TV Series Review – Luther S5

Warning: Contains EXTREME spoilers. Reader’s discretion is advised.

So, for me Luther was not just the TV event of the Christmas break but the event of the Christmas break. Afterall, we’ve only been waiting three years since season four ended (which really only counted as a two-part special if we’re honest with ourselves). We got our first glimpse of that red tie and that jacket way back in June when Idris Elba announced via Twitter that they were filming. Release date set for “later this year”. I got so excited I got heart palpitations. This is nothing unusual for me and TV series, but still notable. Idris and the BBC then spent the next SIX MONTHS lying to us, its loyal viewers, about the release date, releasing snippets and trailers all saying “later this year”, when in fact it premiered on the 1st of January 2019. This is why I have trust issues.

Anyway, back to the review. Another short season of only four episodes, the BBC’s saving grace was that they would be screened on consecutive nights. Four glorious nights of Luther, back-to-back. Episode one was quintessential Luther – exactly what my soul needed. It even opened with him chasing down a perp in the characteristic beat-up Volvo (why does our risk-taking maverick still insist on driving a car with an impeccable safety record?!). He got out and did the Luther Walk, which is somehow just as fast as the Baddie Run. They exchanged quips, he took him back to the station where Schenk and Benny were waiting and it felt like coming home. Then we were introduced to the real Baddie of the season, a Baddie so Bad you’ll only find them in Luther. And the real world. Which is what makes them so terrifying. I won’t go into detail on Jeremy, mostly because I don’t want to, but I think he is by far the worst (and by worst, I mean best) killer the creators have brought to fruition. He was absolutely terrifying. As was his wife, played superbly by Hermione Norris, meaning Cold Feet will never be the same again.

As all this was going on, Luther was dragged into a side story involving George Cornelius, the gangster he handcuffed to a radiator in season four when he was trying to find out what happened to Alice. And thus began what I believe was ultimately season five’s downfall – the incongruent parallel storylines. Episode one ended with a cheer as Alice was back, one of my favourite characters in anything ever. (Unfortunately, soon to become one of my least favourite characters in anything ever). The tension built over the next two episodes as Luther simultaneously tried to catch a killer (half-heartedly it must be said), appease Cornelius, and try to stop Alice from killing everyone (the usual).

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what didn’t work. There is absolutely no way Alice would have been able to kill Cornelius’s son in the way in which she did. First of all, even with her stupid wig on, someone would have recognised her. Secondly, even if they hadn’t recognised her, Cornelius’s men wouldn’t simply have taken her word for it that she was a ‘welcome home present’ – they would have checked with Cornelius first. Lastly, even if they hadn’t checked with Cornelius, there is absolutely no way his body would have gone undiscovered until the next morning – someone would have checked on him during the night. Not such a big deal, but annoying at the very least.

Luther’s treatment of DI Halliday was completely out of character. In fact, the show’s treatment of DI Halliday was completely out of character. She was almost a caricature of a young black female detective. She is given absolutely no personality or individual character traits beyond that. Luther just barks orders at her, with no explanation, often making her do things that have nothing to do with the case at hand, saying he’ll explain later but never doing so. Or he simply pulls rank. He treats her as a skivvy and puts her in uncomfortable situations. Personally, I felt this made Luther look like a sexist arsehole. But I don’t think Luther is a sexist arsehole. It was completely out of sync with how he has treated people, and woman in particular, in previous seasons. It just didn’t make sense. Her whole character didn’t make sense. She was extremely intelligent and made breakthrough discoveries on the case, yet was never shown any acknowledgement of any kind. I don’t think this was intentional by the writers, but I do think it was weird. As for the decision to have Alice kill her, I think that was unnecessary and was done purely for the shock factor. Which was achieved. I will admit it. I was shocked.

Finally, Alice. Oh Alice. How to completely fuck up a character in five minutes. Tut tut writers, tut tut. First of all, she comes out of nowhere and shoots Halliday in the head without hesitation. Psychopath. Then she confesses her undying love for Luther and gets annoyed with his inability to love her back. Um… but she’s a psychopath. She’s incapable of love. She only cares about herself. You’ve spent four seasons telling us this. She just shot an innocent person in the head at close range without a care in the world and now you want us to believe she’s capable of love. Huh? Then she falls off the scaffolding, Luther dives to save her – season one flashbacks – instead of letting him help her back up onto the ledge, she stabs his hand and falls to her death. Um… Alice has always been about self-preservation first, before anything else. She would rather go to jail than die. So, what’s she doing falling to her death? You have just tried to un-psychopath her in the time it took from Halliday’s murder to get to the top of the building site – all of five minutes. And in attempting to do so, you destroyed everything that was so awesome about Alice’s character – that she was a psychopath, but an extremely likeable one.

Oh, and in the meantime, I forgot to mention, you’ve left the most evil serial killer you ever created ALONE handcuffed to a radiator. ALONE. You left him ALONE. ALONE. Are you out of your minds?

