DVD Review– Luther: Series 4
The third series of the crime drama Luther was thought to be the last, but, thankfully, creator Neil Cross and star Idris Elba are back. The first six-episode series saw the brilliant detective John Luther exploring a number of cases involving particularly twisted criminals, trying to piece together his crumbling private life, and then struggling to survive a personal tragedy. The second and third series, each consisting of four episodes, told a pair of two-part stories, as Luther found his way out of the darkness that brought him to the brink of self-destruction and started to rebuild his life.
Over the course of the first fourteen episodes, there was a recurring theme that Luther had to escape the business of getting into the minds of murderers if he wanted to protect his own sanity. The final scenes of Series 3 indicated that Luther had to leave the police force if he were to have any shot at a normal, happy life. Early in Series 4, it becomes obvious that abandoning law enforcement really isn’t in Luther’s best interests. For a mind as sharp and perceptive as his, a simple retirement, lounging on the beach, or something similarly comfortable would lead to stagnation and boredom. Series 4 reverses the perceived arc of previous episodes, indicating that Luther has to keep using his detection powers to prevent human monsters from wreaking havoc and that he needs the thrill of the chase in order to keep himself sane and sharp.
Series 4 is the shortest yet, with only two episodes. As it opens, Luther is brought out of self-imposed retirement and exile in order to catch a cannibalistic serial killer who has set up a deadly trail of bread crumbs that don’t lead in the direction that the police hope. As usual, the series doesn’t skimp on the gruesomeness, the darkness, and the general pervading sense of evil that is crucial to the world of Luther. With prodigious quantities of blood that would make the art directors of Dexter suggest that Luther has gotten a bit too sanguineous for its own good, watching the show is not for the faint of stomach.
By this point in the series, many of the recurring characters have been written out, though two familiar faces are still on the force, and an old friend we thought was gone for good is back for a quick flashback cameo. The amazing Ruth Wilson and her character, Alice Morgan, the malignant narcissist villainess who evolves from Luther’s arch nemesis to his most powerful ally, is mentioned but not seen, though she still plays a major role in an important subplot. One can only hope that Cross finds a way to bring her back in future installments, or start the Alice spinoff he considered writing several years ago.
For fans of Luther, this abbreviated series is in some ways the best since the first; however, the Elba/Wilson dynamic that was far and away the best part of the show is much missed. Though many of the twists can be seen coming, that makes the show more rather than less enjoyable, for it allows the viewers to act as if they are entering Luther’s mind the way he enters the minds of criminals. Luther: Series 4 is intense, disturbing, and haunting, but the characteristics that make it often hard to watch are more than offset by the aspects that make it hard to look away, and as always, the show is compelling thanks to Elba and his bravura performance of a man charging his way through a world of murder and madness.
Luther: Series 4