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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

F3TV: Luther - series 2, episode 4

Film Flam Flummox

My immediate reaction to the series 2 finale of Luther is one of shock--and so completely not in the manner one is accustomed to in writer/creator Neil Cross's detective saga that's is almost impossible to assess/discuss the episode without the urge to rationalize it in the greater context of this most recent four-hour cycle and in contrast to series 1. But leave it to Cross to find new ways to pull the rug out from under the viewer--and also leave it to him for it to have a most mapped-out method to his apparent madness.

At the top of the hour, however, all initially appears to be business as bloody usual: DCI John Luther's (Idris Elba) team continues to investigate a killer whose dice-roll-driven game of terror is not over as it appeared to them at the end of episode 3; and Luther finds himself having to climb out of an even more precarious spot following the episode-closing actions of Jenny Jones (Aimee Ffion-Edwards), the troubled young woman he has vowed to protect. The latter situation cannot help but bring to mind the cliffhanger that led into the series 1 finale, and this is clearly no mere coincidence and even more clearly not at all willfully lazy rehashing on Cross's part. The devil, as they say, is indeed in the details, and the contrast between them from then and now makes for an appropriate culmination of this latest arc of episodes and the ongoing evolution of John Luther.

This isn't quite as obvious, though, as the episode is in progress, for this Case of the (Two) Week(s) is one of the more compelling ones that Cross has cooked up, and director Sam Miller ratchets up the tension slowly but ever so surely to a terrifically mounted climax that is easily the grandest of the entire program to date. But the larger scale does not diminish those details, and that is where the deeper intricacies and hence satisfactions lie. The closing standoff recalls a similar one way back in series 1, episode 2, but this is not exactly the same DCI John Luther we saw same time last year. While still very much a loose cannon who flouts traditional boundaries in pursuit of what he believes is right and just (and, indeed, it is a typically "crazy" Luther move that leads into the hour's home stretch), the "mask" adopted in episode 2 of this series has appeared to take, for ever since a more detached sense of reason reins in passions and emotions once too volatile to control. Always a clever mind, he now wears the perpetually cool, laser-focused exterior to match, with even the too-close-to-home Jenny situation and its inevitable fallout from her former employer Baba (Pam Tillis) never appearing not only to faze him in the slightest but also never eliciting the slightest emotional response; ditto in regards to the ever-encroaching threat presented by cohort DS Erin Gray's (Nikki Amuka-Bird) growing distrust, and, unlike in that analagous encounter in series 1, episode 2, in the immediate face of doom, it's cold reason, not raw, exposed emotion, that comes through.

And with that latter note comes an unexpected epiphany that brings Luther full circle to not only the first glimpse of him this series but also redefines his character as known over these ten episodes: through reason comes the recognition that are no reasons, as in any concrete explanation or rationale for how the world operates--a sharp contrast to the man once driven so baldly, obsessively, for better and too painfully worse, driven by his belief in the existence of love and, hence, some sense of greater, unifying order. The closing question of the first series echoes once again at the end of this one, but in a far tidier and even cheeky context that doesn't merely contrast with its previous one but is downright shocking in just how wildly different it is from just about any and every thing that has come prior in these ten hours--ironically leaving that two-word query a much greater weight. Something at least approaching a semblance of peace could finally be in the cards for Luther, but then one wonders how someone like him could possibly handle or even maintain that possibility, or, more appropriately, if. Now what, indeed.

Buy the Luther series 1 DVD here.
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