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Luther series 4 review

Episodes: 2

Premiered: 2015

Duration: 1 hr

Idris Elba returns for a fourth run of Neil Cross’ captivating and bruising BBC One crime drama Luther. Series 4 sees DCI John Luther back for a scaled-down two-episode run in which he’s lured back to work from a leave of absence to track down a cannibalistic killer who has London paralysed with fear.

Can Luther and his new partner Emma track down the crazed murderer? If so, at what cost?

Read on for Dale’s episode-by-episode Luther series 4 review.

Luther series 4 episode 1 review

The question that’s been haunting dedicated Lutherians was uttered by his part-time serial killer pal and occasional paramour Alice Morgan at the end of the last series: ‘So now what?’

The general consensus was that the show, and the detective, were most probably toast. I mean, HIS BIG LUTHER COAT GOT THROWN INTO THE THAMES! Surely if anything signified the end of John’s tenure as a DCI, it was that heartfelt bout of symbolism.

We all presumed he’d head off with Alice to have a few emotionally troubled children while setting himself up as a particularly focused driving instructor in the Home Counties. But, as any fan of the procedural knows, if you’re a copper who has stopped being a copper and vowed never to be a copper again – soon someone is going to be knocking on your front door demanding you return.

Luther series 4 episode 1

And so in Luther series 4 episode 1 we soon discover that Luther has left London and apparently moved to the 1950s, setting up shop alone in a quaint seaside bungalow and suddenly using phrases like ‘totally disco’ and ‘tickety-boo’. Is Luther attempting to land a regular role in Heartbeat? The noises of exertion that pretty much every character makes when getting into or up from a chair throughout the show suggests the producers are skewing for an older demographic.

Luther’s brooding, clifftop bliss is interrupted by a couple of old compadres from the force who are asking after Alice while additionally being distracted by the activities of a cannibal with a creepy fridge fixation. These events provoke Luther into whipping the dust sheet off the Volvo and heading back to his old (literal) stomping ground.

Within minutes of paying his Congestion Charge, Luther is popping into a threatening dubstep pub (a pub step?) and generally bloodying the son of a leading underworld mastermind. Ah yes, this is far more cosy territory. And once he’s assigned a new partner, Emma Lane, in the hunt for the organ munching miscreant, things perk up considerably. He’s even back into his old overcoat, as he appears to have a whole rack of them in storage.

Viewers outside the capital will find Luther’s half-derelict crash pad to be repressively dismal, while those of us in London are left wondering ‘how can he afford a home by the sea AND an open-plan, pied-à-terre with natural wood flooring and authentic period details on a detective’s salary?’ But fans of the show have learned to douse the entire enterprise with a generous pinch of salt.

Luther series 4 episode 1

The identity of the killer cannibal geek is soon exhumed and Luther is defiantly prodding around his singularly grim compound, which plays that creepy ‘Mama’s Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird’ song on a loop – suggesting either our suspect or Neil Cross enjoys a good horror movie trope. But, as this is a two-parter, our boy slips through Luther’s grip and spins his murderous rampage into next week’s instalment.

The ‘so, now what?’ proffered at the end of Luther’s last adventure is answered with a breezy ‘business as usual’, at least for this inaugural series 4 episode. The light nudging it took to get John back in the big coat might strike some as slightly rudimentary in terms of storytelling, but lovers of Luther know you have to leave the realistic behind and dive headlong into the mayhem to get the most out of the show. While it took a while to get rolling, by the time both of Luther’s investigations came conveniently crashing together, we were slavering for next week’s conclusion.

Did you tune in for Luther series 4 episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Read Dale’s review of Luther series 4 episode 2 here.

Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw

Dale Shaw is a television and radio writer, journalist, screenwriter, performer and musician. His first book, Letters of Not, was published by The Friday Project in 2014, with his second, F**k This Journal, published by Headline in 2015. He has written for The Now Show, The News Quiz, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Impressions Show, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, One, School of Comedy, as well as for The Guardian, Index, Huffington Post, BBC Online, Washington City Paper and many more.

Follow Dale on Twitter.

1 Comment

    “totally disco” is a callback to the Jenny character from series 2.

