Luther 2.03 Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Kelvin Green , Paul Brian McCoy
As Luther's affection for Jenny grows, so does his determination to protect her and help her back on her feet. Baba, however, is determined to keep Luther on a tight leash. To add to Luther's difficulties, he is called in to investigate a man whose brutal and escalating murders seem to have no motive, leaving Jenny alone and vulnerable.

Luther stars Idris Elba and airs on BBC One Tuesday nights at 9.

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.

Paul Brian McCoy: I was very impressed this week, right from the start. That opening sequence was a middle-class suburban nightmare.

Kelvin Green: Yes, it was a very intense episode; they did a lot with very little. One guy with a hammer seemed very scary.

Paul: Going out to deal with a vandal and having it turn into a murderfest was horrifying.

Kelvin: Yes, again Luther goes from the mundane to the insane in an instant.

Paul: And if the hammer wasn't bad enough, he breaks out a squirt gun -- filled with acid!

Kelvin: Yes, home-brewed horror!

Paul: That whole opening had Dr. Girlfriend yelling at the TV: "Don't go out there. Are you stupid? That's how people get killed!"

"It's just your car!"

Kelvin: Yes, stay indoors! Haven't you seen any zombie movies ever?

Paul: "And now you're dead. Or blind!"

Paul: Also creepy was when he just stares at his victim while he steals or breaks shit. That was surprisingly unnerving. He's just daring them to do something.

Kelvin: Yep, almost passive in a way. The later attack -- in the office -- was perhaps even worse, with the director's insistence on keeping the camera on the killer, as he swings the hammer again and again and again.

Paul: That was incredibly effective.

This was easily the best episode all-around this season, for me.

Kelvin: I don't think the story was as interesting this time, but the way it was shot lifted it above the earlier ones.

Paul: Again, Dr. Girlfriend was all, "Why would he go to the courier's next stop?" And then the killing started, and it was obvious. So he could get in there and do that unquestioned. Brilliant.

Kelvin: Really good direction.

Paul: I agree, the story doesn't have the levels that the first one began with, but it doesn't have as far to fall either.

Kelvin: True.

Paul: This was honest and brutal urban horror. No mucking about.

Kelvin: Although it's another Batmanesque gimmick killer, this time.

Paul: True enough.

Kelvin: The Dungeons & Dragons Killer!

Paul: Dice provide many more options than a flipped coin. Avoids that dualistic imperative.

Kelvin: "You can call me... D20-Face!"

Paul: Ha!

Kelvin: ...or something.

Paul: I loved how he twitched every time Luther touched his die at the end of the episode. That was a nice bit.

Kelvin: Yes, if you're a gamer, you don't let someone touch your dice!

Kelvin: I did notice what you were talking about last time; Luther's preternatural deduction.

Paul: Where did it jump out for you?

Kelvin: When he figured out the killer was rolling dice.

Paul: That's what I thought.

Kelvin: How do you get that from a video of a guy kneeling?

I laughed at that. I hadn't really noticed it before, but that stood out.

Paul: It was a bit of a stretch, but at least they showed Luther going through some sort of mental/physical process, getting down and imitating the killer, working it out.

It was still a leap, though.

Kelvin: "He's not looking under the car. He's not tying his shoelace. Therefore, he must be rolling a die!"

Paul: That worked better for me than just having him stare at a board and suddenly know all.

Kelvin: Yes, I didn't think it was a flaw, as the show is too mental to be hung up on aspects like that, but I did notice it for the first time here.

It wasn't a very geek-friendly episode, all in all. From the dice-rolling serial killer to the little banter at the beginning about comics and graphic novels.

Why does Luther hate geeks?

Paul: 'Cause he's out there livin' it, man. He's in the shit. Not playin' around.

Kelvin: He's also Heimdall, which is a bit ironic.

Paul: Yeah. And hopefully someone else soon! Can't wait to see who! I think I read that His Marvel contract is for more films than just Thor.

Kelvin: Really?

Paul: I think.

Kelvin: That's cool. He'd make a good Moon Knight. Maybe.

Paul: Anyway, why does Luther hate geeks?

Kelvin: Who knows? I suspect the writers were giving a little shout out to their audience. Although the creepy serial killer and his dice bag is certainly worthy of some ill will.

Paul: Maybe when the budget was cut, they said "But here, you can do a little graphic novel thingie instead."

Kelvin: Ha!

I'm even more endeared to Jenny now I know she reads graphic novels. Although she probably reads Sandman or something.