It’s hard to put a verdict on this one. It’s Luther, so even if it’s crap, it’s still gonna be at least an 8/10. Episodes 1-3 were outstanding but episode 4 just became an absolute farce. There were things wrong that have never been wrong with Luther before. The thing that always made Luther special was the balance between his personal life, his police work and his weird relationship with Alice. In this season, there was absolutely no balance in sight. I think there was too much story for four episodes and they tried to cram too much into the last 15 minutes. Overall, there was just too much story. Luther himself was all over the place and I felt all over the place with him too at times. It was definitely the weakest season there has been and I can’t see where they’ll go from here. I’ve heard rumblings of a movie. I hope it’s not true. I don’t think it would translate onto the big screen. I might have to re-watch it and re-visit my review, but for now I’m choosing to pretend there are only four seasons of Luther.

Book Review – The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

Title: The Floating Theatre

Author: Martha Conway

Category / Box Ticked: A book by a female author

I love a character driven novel. There’s something special about knowing you’re going to miss the presence of a fictional character in your life the moment you close the book. And boy am I going to miss May Bedloe. With the book set in 1838, she was undoubtedly on the Asperger’s spectrum ahead of her time. Honest to a fault, unable to understand sarcasm or social cues, and more comfortable in her own company than surrounded by others, I quickly found myself on her side. A talented seamstress, she finds herself a job on the famous Floating Theatre, a flatboat that makes its way down the Ohio River, stopping to perform at towns along the way. She soon manages to make herself indispensable to the troupe and in spite of herself, finds that she comes to care a great deal for her new working family.

However, it’s 1838, and the Ohio River is the natural division between the ‘free’ North, where slavery is outlawed and the South or ‘slave states’. With the Floating Theatre stopping on both sides of the river, tensions will mount and people will be forced to choose sides. Because as we know from our own experience, both past and present, when a topic of such prejudice is involved, one cannot truly remain neutral. And what’s more, a character from May’s past will use the ruse of a debt to be repaid to exploit her position on the boat, compelling her to become involved in the underground Abolitionist movement of transporting slaves from one side of the river to the other, endangering everyone who has become dear to her.  

The book is wrought with tension, although I wouldn’t call it a thriller. It’s an easy and very pleasant read. The characters absolutely bring it to life, whether you love them or hate them – apart from May, you’ll probably hate them. Life on the boat and the Ohio River are so beautifully detailed they had me wanting to delve into the history books to learn more about the era. The descriptions of slavery are accurate and enough to raise your blood pressure, without being overly sentimental and manipulative of your emotions – which I find books like this often tend to be. So, praise must go to the author for her restraint in this regard. It would be much easier to write paragraph after paragraph on the evils of slavery and have the reader in tears than to use the subtlety she did and rather get the reader thinking.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable book to start the year, picked for it’s beautiful cover and intriguing title, it certainly lived up to the promise.

Rating: 4/5

When you’re starting out with this challenge it’s really hard to know which box to tick because you’re not sure what else you’re going to be reading. I was really hoping there would be an ‘historical fiction’ category, but alas, no. So, I’m going with a broad category out the gate and hoping it doesn’t come back to bite me.

A Failing Education System

It’s not often I’ll post on consecutive days, except for when world events get me riled and I need to rant. The 2018 matric results were released today. Usually these aren’t of much interest to me. Yes, I am one of your typical “It was much harder to pass in my day”, “Can you believe how easy these exams are?”, “The pass mark is disgracefully low!” people, but beyond that I don’t interact much with that demographic and so it doesn’t really affect my life. However, for the past five years I have been sponsoring my domestic worker’s son’s education and this year he wrote matric, so today, the results were of huge significance to me. Treading as lightly as I can on my white privilege, we have a very uncharacteristic relationship with our domestic worker. I’m about to say a whole bunch of stuff you’ve heard white people say about their domestic workers before, only I genuinely mean them. I love Betty like another mother. I love her son Bongani like a little brother. Our home is their home. Betty has been to our wedding, we have been to her home and met most of her extended family. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

Bongani went to a school in the township that he lives in. I tried to move him to a better school closer to where we live but his English wasn’t good enough to do English as his home language. I sent him to Saturday school for extra English, Maths Literacy, Geography and Computer lessons. I sent him books to read and movies to watch to try and improve his English. It did improve markedly, but not to a point where he could transition to studying English as his home language. His education at school was sporadic. Teachers would come and go. He would be taught in isiZulu but tested in English. He would run out of stationery and out-grow his uniform but be too proud to ask me for a new supply – I had to learn to pre-empt him. His marks were erratic. He would get 60% for a subject one term and fail the next, with no explanation. This continued throughout his schooling. On paper, he failed grade 11, yet in January 2018 he was starting matric.

At the beginning of matric he told me he could no longer go to Saturday school because he had to attend his regular school on Saturdays to get through the syllabus. He couldn’t come to me for extra help during the school holidays because he would be attending classes then too. My heart ached for this poor boy whose childhood it seemed was over. The first term report card arrived and he had failed again. He just scraped through terms two and three. In grade 8 he had spoken excitedly about becoming a teacher, which required university entrance. In more recent years he had tailored his ambitions to possibly pursuing a trade – something where he could start at the bottom and work his way up, perhaps attending a Technikon while he worked. But now we were staring down the barrel of a matric rewrite.

