Luther 2.02 Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Kelvin Green, Paul Brian McCoy
The Second Episode BBC ONE Crime-Drama Luther's Second Season aired this week, and Idris Elba as troubled DCI John Luther must rescue Ripley, abducted by Cameron, in time to prevent Cameron's final murderous set piece. But Jenny's ruthless and vengeful boss is demanding compensation for stealing her protege. Luther is torn; will his visionary mind provide the team with the tools to save Ripley and the killer's intended victims, or will his focus be compromised?

Be sure to go to the BBC Luther site to download "Graphic Spoilers", short comics providing insight into each week's episode!

Luther will air on BBC America sometime in October. Expect the original 57 minute runtime to be cut back and edited for commercials.

Kelvin Green: I have to say, after my enthusiastic welcome to the new series, I thought the second episode was a bit wobbly.

Paul Brian McCoy: Ha! I went the other way!

Kelvin: I thought you might!

Paul: About halfway through this one, I was like "That's how you do it, Luther!"

Kelvin: It was still good, and there was much to enjoy, but the wrap up of the Mr. Punch story seemed a bit half-hearted and confused.

Paul: Well, yes, that was a bit of a letdown. I guess I was hoping for a bus full of dead children. That's good TV.

Kelvin: Yikes!

Paul: Or at least one.

Kelvin: It did have a suitably comic booky feel, what with a secret hideout and an elaborate plan involving barrels of toxic gunk, but they seemed to forget all the quasi-mythical stuff they were setting up in the first episode.

Paul: I liked that whole Pied Piper vibe, though. There's nothing scarier than someone who can just spirit your children away. Never to be seen again.

Kelvin: True, that was all fine, but I wanted more exploration of that snatch of poetry they made so much of in the first episode, or his plans to revive the mythic history of London, that kind of thing. They seemed to drift away from that and make him a bit more mundane than he was at first.

Paul: Yeah, but I think that was the point after all. That all that mythology was just a front for how mundane he actually was.

Alice (Ruth Wilson) may be the only mythic foil Luther (Idris Elba) can afford.

Kelvin: I suppose. It was just a bit disappointing.

Paul: My disappointment came from another area.

Kelvin: Go on.

Paul: Luther's Superhuman Reasoning. He's pulling ideas out of the ether, it seems.

Kelvin: Well, it does fit the exaggerated, over-the-top tone. He is a bit Batman, but the whole thing is off-kilter enough that it's not a problem. That said, was he as clever in the first series? I don't remember.

Paul: Maybe he was. But for example, when he walks into the "meeting" with the pornographers, and just suddenly starts providing exposition... It was a little quick.

Kelvin: I don't mind the gonzo aspects of the series, like Luther's preternatural cleverness; in fact, they're what I like most about the show, so it's when things dip back into the mundane that I lose interest. But maybe it's also a symptom of the shorter series this time around.

Paul: Almost like a shortcut.

Kelvin: Perhaps they don't have the time to do it properly.

Paul: I don't feel like we're getting to see the process, and just jumping to the end result. Particularly with Alice.

Kelvin: Go on.

Paul: We don't even see her this episode until the final moments and it's just "Hi, I escaped from mental ward, let's run away." How did she get from picking up the apple last week, to sitting casually in Luther's apartment this week?

Kelvin: Yes, it does seem as if she's barely in it.

Paul: Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she's out, but I would have preferred to see a bit of the process.

Kelvin: One would assume she plays a large part in getting Luther out of the clutches of the mobsters, but yes, it's strange that they're not making much use of one of their best assets.

Paul: I really think it's the 4-episode format that's to blame.

Kelvin: Yes, I wonder if there was more Alice originally, but they cut her out.

Paul: I suppose it could be argued that just having her show up maintains her superhuman abilities as well.

Kelvin: If they did cut something, I would have preferred they cut out Paul McGann's character, Mark; it may have been more interesting to see Luther putting people in Alice's protection.

