Monday, 14 June 2010


The BBC crime series Luther ended with a bang, a two-part episode which saw the head-scratching Sherlock betrayed, pursued by the police for the murder of his belived wife, and built up to everything being resolved in a four-way faceoff on the Eurostar platform at St Pancras. The two-parter was an improvement over the previous four episodes of the show, which suggests to me that it was the concept for the series that was wrong, and that Luther should have been presented in, say, two 90 minute or two-hour shows.

The advantages would have been to reduce the number of plot lines (all four of the first episodes had crimes which needed to be resolved within the show) and the number of explosive tantrums Idris Elba, as Luther, needed to throw (minimum: one per episode) to show that he was tough and sensitive with seething turmoil inside waiting to boil over. It might have let one or two plot lines run longer, while also given Luther's relationships with both his wife and the parent-killing Alice Morgan more play.

It would have also allowed a little build up for Steven McIntosh's Ian Reed (seen left arguing Reformation theology with Luther), so at least a seed of doubt could be cast as to whether he's not just a little bent. In fact, as Reed went more and more mental in the final episode, there was a sense that they couldn't wring the most out of his evil conniving because he hadn't been set up with that possibility in our eyes before. I was a little disappointed that Saskia Reeves didn't rise to the fore in the final episode, again, her unit's precarious position within the force hadn't really been made much of previously.

There were a couple of problems. Given the way Paul McGann's Mark North had been shown to despise and fear Luther, his conversion to Luther's side after Zoe's (Indira Varma) murder slightlyperfunctory. But that paled beside the scenes of Martin Schneck (Dermot Crowley) letting the light come on as he realises Luther has been set up. Close ups of his puzzled face mugging this way and then that had me laughing out loud. The other matter of some amusement was the way the police and theeir tracking systems always allowed them to arrive precisely when the plot demanded it; never too early or too late, the British equivalent of the parking space always open when the detective's car arrives in US shows.

Luther has obviously been set up to return, but I do hope they reconsider the format. One never knows exactly how alone Neil Cross was scripting the series, but there was far too much repetition, particularly of character traits and scenes between Luther, Zoe and Mark. A smaller, more self contained story arc, with just one cliff-hanger, might be the way to go in Luther II: The Reformation.


dlwilson26 said...

I'd give it a B- Michael. You are right about not properly building up motivation of the Ian Reid character.

Throughout the series, I thought of him as a sympathetic character, a friend and supporter to Luther. His machinations and bad behavior seemed to be a tack on that the writers did to bring a denouement in the final episode.

It reminds me of my reaction to the movie "Bonfires of the Vanities" which starred Tom Hanks as a Wall Street bond trader. In the book, the character Sherman McCoy is a self-centered, selfish, entitled dolt who has a good life and blows it. While watching, I couldn't imagine Hanks being that character. He is too sympathetic a personality. I felt the same way about the actor who played Ian Reid.

Michael Carlson said...

Youre right, that's why they needed to set up a few hints of Reed's corruption earlier...McIntosh can play the bad bit, but they seemed to want to emphasise his loyalty to Lutha above the rest...