BBC’s Luther ends its first series on an incredibly dark note, with Detective John Luther (Idris Elba, The Wire, The Office) having been betrayed by his best friend and devastated by the murder of his wife, Zoe.
As series two, which consists of four hours split into two stories, begins, Luther has been wasting away working cold cases. He is given the chance to come back to investigate current crimes, but with his old unit gone, he will now serve under Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley, Raw, Bleak House), a former police complaints officer who, with good reason, isn’t sure that Luther should be a cop at all. Working with the ambitious Detective Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird, The Omen, Bad Girls), Luther also recruits his former partner, Justin Ripley (Warren Brown, Savage, Dead Set) to assist. The two, with their very different opinions on the titular detective, provide a nice counterbalance to each other.
Other familiar faces return, too. Mark North (Paul McGann), Zoe’s guy at the time of her death, is now a good friend of Luther’s. He even helps during a case. This is a strange reversal, as the two are so at odds previously, but it’s nice that Luther retains McGann’s talents in any fashion.
There is only a little bit of Alice (Ruth Wilson) in series 2, as she is in jail. One misses her presence, and it changes the tone of the series to have her out of the game. While it may be a relief to have a cold killer like her off the streets in real life, Luther needs her involvement to be the best show it can be. Hopefully, she will be freed be the time series 3 begins.
Luther, himself, is quite a bit different. He is still in a depressing place, occasionally contemplating suicide, but he no longer contributes to the darkness. In fact, he would like redemption for his wrongs. His conscience continues to bother him, but he’s working to balance the scales in his favor. He may still be grieving, but he is finally moving on from the events of the first episode, and that’s a good sign.
Luckily, Luther doesn’t get much chance to dwell in his sadness, because there are two strings of killings that must be stopped in Luther 2. The first is done by a serial murderer who thrives on causing fear. He is played by the wonderful Lee Ingleby (White Heat, Inspector George Gently). The second villain is more elusive, and less showy. It takes all of Luther’s considerable skill to take on these two criminals.
Elba is the heart of the series, and always will be. He shines brilliantly in this second batch of episodes, taking a character he already soars with, and adding new layers and depths. The accolades continue to pour in for his performance, and every one of them is deserved.
The sole fault with this release is the lack of extras. At least the first series boasted one, while Luther 2 has none. It is a great show, one that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. But it would be nice if some behind the scenes information was given, letting fans take a peek into how the show is made. Instead, the episodes are expected to stand alone.
Which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. After all, Luther is one of BBC America’s most popular programs for a reason. It has complex, intelligent characters and stories, and is populated with some great actors delivering some truly impressive work. So if any gritty crime drama wants to stand alone, with no bonus features to support it, then Luther is the one to do so.
Buy Luther 2, on DVD now.