Is it possible to find happiness given a dark past full of transgressions and missed opportunities? What happens when you come close to it and end up losing it all way too quickly? That’s part of the premise behind BBC America’s latest season of “Luther,” which followed the title character trying to find purpose in his life after losing another person close to him.
“Luther” followed DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) who was living a very quiet life in an isolated cottage after his previous plan of running off with serial killer Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) seemed to have gone up in smoke, or so that many seemed to believe. Luther took a leave of absence from his job as a respected and complicated law enforcement officer. He had a great understanding of what made serial killers tick, but he couldn’t always understand those closest to him. He also couldn’t handle when he would lose his friends and loved ones along the way. After running some errands, he received a visit from DCI Theo Bloom (Darren Boyd) and DS Emma Lane (Rose Leslie) to inform him of Alice’s shocking demise. Luther appeared genuinely shocked by her death, but he lied about not having had any contact with her. It turns out that Alice was trying to secure money for them to disappear without a trace toward a somewhat questionable happily ever after. Luther assumed that Alice’s death tied into a possible dealing with gangster George Cornelius (Patrick Malahide) who was a traditionally ruthless criminal who believed in money and power. Cornelius was a man not meant to be crossed, which Luther made the mistake of doing and it could cost him his life after he put a price on it. Luther decided to return to work to help catch a dangerously cannibalistic serial killer and also help the unit deal with a shocking blow. Luther tried to become a mentor to Emma who was a young cop trying to make sense of her place in the unit while trying to start a family with her girlfriend. She was also trying to learn to balance her emotions with her workplace responsibilities without crossing too big of a line. While in the midst of the investigation, Luther came across a psychic named Megan Cantor (Laura Haddock) who had knowledge about what happened to Alice and that it could be tied to a murder case from Luther’s past. Is Megan telling the truth or does she have a greater agenda in mind? Will Luther have time to think about while catching or killing his latest high profile killer?
In terms of questions, the show raised a few and answered a lot, but the biggest one involved when the series will return for a follow-up. The ending left viewers wanting more as Luther found a new potential threat in a killer that he didn’t see coming who would do anything to get what they wanted, or someone who was just purposely leading Luther down another dangerous path. The ending had hinted at so much possibility, but it cut things shortly as a way to leave viewers wanting more. That plan worked perfectly as it told the most immediate stories and laid the groundwork for another plot in the making. This new season’s biggest disappointment was that Wilson’s Alice couldn’t make an appearance, even in flashback form, because her exit seemed bittersweet and somewhat disappointing that most of it happened off-screen. Wilson’s chemistry with Elba was a large draw for most of the earlier episodes and Alice’s exit was almost put together at the last minute to cope with Wilson’s newfound success in Showtime’s “The Affair.” Hopefully, Haddock’s presence will help to fill the void if the show does indeed return for a fifth season, or not. As for the story itself, the season’s cannibal serial killer was the typical one note villain who remained in the shadows for the most part. Due to the season’s rushed episode number, there wasn’t much in developing the killer into nothing more than an evil person who wanted to be loved but couldn’t be ever, since there was nothing worth loving. His purpose was to bring Luther back to the fold and nothing more. Cornelius turned out to be someone who could either have Luther killed or become his greatest ally if Luther played his cards right. Leslie’s Emma was more than the typical inexperienced law enforcement officer. She provided her with a grit that she demonstrated on “Game of Thrones” and she could have a bright future if she played her cards right. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Elba, Malahide and Haddock led the pack as their characters seemed to operate under a level of good and evil that often got mixed up along the way. Elba’s Luther provided to be the most complex cop in modern television who had more than his fair share of demons as he opearated very close to the edge. Due to recent events, Luther’s dance with the edge grew even more dangerous as he often dreamed of being close to the edges of cliffs and buildings with an old friend who was no longer among the living. He gave Luther a sense of danger, charm and ruthlessness that made him fascinating to watch regardless of Luther’s actions. He also had a strong rapport with Malahide and Haddock as potential friends or foes if he wasn’t too careful. Malahide, on the other hand, had the challenging task of playing a villain and a man with his own strong code of code that needed to be honored if someone broke his rules. He made Cornelius an intellectual type of gangster who often used his words rather than his actions to prove how lethal he was without having to lift a finger. Malahide’s Cornelius provided that he could be a good long term addition if the show does come back again. Haddock’s Megan proved to be more of an interesting enigma that was one part innocent and another part dangerous if Luther crossed her. She provided Megan with a sense of believable innocence that allowed her into Luther’s orbit and a disturbing calm that made him weary of her. It’s early to tell if she’s Luther replacement for Alice, or just another villain in Luther’s sights. Viewers shall wait with anticipation in the meantime.
“Luther” aired its one night event on December 17th on BBC America. Check the BBC America website or your local cable provider for additional airings.
Verdict: Elba continues to deliver many layers to his already complicated character. He just needs to find the right partner, or foe, to replace the ones he already lost.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)