away to break down in the kitchen. The absence of sound, matched by the delicateness of the direction, is moving. And for entirely different reasons, the silence in the moments where utter morons investigate strange noises in their homes late at night (I laughed out loud when the one woman said, in response to being told not to go upstairs, "it's not like it's actually anything." It's stupid, yet sound logic).

It was my bad for missing episode 1 last week, I had it in my head the show didn't return until the 10th (which was two kinds of wrong anyway). Expect Luther reviews to appear for the next two Thursdays.

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