Luther: Series 3 Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by James Amos.
“He doesn’t know it. But his good fortune ran out the day that I heard his name.”
It’s been more than two years since the last series of Luther aired, and so naturally the new series had a lot of expectation to appease.
The episode opens with a fiery conclusion to an unseen case, only to leave Luther alone in a dark new flat. As a lead character of the previous season, Jenny’s absence poses in our minds as Luther picks up the framed photograph of Zoe (his wife who was murdered towards the end of series 1), while the framed photo of David Bowie, given to him by Jenny, lies in the dust next to it. Along with this scene the director of the episode shines as we’re given the first murder of the series, and it’s probably the most frightening yet. We watch in silence as the victim slowly makes her way to the bedroom, undresses and gets into bed. Only to be woken by the man hiding under it. The scene plays on our childhood fears and effortlessly makes you jump out of your seat, it’s a perfect way to open the series and ascertain the viewer’s interest before showing the title credits.
The pacing of the opener is superb as we’re given three plots to wrap our heads around. We have the fetish murderer who is set to kill again, a revenge killing of an internet troll, and the main man Stark who wants to bring Luther down for his unjust ways through his partner Ripley. Neil Cross easily manages to find a balance between all three plots so that you don’t take your eyes off any of them, and the episode itself has many positives to effortlessly flow through the hour. For instance, the directing itself. The director knew exactly how he wanted to present this opener, and I was stunned at the cinematic feel to the episode as Luther makes his way through London trying to get his head around two cases at the same time.
That being said, the episode lacked on the epicness of the previous series opener, with few moments that you just have to rewind and watch again. This is odd seeing as there is more going on in this episode than in any other episode of Luther before it. On top of the three singular plotlines, Luther also finds a new love interest by the name of Mary. This is where Neil Cross thrives as a writer; his ability to develop a character in two separate directions is astounding. Luther is presented as being both deeply empathetic, yet also brutally efficient; these are two qualities only us as a viewer can witness. Even his partner Ripley rarely gets to see both traits, which will eventually lead to his questioning of Luther’s unlawful law enforcement tactics.
A moment where we really get to see Luther empathising with another human being is the scene in which he and Ripley are interviewing a victim of the internet troll, Barnaby. Here, Barnaby asks if the two of them want a glass of water after explaining his horrific circumstances. Ripley declines the offer, however Luther quickly interjects and excuses Barnaby from the room, giving him the privacy he needs to release his emotions. The juxtaposition between Ripley and Luther’s response demonstrates Luther’s superior understanding of human emotion and his greater empathy for it. This allows us as a viewer to understand the wrongdoing in Stark’s plan to bring Luther down for his lack of compassion towards other people’s lives. Ironically the copper considered the most crooked and emotionless is, in fact, the most compassionate and sympathetic of them all.
The episode twists and turns as we begin to witness Ripley’s gradual disliking of Luther. Again, this as a viewer is very hard to watch as Ripley has stuck by Luther from the beginning. He would understand the way Luther worked, but as soon as he is put face to face with the consequences he begins to realize that maybe what Luther is doing is wrong after all. If you look back at Series 1 and 2 we realize that Luther has never been truly alone due to the constant alliance he had with Ripley. If Series 3 delves into Ripley’s distrust in Luther and a separation of the two, as this episode is foreshadowing, then it will be interesting to see how Luther copes losing a faithful partner.
The episode ends on yet another tense and horrific death. With this killer, Neil Cross seems to be delving into childhood fears once again as this time the killer isn’t waiting under the bed, instead he hides in the attic. I am also to assume it was the killer himself making the cat noises so as to lure the victim into the attic. It’s masterful writing, and delves slightly more into the horror aspect of the show. In fact the whole last sequence feels like you’re watching a horror movie. It’s an interesting route for the show to go down, and it certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat before jumping straight out of it.
So did the first episode of this series live up to the expectation? Well it gets exceedingly close. It unfortunately lacked the intrigue and excitement I felt when watching the last series opener. The first episode of Luther certainly feels different to episodes we’ve had before it, which is only to be expected after two years off the air. Of course, there are still small things left unexplained in this episode. For instance just who is the witness Stark mentioned told them Luther was the one to kill Toby back in episode 3 of series 2? Why did the show suddenly have a 5 second break for Luther to sign a paper pushed in front of him without any intention or explanation?
This leads me on to the last question of the day. As I said Neil Cross has had more than a year to dream up the perfect villain for Luther, and Stark has been described in interviews as Luther’s ‘Moriarty’. So is his plan really so simple to just bug Ripley and wait for Luther to slip up? I find that hard to believe. Perhaps the seemingly perfect Mary Day has something to do with it. You never know, with Luther, nothing is simple.