|Index||2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is a shame that this series was only four episodes long as they were
all quite gripping; especially this finale. As the previous episode
approached its conclusion it looked as if the 'Dice Killer' had been
brought to justice
then it emerged that there was a second killer; his
twin! The two of them are playing a macabre game where points are
awarded according to the difficulty of the kill and the likelihood of
capture. One of them may be out of the game but the other is aiming for
a high score. While Luther and his team are trying to catch the second
killer before he can kill a large number of victims he is also trying
to dispose of Toby's body and help Jenny get away from the clutches of
Toby's mother and her henchmen.
Luther has always been a fairly melodramatic series and this episode was no exception; he ends up on the wrong end of a gun at one point and at the end confronts the killer in a way that looks as if his life may end at the role of a dice... It is an exciting scene though! As always Idris Elba is great as Luther; the series would definitely have been weaker without him. Aimee-Ffion Edwards was also good as Jenny although the character isn't as interesting as Alice; I do hope she returns if there are further series.
When season 2 was announced it was said to be two 2-hour specials and
my first thought was "why?" because I didn't see what was salvageable
from the mess apart from just doing more of the same. When it came to
the screen it had become a short season of 4 episodes, although the
first and second pair of episodes are fairly separate in terms of the
main plot, so I guess it is 2 specials. I wasn't sure if I was going to
watch it and even my girlfriend (who loves a bit of rubbish TV) didn't
seem fussed but I heard some positive things and decided to give at
least the first episode a go.
It starts a little sluggishly because we have to tidy up the mess left by season 1. It does this as best it can while also being as brisk about it as possible Alice is shifted away, demoted officers reinstated, Luther briefly suggests suicidial tenancies etc but ultimately once the first murder happens we're moving away from things as fast as possible. This clean break is where the show gets much better than the first season and it does it by focusing on the strengths of the show and not doing too much that stretches it. The two main plot lines are serial killers of different sorts but they both have a random brutality in common. This has left the show open to accusations of being very violent almost sadistic, and in a way I sort of agree because Luther is very brutal this season and some of the crimes are impacting, saddening and bloody often to the point where it doesn't feel like entertainment.
However this feeling is worth it because it is preferable to murders in, say, CSI, where there is no emotion to it. With Luther the two serial killer plots see the public targeted at random, with no "justice" or reason for why any specific individual is killed. It raises the tension in the show and it makes it brutally engaging and quite chilling. It helps that it is well filmed to maximise this impact and scenes in which a blank-faced killer walks into an office and starts killing and maiming with random abandon is chilling because ultimately most of our day-to-day "safety" exists because nobody wants to make it unsafe but it could be easily done; the murders in Luther carry that chill and the show benefit from it. Outside of these two threads, we have a smaller thread involving Luther in trouble over helping a girl out of sexual exploitation it links to the first season but it doesn't really matter. This plot is not over played and allowed to build well but most importantly it is not made the whole deal in the way Alice was. This means that although this subplot is not particularly good, it never has to carry too much weight.
In combination with this, the characters are made simpler and the plots more manageable. In season 1 the motivations of the characters changed with the wind and never made sense, while the plots involved family, new partners etc and just got messy fast. Season 2 keeps it clean Luther is played much straighter and Elba benefits by being able to deliver consistently even if there is nowhere near the meat he has had before (you know where). I was glad of this because it felt like the writers were acknowledging that complexity, characters and the like are not their goal and doing them just causes problems I agree and the tight focus and solid plots help cover up the weaknesses in writing from season 1 not by improving them, but just by avoiding the same holes.
The supporting cast match this by being solid and doing what is required but never being asked too much. Brown returns and is welcome as he underplays and is never more than support. No offence to McGann or Wilson, but the show did the right thing in showing they exist but then getting them out of the picture with minimal fuss long may they remain so. The addition of Amuka-Bird is a good one she is a good actress and she was a good moral foil for Luther. Edwards is decent but her character was a necessary plot device for the subplot rather than a great addition. Robertson and Ingleby both do really great jobs as the killers they are chilling and effective in different ways. Mostly everyone does well because the plots, motivations and actions are all simpler and more focused this season which benefits cast and show.
Overall, I came to this season with low expectations but actually it performed very well. The writers seem aware of where the show was weak before and have mostly avoided the subjects on which they could stumble and instead focused on the aspects of the show that work. By doing this they produce two dramatic, tense and chilling story lines that move fast enough and hard enough to cover up the weaknesses in the telling. The bridging subplot is simple but effective and again pace and impact stops the viewer questioning too much. Not perfect but significantly better than the first season and more than enough to put me there when the third season comes.
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