Wednesday, 10 July 2013

LUTHER, 3.2 – episode two

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

written by Neil Cross | directed by Sam Miller

Comedy and horror are close bedfellows, but people give you funny looks if you tell them a drama like Luther makes you laugh. But there is gallows humour to Neil Cross's scripts, and you sometimes have to release the tension by finding something to grin over. You don't write a scene where Luther's (Idris Elba) wardrobe is revealed to be hangers of identical shirts and jackets, unless you want to puncture the mood and let levity in. Or how about the moment when DS Ripley (Warren Brown) arrested a sympathetic internet troll killer who tried to avoid justice by sticking his hand in a blender, which meant only his remaining good hand could be cuffed to a hospital bed frame? Well, I laughed...

This conclusion of last week's storyline was equally as good as last week's premiere, and in some ways better. I loved the idea that the Shoreditch Creeper, Paul Ellis (Kevin Fuller), disguised himself as one of society's nerdy oddballs in a wig and huge spectacles. The transformation was remarkably stark, considering how masculine and frightening he becomes when his true identity's revealed to the women he kills. The development that Paul is actually an admirer/copycat of the original Creeper, William Carney (Ned Dennehy), who was convicted of serial murder thirty-odd years ago was also really good... and gave us another lowlife to make your skin crawl.

There are times when Luther over-eggs the pudding, and Dennehy certainly played Carney as an Evil bastard deserving of that capital letter There was occasionally a touch of the League of Gentlemen about him, but in many ways that's the secret of this show. It's not a very realistic crime drama; it's really just a dark, adult, graphic novel come to life. The animated opening titles admit as much, and the villains are always written with deliciously broad strokes.

The sub-plot with DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird) teaming up with Det Supt George Stark (David O'Hara) to catch Luther breaking the law also chugged along very nicely, but it's a shame everything came to a premature end in this episode. I was expecting that to be the ongoing storyline linking series 3's two stories together, but after Luther discovered Stark's hideout and stole all the evidence before threatening to ruin his career by making him a laughing stock, it seems this whole idea is done with. A pity. Still, it was a nice touch to have Luther play back Ripley's taped testimony on his drive home, too, and realise his closest friend and loyal colleague only had good words to say about him.

Overall, episode 2 wasn't as scary as last week's opener and didn't have half as many indelible images to keep you awake at night, but it was nevertheless a great deal of macabre fun. It's a larger-than-life drama where some of the actors chew scenery, but everything's balanced by the utter conviction of Idris Elba. Luther's a pretty intriguing character, but there have been variations on him for years on television, so it's Elba who truly elevates things. When he's on-screen, you just can't take your eyes off him. The only thing I'm not sold on yet is the budding romance with Mary Day (Sienna Guillory), which was less prominent here and still hasn't sunk its teeth. It seems this romance is what's going to bind series 3's four episodes together, so I'm hoping the remaining two hours will see a marked improvement.

9 July 2013 | BBC1