    The wires do that a fair bit, with Luther repeating lines from other characters (mostly Alice) like the “when I first learned about a black hole” speach from Luther a season or so after Alice first delivered it – there have been a few others that jumped out – I don’t remember them all without rewatching

    “Totally Disco” in s4 does cream where the eff is Jenny these days? It’s clearly on the mind of Luther and the writers…

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Luther series 4 episode 2 review

Still catching up on Luther series 4 episode 2? Read Dale’s review of episode 1 here.

I’m not sure this was the intention, but I actually ended up feeling rather sorry for our deranged, cannibal computer nerd by the end of this latest Luther. It didn’t matter how many corpses he desecrated, which passers-by he dined out on or the number of creepy implements he toyed with, he just could never attract Big John’s full attention.

As his crimes grew in audaciousness, it almost seemed like some kind of cry for help. The more Luther ignored him, the sloppier he became in his endeavours in some kind of toddler-like tantrum. Gone was the complicated surveillance monitoring and hi-tech serial killing of the previous episode. Now he was forced to flag down motorists in the street while attempting to murder them.

Poor old Steven Rose. He just couldn’t compete with the legions of skeletons leaping out of Luther’s closet. As the second part of this Luther special picked up exactly where we left off last week, our mysterious person muncher has escaped into the depths of fashionable East London. But Luther still couldn’t quite focus fully on his murderous indiscretions. (Neither could the press it seems – something else which made me feel sorry for Steven was a press clipping which appeared to demote his murdering to the inside pages of the newspaper, as if this kind of thing happens in Hackney on a fairly regular basis).

luther series 4 episode 2

As well as having old school cockney gangsters ‘green-lighting’ Big John’s assassination, with contract killers popping up and getting knocked down like a particularly violent game of whack-a-mole, he also had to contend with an alarming psychic, Megan Cantor, who was on hand to out-creep the absent Alice Morgan, so is sure to be a love interest somewhere down the line.

This psychic appears to know a frightening amount about Luther, Alice and a case from the past that continues to haunt him. Luckily, there was a bit of downtime as the department’s entire IT squad (Benny) were slowly decrypting a selection of the killer’s hard drives, which allowed Luther to temporarily put the cannibal to one side and apply himself to this new development.

While the first part of this two episode mini season started out at an almost glacial pace, dribbling out fragments of story as Luther spent a lot of time glowering at the sea, part two really ramped up the intensity. The human hunter’s atrocities grew in their creepiness, the frequent contract killing attempts added an unexpected edge (and some excellent improvised retaliation from Luther, who calmly dispatches trained assassins with a bin and a fire extinguisher) while the Alice Morgan storyline provided a healthy dose of emotion.

I do miss Alice though. Despite everyone discussing her death, I assumed she’d be spotted waving at Luther from an overpass before melting away once more, so her conspicuous absence was disappointing. If Megan has been parachuted in as the new off-kilter Luther paramour, she has mightily large crazy-shoes to fill.

This two-part special felt a little like a line drawing enterprise. After the highly anticipated Luther big screen adaptation failed to materialise, this special seemed to be an attempt to hit the restart button and get Big John away from his seaside retirement cottage and back in his coat. So at certain times the implausibility even surpassed Lutherian standards, while new characters had precious little time to bed in and the denouement was fast and brutal, leaving it a little dissatisfying. But if this series does nothing but lays the groundwork for more Luthers down the line, I’ll take it.

Did you tune in for Luther series 4 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Take a look at our pick of must-read books for fans of Luther here.

Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw
Dale Shaw

Dale Shaw is a television and radio writer, journalist, screenwriter, performer and musician. His first book, Letters of Not, was published by The Friday Project in 2014, with his second, F**k This Journal, published by Headline in 2015. He has written for The Now Show, The News Quiz, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Impressions Show, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, One, School of Comedy, as well as for The Guardian, Index, Huffington Post, BBC Online, Washington City Paper and many more.

Follow Dale on Twitter.

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Please note: Moderation is enabled and may delay your comment being posted. There is no need to resubmit your comment. By posting a comment you are agreeing to the website Terms of Use.