Paul: Oh, that would have been interesting. Although we would have missed out on Paul McGann saying "I was doing a 3 Point Turn..."

Kelvin: Yes, that was a great scene, and a nice bit of comedy amongst the misery

Paul: It was unexpected and hilarious.

Kelvin: I do like the relationship they've built between the characters, and it's something else I wish we'd see more of.

Paul: When the show allows itself to breathe, it's fantastic. That's why I came out of it happier than last week, even though all I'm doing is complaining at the moment.

Paul: It sails along gloriously, then pauses for an info dump or a jump to the next plot point, then begins sailing again.

Kelvin: McGann's not listed in the cast for episode three, which is also a shame.

Paul: That's too bad. DSU Schenk's (Dermot Crowley) interrogation scene was awesome, too. So maybe we just don't have time to let everyone shine.

Kelvin: Yes, when he starts going on about the, what was it, "unstoppable shower of shit" I did cheer a little bit.

Paul: I laughed out loud. That may have been the moment when I made my declaration about "That's how you do it."

Kelvin: He's like a good version of Gatehouse!

Paul: Ha! Yes!

Kelvin: I also liked how Ripley (Warren Brown) made his escape. Very tough guy.

Paul: Agreed. I was ready to write him off. I'd lost interest in him, then he goes and survives and escapes like that.

Kelvin: "I told you he'd be okay"

"He was well taught."

Although again, we never saw this teaching, but perhaps we didn't need to.

Paul: Teaching by example, I guess.

Paul: Get burned and tortured, but do the job. Get a nail through the hand, but do the job.

Kelvin: yes! Grunt about it for a bit, but then go straight back to work

Lots of grunting in this show.

Paul: Hell, I call in sick when my stomach is upset.

Kelvin: You won't make it as a BBC detective!

Paul: No, I wouldn't. I also wouldn't let Jenny (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) move in with me. I'd have run away with Alice.

Kelvin: I can see where you're coming from there. Although as a proper Englishman, I was pleased to see that Luther is a tea-drinker; I was concerned that all that time in the US would have Idris Elba converted into a coffee-drinking infidel

It reminds me of a bit from behind the scenes on Doctor Who, where Mark Sheppard extols the virtues of working on a British production after years of catering van coffee.

Paul: Ha!

I appreciate the fact that the character is doing what he feels is right rather than what he really wants to do. But I'm not thrilled about the situation the writer has put him in to begin with.

Kelvin: Yes, I'm most intrigued by this thread of Luther wanting to leave the police force

Paul: Now that's interesting, but we're really not getting any development of it.

Kelvin: Yes, it's just a reference here and there, when it seems like it should have more importance

Paul: Instead, Luther is scaring witnesses into shutting up and then slipping out of windows far too small for him to fit through.

Kelvin: Ha!

Paul: He really is Batman, isn't he?

Kelvin: Yes, he was Being Batman™ again.

Paul: Hopefully there's an outtake with him stuck in the window.

Kelvin: Or falling to his doom, since they were at least one floor up but he'd probably just break both legs then crawl back to the office, grunting all the way.

Paul: Wrap a handkerchief around the exposed bone, wince, and hobble off.

Kelvin: Maybe have a bit of a cry when no one's looking

Paul: They should work that in to every scene where he's alone. Luther just sobbing, but then straightening up, sniffling, whenever anyone walks in.

Kelvin: yes, that's his Bruce Wayne persona: Crying Man.

Paul: I think I might have missed something. Why does Luther think that the Joneses are still in danger? Because they're the link to controlling Luther?

Kelvin: I think it's because the gangsters are still around, and Luther is going to try to escape their blackmail, leaving the Joneses without protection

Paul: Okay.

Kelvin: They're only safe as long as he's useful to the gangsters I think that's the idea, anyway

Paul: But if he quits...