Paul: She does seem very old-school Vertigo. A little Delirium-esque.

Kelvin: Yes, all eyeshadow and funky hair.

Paul: I feel like I should have seen the ending coming, but have to admit, it took me by surprise.

Kelvin: Me too. I sort of thought that might happen, but didn't expect they'd actually go through with it.

Paul: I was expecting the worst, or maybe Alice popping in and saving her, then holding it over Luther's head.

Kelvin: Yes, I thought the latter more likely, but then Luther is bonkers and unexpected.

Paul: I'm just going to stop trying to guess what's coming and let it wash over my brain.

Kelvin: Yes, I can't see how they get out of this mess with the premise intact, but then the last episode of series one was similar.

My guess is Alice lets Luther set her up for it in return for something. Assuming we ever see Alice again.

Paul: Yeah. It makes me sad that she's gone.

On another note, what was with Jenny buying Luther a picture of David Bowie? That was odd.

Kelvin: Yes. I was trying to think of a moment when Luther expressed an interest in Bowie, but couldn't come up with one.

Paul: Me either.

Kelvin: It seemed a bit out of the blue, possibly another reaction to something which has happened off-screen. I'm torn on how much I like that approach.

On one hand it's quite a mature technique, showing that the characters have a life outside of the scenes we see, but it does sometimes lead to weird moments, like those long shots of the Bowie photo.

Paul: It's like character development shorthand to provide maximum screen time for the horrors?

Kelvin: Yes! More hammer to the face!

Paul: More acid to the eyes!

Kelvin: Spraypaint everywhere! Anarchy! Anarchy and dice-rolling!

Paul: Chaotic Evil for the win.

Kelvin: Ha!

Paul: I'm curious about the gaming system being used, kind of.

Kelvin: Yes, I have to admit, I wanted to know more about what they were doing, and why.

Paul: That notebook was full of scribbles. Surely it wasn't all just scorekeeping a' la Deathrace 2000.

Kelvin: Yes, there must be more to it.

Paul: That final shot of the SPOILER!! twin setting out his gear and preparing right in the middle of the train station was chilling.

Kelvin: Yes, good direction there too.

The cutback to the incarcerated twin just at the moment when the audience is asking "hang on, how is he out?" was very well done.

And the calmness in how he set out his tools. Brr!

Paul: Yes!

Kelvin: I also liked how the killer almost never spoke, and the one time he did -- on the phone -- it was out of earshot. So simple, yet so effective. While I liked Punch's theatrics, the new freak is much more interesting.

Paul: He's just a complete mystery. I'm a little worried about the reveals next week, and that they'll undercut the threat they've set up again.

Kelvin: Yes, I hope they have a good second half for us.

Paul: I'm going to miss good crime drama after next week.

Kelvin: Yes, they don't seem to have much in the pipeline. There's a one-off tonight with Damien Lewis, called Stolen, about human trafficking.

Paul: Over here, PBS is about to run the three episodes/films of Zen. But I've already seen them.

Guess it'll have to be catching up on some Wallander.

Kelvin: The BBC's next big release is an adaptation of The Night Watch, based on the novel by Sarah Waters.

It'll probably be good, but it won't scratch that crime itch.

Paul: Not heard of that, but one quick Google search later, and yes, it looks promising.

I might have to download some old Van Der Valk episodes. Season One of that was great.

Kelvin: Oh yes! That's a blast from the past!

Paul: Lots of eating, drinking, smoking, vice, debauchery, and crime-fighting in 1970s Amsterdam. I've got some Callan to catch up on, too, so I guess I'll survive.

Kelvin: Yes, that'll do you. Have you seen The Sandbaggers?

Paul: Oh yeah! I started the first season a while back but got distracted and never got back to it. That's another one to make my way through. I loved what I saw, but it was too boring for Dr. Girlfriend, so I have to watch it when she's otherwise distracted.

Kelvin: Ah yes, things went at a different pace in 1978.

None of the lunacy of today's Luthers and Shadow Lines.

Paul: Van Der Valk had some creepy fetish stuff going on, but wasn't as flashy, of course. Surprising, really. Lots of hookers, transvestites, corpses lying around for ages, S&M, and grudge killings.

Kelvin: Grimy stuff, and not at all what you'd expect from that jolly theme tune.

Paul: Yes! And then they run down to the pub for a beer whenever there's a lull. "We've got ten minutes until the suspect gets here. How about a pint?"

About the only time they run anywhere!

