Wednesday, 26 May 2010


There was a moment, when Idris Elba's Luther is examining the crime scene, and he says 'This ain't just a serial...this man's on a murder spree' that I burst out laughing. Perhaps that's what Luther needs, is a little laughter, because he sure is having trouble coping with all that anger, and as I suggested yesterday in my review of Justified, the difference in coping with anger is the nub of the difference between the shows.

Luther, of course, is being pursued by Dermot Crowley's DCI Schenck, the typical IAD creep. And when serial killer Henry Madden, whom Luther allowed to drop to his death but who was merely rendered comatose, awakens from his coma the first word is utters is 'Luther'. It's not that he's a theologian, either. But before Madden can give his version of his own, if not mankind's fall (and why everyone expects he will be believed, and Luther disbelieved, is never explained) he is killed by Ruth Wilson, disguising herself so completely with oen contact lens and a wig that the policeman on guard can't identify her and she's never picked up by any of the CCTV that is everywhere else in London on the show. So when she calls Luther to give him the good news, his anger erupts, and he starts smashing the cop shop up, in full view of Schenck and everyone else, screaming 'don't ever call me again'.

Now I was expecting he would shut the phone off, turn around, and say 'wrong number', but no such luck. And that is the primary problem: Luther has no outlet for his anger except one (or two or even three) tightly choreographed tantrums in each show. We see him bottling it up, unable to express it without great great effort, and then, it explodes. Wilson's Alice Morgan got right with the Tommy Cooper joke about the police arresting two boys for eating a car battery and fireworks. 'They charged one and let the other off.' Luther's the other one.

Meanwhile, this week's serial killer, played by Rob Jarvis, has a tantrum of his own when it turns out he's been indentifed. His wife, played by Nicola Walker (of Spooks fame)who's having an affair, says he gets turned on by sniffing handbags, and Luther figures out that the murder spree will now end with the wife's lover. They get there too late to save him, but do rescue the hooker he's ordered up for the evening. When Nicola sees the dead body in the shower, and the quivering hooker, it's not clear whether she puts two and two together, but she does manage to take out her frustration by using a hammer on the husband, while the police, who've let her wander through the crime scene, look on helplessly. Call it her own tantrum, and obviously you'd see why Walker would relish the role.

In fact, the only character not given to tantra (plural of tantrum?) is Paul McGann, as Luther's estranged wife's lover Mark, and the best part of the show was the teasing that he might want to act on the information (received from a jealous Ruth) that Zoe has slept with her husband again. But Mark is in touch with his anger, and Zoe loves him again for it. Maybe Raylan Givens ought to watch, if he can stop laughing at the handbag sniffing and the tantrums.


dlwilson26 said...

I've been watching the series and share a lot of your observations. The relationship between Luther and Ruth Wilson ( I have to laugh when I read or write this because this is my cousin's name too!) is the central one. The cat and mouse aspect I'm willing to go along with, but the producers have to start showing their psychological cards more often. I think there are only 6 episodes in the series, so they better start wrapping things up soon.

I'm in the States and have no way to judge whether the series will get picked up for a second season. What has been the audience reaction to Luther?

Michael Carlson said...

There was a lot of hoopla about it at first, because it's so rare to get someone like Elba back after they've got their break in the States...but it seems to have settled into a sort of mixed bag of indeifference...there are a lot of good actors involved which seems to override the silliness of the storylines...

the problem with ruth wilson is there isnt really any explanation for her weak-kneedness in the face of Luther--and it gets worse in each episode. For a brainiac master criminal she seems awfully like a helpless woman in lurve..