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.