“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?
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!
Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
So, then. Alice is back, and – crucially – alive. Her and John’s diamond-based escape plans scuppered some three years ago, our hero was left to believe that his psychopathic paramour had drowned in an Antwerp river after a botched sale of the precious gems. But, alas, she had not. She had merely faked her death to avoid the heat that inevitably comes with sticking a hatpin into the brains of three burly Euro gangsters. Diamonds lost and heat turned down, Ms Morgan is back in London with vengeance very much on her mind. Yup – it was her that had kidnapped George Cornelius’ money-laundering son Alistair.
The unseen figure taking buckshot from George at the lido in episode 1? Alice. Seeking refuge and some emergency repair work, she ends up at Luther’s door once again, parroting his trademark ‘wotcha’ greeting to him. Trouble is, not only are George’s men hot on their trail, Luther’s boss now smells a rat, going so far as to nab some of Alice’s DNA from Luther’s place. Effectively proving his man’s aiding and abetting a wanted killer.
As ever, it’s all go over at Luther’s place. Well, it’s all go from an action perspective. It’s never all go on the decorating front, is it? The man really rather obviously doesn’t care much for interior design.
It’s all go on Luther’s case too. Not that stopping London’s latest sadistic serial killer seems to be at the forefront of the DCI’s mind. Luckily DS Halliday is quickly proving that her fast-tracking to the job was a smart move as she digs deep into the case, failing to be satisfied that ‘the killer’ – with his perfectly slashed throat – really was the man behind the brutal slayings. Her hunch that Hermione Norris’ Dr Vivien Lake is shady sees her and Luther shaking the tree of Mrs Lake’s mister, heart surgeon Jeremy (a brilliantly chilling Enzo Cilenti), to some effect.
Are the Lakes a grim husband n’ wife team of depraved predators, with her manipulating his behaviour for her own kicks? Or is Vivien merely mopping up diligently after her sick husband? Our hunch? The former. We think they’re a more upmarket Brady and Hindley pairing. A St John’s Wood Fred and Rose West.
Jeremy again provided the standout moments here with his murderous ways and delightfully rude and psychotic patter. The opening episode had him making the world frightened of the top deck of the bus. And now? Selling household items online is likely to strike fear into anyone that watched Wednesday night’s instalment. The Lakes now have a kidnapped woman for Luther & Co. to save…
Back to what seems like the ‘main’ plot and there’s another tied-up person to rescue – DS Benny Silver. Luther’s tech-savvy Northern Irish colleague and trusted mate is bound to a chair and getting electrocuted. Not for jollies, though (don’t let this twisted show force you to think everyone’s kinky, eh?). Nope, it’s George running the volts through him. All in a bid to recover his son and get to Alice and Luther. A straight swap involved, then? Well, no. Not after Alice sneaks into the Cornelius household dressed as a slinky Eastern European sex worker and gives it her best hatpin-death routine on the kid. Which is not good news for Benny, of course.
One last thing from this second slice of the fifth series that we can’t ignore… That flashback of John and Alice. In bed together, presumably somewhere between the events of series 3 and 4. They dropped that in rather casually, didn’t they?! So we know they got it together before Alice tried to fence the diamonds. Might they do so again? Especially given how this could just be the final season…
By 10pm on Friday night we’ll know the answer.
Did you tune in for Luther series 5 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
Who’s got who? Who wants who? Who’s prepared to trade someone for someone else? Where are they? And how can they be acquired…?
It’s kind of ironic that this fifth series of Luther began airing on the day that the football world’s January transfer deadline window opened. The main concern of it so far has been who’s where and how another side can get hold of them. Especially here in this penultimate episode.
As this third part begins, Luther had Alice, who was wanted by both the police and crime kingpin George Cornelius. George had already got his son back from a loan spell with Alice, but found that Alistair was forced to retire through long-term injury – a very long-term injury. Luther was looking to re-sign his kidnapped Northern Irish teammate Benny Silver after a loan spell with George, having agreed a swap deal with the gangster for Alice.
Luther then reneged on the swap deal, deciding instead to snap Benny up in a last minute fire sale swoop instead. One that saw a lock-up container site burn to the ground. In response, Cornelius then unveiled new star striker Mr Palmer, a deadly target man that wasted no time making his mark in the game.
Keeping up with all this?!
As for the other fixture in this series, the nasty serial killer one – we learn that it is indeed all the doings of the Lakes, with the grisly couple having enjoyed quite a few ‘safe’ murders until Jeremy’s brain tumour started causing him to become disinhibited and more inclined to take risks.
Mr Lake well and truly went off-piste here though, breaking the rules of the couple’s lethal agreement (‘always play it safe’) and unveiled a new signing of his own, Penny from the flats. Concealing her in the basement and drugging his wife so she wouldn’t discover her, the man’s thinking is misaligned entirely, his conscience now about as sparse as the pair’s creepy modern pad (which we’re sure we recognise from when Grand Designs visited Patrick Bateman’s London pad).