So, imagine my utter astonishment this morning when I typed his examination number into the system and flashing back at me it said “Bachelor Degree Pass”.

Can someone please explain to me how someone went from failing, scraping through, to a Bachelor. Degree. Pass? To get a Bachelor Degree Pass you must:

  • Obtain at least 40% for your Home Language.
  • Obtain at least 50% for four other High Credit subjects.
  • Obtain at least 30% for two other subjects.

I know Bongani worked extremely hard, I have no doubt about this. I am quite confident he achieved points one and three. But the marks he would have needed to achieve point two seemed almost unobtainable.

I know this is the point at which I make enemies but it needs to be said: a university education is not a right, it is a privilege and leading young people to believe it is a right does them a disservice and sets them up for failure. I was lucky enough, privileged enough to go to university, and I know how difficult it is. I know that Bongani would not cope. His level of English is not good enough to cope with lectures. If he were studying a BEd he would struggle to handle the workload and the course content. Inevitably he would fail and be forced to drop out. He would lose years of his life and take a massive blow to his self-esteem. None of this is Bongani’s fault. He has been failed by an education system that did not adequately prepare him for tertiary education and a school system that has somehow made him eligible for something he will not be able to cope with.

I can already hear the cries of racism ringing through the air, but this has nothing to do with race. This useless, corrupt system is colour blind. I have no doubt it is failing children of all colours, creeds and languages the country over. Sending them to university with dreams in their hearts and stars in their eyes to fail at courses that they are not equipped for because their high school education did not prepare them for it. It is a lovely notion that everyone is entitled to tertiary education, but tertiary need not necessitate university. It can include colleges, trade schools and Technikons. So please, if you got your results today and you got that Bachelor Degree Pass out of nowhere. By all means go bonkers and celebrate. But then please take a moment before deciding on your next move. Become a statistic for the right reasons.

New Year New Blog

So, it would appear the WordPress powers that be punished me for not blogging enough last year, and shut me down, almost forcing me to start a new blog. I guess that would make one of my new year’s resolutions be to blog more, but if you’re at all familiar with me or my work, you’ll know my feelings on new year’s resolutions and my belief and that they are an evitable path to failure. Generally speaking, they are just grand, vague empty promises you make to yourself about the better person you’re going to become in the new year. But the problem is, you have no idea how to become that person. You’ve identified the destination, but you have no road map for how to get there.   

2018 was by no means an easy year for me. Perhaps marginally better than 2017, I only had one hospital stay, but just as many doctors’ visits. I went through shoulder rehab, fell off the shoulder rehab wagon, and then climbed back on the wagon late in the year. I went through a serious bout of seasonal depression, found out my inner child was still really angry about a lot of stuff and I lost my last remaining grandparent. However, I also went on an amazing holiday to a Greek Island. I saw Ed Sheeran live. I welcomed a nephew into this world and I saw my beloved Seahawks kick some serious ass live, with my Big Bruv. Hubby and I went on an incredible trip to the Kruger and watched an unforgettable lunar eclipse together. And even though I no longer have grandparents, for most of my life I had the best grandparents, and that’s more than most people ever get.

I know undoubtedly that part of what made 2018 marginally easier was that I had a road map. No more vague destinations in mind, but clearly defined landing points. Perhaps not exact GPS coordinates, but definitely instructions on how to get there. I also learnt (and am still learning) that change is a skill that requires practice. You can’t change overnight, it requires deliberate and consistent action in the right way and the right order, over time. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. As you would build on any skill, if you want to make a change, you have to practice getting better at making changes.

I still need to lose a significant amount of weight. I still need to get fitter and healthier. I still need to read and write more. However, I am currently following a healthy eating plan and have cut down significantly on my junk food intake (no small feat for me). I am exercising every day – almost miraculous considering where I was in the middle of the year. I have done a full edit of my first draft of the first novel I ever completed and plan to continue working on it in the new year, and I am ready to tackle the 52-book reading challenge this year. I have a schedule of when I write and I already know most of the books I will be reading to fulfil each category of the book challenge. See. Roadmap.

These sound a lot like resolutions and I guess they are, although I prefer to call them goals as they are long-term changes in mindset and not whimsical, vague ideas of transformation. To anyone looking to make genuine resolutions for 2019 I would recommend picking low hanging fruit. Pick something small, simple, and repeatable that you’re guaranteed to succeed at. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that you succeed with it. This will help you to practice change. Master change first and then up the ante on what you’re trying to change.

My commitments for the year are as follows:

  • Treat days on Wednesdays and Sundays only.
  • Follow exercise programme from biokineticist.
  • Work on novel every day.
  • Work on blog Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Read an average of one book per week.

I plan to post throughout the year on my goals and their progress. Please follow me on my journey – I welcome encouragement – and share yours with me. A prosperous 2019 to you and yours!