Luther series 5 episode 1 review

Luther series 5 episode 1

“The name’s Luther. DCI John Luther. Licence to thrill, albeit in the confines of quite a strict formula…”

Whether or not you see Idris Elba as the next 007, one thing’s for certain – he is Luther. If you’ve ever watched the 46-year-old being interviewed, you’ll know what we mean. Even if he does end up taking over from Daniel Craig, Luther may still end up being the role Idris Elba was born to play.

New Year’s Day saw the return of the no-nonsense copper for the first of a four-part fifth series, running over consecutive days. After the disappointment of the shortened previous run a few years ago, plenty is expected here from Luther fans. And judging by this opening episode, few hardcore Lutherites will have been left disappointed. Especially by the return of a certain Alice Morgan at the end. More on that later.

That strict formula, though? It’s tried and tested. By 10pm on 1 January 2019, the BBC had televised some 17 episodes of Luther. It’s hugely popular and endlessly enjoyable. But cutting edge it ain’t. For all the hype and fun that it brings to the schedules, there’s no getting around the fact that it adheres very strictly to the tropes of the police procedural (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, obviously). What stands it apart though, is the sheer strength of John Luther’s character and the borderline ridiculous level of charisma that Elba brings to the role. Things that, thankfully, are in no short supply here in this first instalment of series 5.

As ever, we drop back in on our hulking, troubled lead as he tries to solve grisly murders of women that walk home alone in London in high heels, while wrestling demons from his past and attempting to avoid being murdered by bungling gangsters. We’re in fairly familiar territory, but then again – would we really want it any other way?

that top deck bus crawl will haunt our nightmares forever…

The deranged and pathologically insane sexual killer this time likes to remove eyes and tongues before hammering enough nails into his victims to leave them looking like steampunk hedgehogs. All while wearing a rather fetching white mask with makeup on under a hood which is lit from within by LED lights. It is, no doubt, a seriously creepy look – that top deck bus crawl will haunt our nightmares forever…

Dr Vivien Lake (Hermione Norris – Innocent, Cold Feet) provides the team with a name and a lead – one of her patients, an unstable type called James Hauser. He, she claimed, broke into her house on the night of the first murder. Yet judging by the way she went about wiping his prints from her place, it’s not a huge surprise when we learn later that Lake is a something of a fibber. So much so in fact that it appears as though she was setting Hauser up entirely. It seems as though she’s covering up her husband’s vile crimes.

We’re three years on from the last case and John has a new recruit to bed into his ‘Serious and Serial’ unit. As with the second series, his new underling is a ‘by the book’ type rather adverse to Luther’s infamous antics. DS Halliday (Damilola, Our Loved Boy’s Wunmi Mosaku), is a fast track public sector type there to frown at our antihero’s maverick ways disapprovingly and generally act the naive greenhorn. We’re hoping to see her character fleshed out and moved beyond ‘nagging new woman’, only it’s a little tired a schtick now.

Harking back to another age of crime in London, gangster type George Cornelius (Patrick Malahide) is back. First seen in series 4, George couldn’t be more anachronistic, but dammit, the man’s fun. Here he’s on the prowl for his missing son and decides to start his search with an interrogation of Luther. In, of course, some sort of seedy London nightclub that couldn’t be more sixties or Krays-y if it tried.

John survives a quick game of Russian Roulette (the third time that particular plot device has been used now in the show’s history) before breaking out and reasserting his alpha status on the streets of London. Things seem straightened out, but a botched informant wiretapping scheme goes south and we end the episode with George’s boys paying John a visit at his grotty (as ever) flat. Before they arrive, though? Luther gets another visitor… Alice.

Yup, it was pretty heavily trailed that Ruth Wilson’s character would return here and we’re thankful she has. Only Luther is never better than when it’s our protagonist and his unlikely partner – the murderous and narcissistic Ms Morgan – teaming up to get things done. Which means Wednesday night’s episode should be all sorts of fun now she’s back from the dead…

Did you catch Luther series 5 episode 1 on New Year’s Day? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.

Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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