DS Halliday and Luther managed to save Penny and arrest Vivien Lake at the climax of the hour. Jeremy, rather wisely, decided to skip London in an ambulance and seemingly allow his dear wife to take the fall for his crimes. Once she senses that’s the case, surely she’ll give him up to the team and give Luther and Halliday everything they need to track him down. If so, she’ll need to be quick about it. Only – judging by the trailer for the fourth night’s action – her deranged other half has a new victim in his crosshairs.
The Lake murders took a back seat here as we focused more on the fallout from Alice’s violent ways once more. The dynamic between Alice and Luther has very much shifted in this fifth series. The sexual tension is still there, but it’s barely visible. Instead, Luther’s affection comes more from unshakeable loyalty and a sense of never giving up on people than genuine affection now.
As ever, Ruth Wilson really fizzles and pops as Alice, all but stealing the show from the titular character and the hugely charismatic man playing him. Luther just isn’t the same without Alice, and episode 3 really gave Wilson a chance to shine. Whether she was sashaying around in a mink coat, expertly escaping her handcuffs or simply stealing someone’s orange juice, she’s just sublime. And judging by the preview of the final episode? It looks as though Ms Wilson and her fabulous creation will have a pretty big say in how Luther ends this thrilling series…
It’s all building up to a rather tense final encounter. Friday night’s closing instalment will, hopefully, resolve all at the final whistle. Our prediction is that there’ll be a last minute winner from Luther, with an assist from ‘boss’ Martin Schenk settling the Lake tie. With the distinct chance of a shootout involving Alice settling the Cornelius match-up.
Now all that’s left to do is wait for it to kick off. And kick off it certainly will.
Did you tune in for Luther series 5 episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
Well, well, well… That’s that, then. It’s over. Finished. At least it’s ‘goodbye’ to Luther’s fifth series, anyway. But could we have waved goodbye to the programme entirely? There was, after all, a certain feeling of finality to the climactic scenes here in the fourth and final episode of this run.
A sixth series hasn’t been confirmed as yet and star Idris Elba hasn’t sounded overly enthusiastic about a return to his most famous character in recent interviews – although he has hinted that a film version could be in the works.
This run of the grisly BBC detective series attracted its usual high viewing figures and even beat the most recent Doctor Who in the New Years ratings. So the Beeb – along with the five-odd million TV crime fans that tuned into the show in 2019 – will no doubt be keen to see Luther return soon enough. We’ll have to wait and see what the future has in store for Neil Cross’ smash hit show.
If it does reappear on our screens, the producers will have plenty of casting to do. The crime drama will have to find a new antagonist to pit against London’s most law and rule-averse Detective Chief Inspector, after a huge and central fan favourite dropped out of sight in a manner intentionally similar to the very first scene of series 1 some nine years ago. We won’t go into too much detail here, just in case you’re yet to watch and fully digested this last course of the Luther meal. Suffice to say, you may be left with a little indigestion as the credits roll…
Not only is Luther’s main adversary now out of the picture, but half of John’s team are also gone too. If we all thought that DS Benny Silver (Michael Smiley) taking a bullet in the face in episode 3 was shocking, we hadn’t seen anything. It looks as though Benny will be joined in Met Police Heaven by another integral member of the team. Working with DCI Luther is, as if we needed reminding, a rather dangerous job indeed.
It’s also quite hazardous to be a maniacal serial killer in London when Luther’s working a shift. All get ‘caught’, but very few actually make it to the handcuff stage. But by the end of this fourth instalment, Luther and DS Halliday had tracked down Jeremy Lake (with very little assistance it has to be said, from his rather unhelpful other half Vivien). After discovering a house full of masked-up corpses, they apprehended Lake who, as luck would have it for him, escaped being killed and had to make do with a few punches, the ‘cuffs and a presumably quite lengthy prison sentence.
This ending, with its two plot thread conclusions, along with the entire series, was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Luther. It was dark, twisting and full of dead shocks and surprises – and yet still managed to hit all of the tropes and – yes – cliches that it always seems to aim for. The drama’s creators have never really sought to subvert the genre in any tangible way or hit new heights. They’ve got their template and they stick with it. Were it anyone other than Idris Elba in the role, there’s a good chance we may all have grown a little weary of the format by now. But it isn’t. Elba is Luther and so Luther is great TV.
That said, for the first time in the show’s 20-odd hour-long episodes, Elba seems a little distracted here. It was all there – the growling, the guns, the hands in pockets, the shouting of ‘Alice!’ every five minutes. But something seemed missing. Maybe it was the fault of the editing and not Elba’s performance. The pacing was a little off in places and certain scenes seemed slightly rushed here and there. That can lend itself to a thrilling chain of events, but it can also detract from the characters and the story arc in general.
It’s been a solid if not classic run of Luther, this. The big finale will be remembered by fans forever and we were treated to one of the best (and funniest) killers in the programme’s near decade-long history. Where to go now, though? A sixth telly outing? A big screen version? Or will everyone concerned decide to bow out, while they’re still at the top…?
Watch this space to find out.
Did you tune in for Luther series 5 episode 4? What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…