Kelvin: Then he's no longer useful

Paul: Seems reasonable enough.

Kelvin: It will probably not mean much to international viewers, but the lead gangster was played by Pam Ferris, who's one of those "national treasures" and doesn't normally do this kind of show, so she was a bit of a surprise.

Paul: She gave me a bit of a Mags Bennett feel from this last season of Justified. The head of a redneck criminal family/organization. Charming but deadly.

Kelvin: You've lost me there, I'm afraid. I never caught Justified. I'm not even sure which channel it's on over here.

Paul: It's worth a look if you get the chance. Timothy Olyphant is gold.

Kelvin: Oh, here we go. It was on last night. Series two, episode ten.

Paul: That's almost the end. Speaking of worth a look, we're just about to finish up the original Danish The Killing, Forbrydelsen.

Kelvin: Another one I missed, alas. They are advertising The Killing USA about now though.

Paul: Ugh. We watched the first episode of the American version and it was way too shouty and over-acted. They completely missed the subtlety of the original.

Kelvin: Ah, I won't bother then.

Paul: Detective Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) is awesome. Always thinking, always watching. That show is all about the process.

Kelvin: They showed it on one of the lesser BBC channels here, and it's always struggling for things to put on, so it'll be on again, no doubt.

I note that this week's Luther graphic novel is Alice-centric, so that should please you.

Paul: Yes, but I'm really not seeing the point of those things.

Kelvin: A wasted opportunity there, I think. They could use these to fill in the blanks in the televised plot.

Paul: That would be nice. Expand on things, rather than just replay scenes.

Kelvin: yes, we don't need to see Alice escaping in the TV show, but it would be a good use of this extra resource, and it's be cheaper to make than, say, Becoming Human

Paul: But I liked Becoming Human.

Kelvin: Oh yes, it was fine; I was merely mentioning it for contrast purposes.

Paul: Hard to believe that things are that tight, financially.

Kelvin: The Conservatives have always hated the BBC, so the Beeb have cut back drastically so that there's nothing the government can use as an excuse to attack them.

Paul: Hmmm.

Kelvin: Hence the shorter Luther this year.

Paul: I see. That's pretty shitty.

Kelvin: Yeah, one of their slogans is "because of the unique way in which the BBC is funded", which has increasingly come to be "because of the unique way in which the BBC is funded, you're all getting less of the good stuff while David Cameron has lunch with Rupert Murdoch"


Paul: So, is there anything interesting running over there now, or on the horizon that I might not have heard about?

Kelvin: You might like Horrible Histories, which is technically a kids' show but has been given a primetime slot, and Friday Night Dinner, a farcical sitcom with Simon Bird.

Paul: We watched Friday Night Dinner. That was a bit of fun.

Well, do you want to start wrapping up?

Kelvin: I felt this episode lost a bit of The Crazy, so it didn't grab me as much as the first. But the performances are good enough that I will keep watching.

Paul: Agreed. I thought it was great when it let itself be, but the info dumps and time crunch hurts. I'd say it's still a solid , though.

Kelvin: It could be so much better than it is -- look at how much space The Shadow Line had to breathe, but then that's probably not coming back -- but yes, is fair.

Even hobbled, Luther is miles better than most cop shows.

Paul: Yeah, maybe they should have focused more on one solid story for the four episodes, rather than splitting the focus.

Kelvin: I think you might be right there.

Paul: Or tie Punch, thematically at least, to the pornographers somehow.

Kelvin: Yes, perhaps that's still to come, but the series structure seems a bit disjointed. Good, but disjointed.

Paul: And there's your pull quote: "Good, but disjointed."

Kelvin: Yes, that sums it up!

Check out our review of Episode 2.01!

Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to What Looks Good and Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, tentatively titled Damaged Incorporated. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, sci-fi television, the original Deathlok, Nick Fury, and John Constantine. He can be summed up in three words: Postmodern Anarchist Misanthropy. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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