Kelvin: There was a comedy show in the 90s called The Mary Whitehouse Experience. It was very arch and studenty, but they had a recurring sketch about Inspector Morse -- who was also always in the pub -- being hammered whenever he attended a crime scene.

Paul: Ha!

Kelvin: I seem to recall that Bergerac -- a sort of British Magnum, PI -- was also always on the sauce. Not in a hard-drinking Philip Marlowe kind of way, just in a "sod this, let's go to the pub" fashion.

Paul: Damn you, social awareness of alcoholism! Taking all the boozy fun and adventure away from us!

Kelvin: At least we got plenty of it in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.

Paul: I should probably give Life on Mars another chance.

Kelvin: Did you not like it?

Paul: I watched the first episode and wasn't taken with it, so I quit. But I'm apparently the only person on the planet to not love it, so something must be up.

Kelvin: It's worth sticking with, but I preferred Ashes to Ashes, honestly. The first series of that was stunning.

Paul: I just didn't care for the gimmick. Or "hook", I guess.

Kelvin: Ashes to Ashes was a bit more Lynchean, so you might enjoy that more. And Keeley Hawes was a better lead than John Simm.

Paul: Oh my. I just stumbled across Department S and Jason King. That character, Jason King, was the inspiration for Mr. Six in The Invisibles, wasn't he?

Kelvin: Oh yes! Great theme tunes too. Jason King's theme was like Star Trek's poppier brother

Paul: Oh yeah. Gotta track that down. I might end up spending the Fourth of July watching Seventies British TV!

Kelvin: Is that legal?

Paul: Patriotism Fail!

Kelvin: You are a Bad American! I'll balance it out by spending the Queen's birthday watching some Michael Bay tosh.

Paul: Ha! Just watch some Kojak or Streets of San Francisco instead. That's more of an equal trade-off, maybe.

Kelvin: Streets... is that the one with a young Michael Douglas?

Paul: Yup.

Kelvin: Ah yes, I've seen a couple of those, and I realised where the Beastie Boys stole "Sabotage" from.

Paul: I have little to no memory of the show, but pretty sure the family watched it regularly.

Kelvin: It's funny, we both really enjoyed this episode of Luther, and we both agreed it was much better than the earlier episodes, but we've barely talked about it. I wonder what that says about the episode? Or us?

Would we prefer to see Idris Elba tearing about in a crushed velvet suit?

Paul: It was just so spot on, there's not a lot to say beyond how good it was. But the crushed velvet suit would be a winner for sure.

Kelvin: I think you're right. It was so well done that it's almost beyond comment. Which is a total cop-out, but so it goes.

Paul: I always have a harder time when I just enjoy something. I don't want to start dissecting it. It's easier to see and talk about why something doesn't work for me.

Kelvin: Perhaps they'll totally fluff the finale, and we'll be moaning about how they killed Alice off-screen, and so on and so forth.

Paul: Fingers crossed!

Kelvin: Dear BBC, please fluff the finale of Luther so Paul and I can talk about how badly you messed up, instead of going over our recollections of 70s British adventure shows.

Paul:I'm surprised, really, how even with a COMPLETE LACK OF ALICE, I still enjoyed this episode so much. That's not natural.

Kelvin: Yes, I'm a bit worried about Alice. Have they actually written her out? Is that what happened last week?

Paul: That's what it looks like. But it's hard to predict. She could walk on in the very last scene and do something horrifying and amazing just to leave us wanting more.

Kelvin: Yes, Luther is so difficult to judge. Will anything come of Grey's investigation into Luther's behaviour, or is that just clogging up a subplot? Surely Schenk has a bigger role to play this series? Etc. Etc.

Paul: It all seems fairly important. Can't see it all wrapping neatly in one more episode. Especially with another spree killer on the loose.

Kelvin: Although they did pull everything together into one thread at the end of last series, so perhaps what we've been seeing is the writers putting everything in a row ready for the finale, and probably an infuriating cliffhanger!

Paul: Probably.

Well, how do you score this one?

Kelvin: I think, based on how well it was made, I can push it up to .

Paul: I can't believe I'm saying this for an Alice-free episode, but I agree. it is. It's just solid work all around.

Kelvin: Who needs Alice?

Not Luther!

Paul: I don't know. Walking in on that scene at home, I'll bet he wishes he was on a beach somewhere with Alice.

Kelvin: "I should have taken her up on her offer. D'oh."

Paul: See where ethics'll get ya?

Kelvin: Silly man, John Luther.

Check out our reviews of Luther 2.01 and Luther 2.02!

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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