Luther series 5 episode 3 review: greater than the sum of its parts

Luther series 5 is starting to feel like it's split into two shows. Major spoilers from the start in our review of episode 3...

Idris Elba in Luther Series 5 Episode 3

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

Oh Benny! If only you’d stayed in the office like you used to, solving cases from your desk using your sundry geek knowledge, it might’ve turned out alright. But, no. You had to throw yourself into the line of fire. Literally as it turned out, and now you’re dead and so is Errol. Although, on the plus side, he didn’t scratch any of your records.

I’m sad to see Benny go, mostly because it feels like his sacrifice might turn out to be somewhat pointless. Like when Michael jumps off the pier in Alpha Papa. In fact, I can’t help get the feeling he’s been “fridged” because Luther needs something to drive its lead character, other than all the other horrible stuff that’s happened before. (Although to be fair, we’re a lot less sympathetic to the ongoing woes of fictional characters than we are to actual people. I can’t imagine a time where anyone would mutter under their breath ‘look, I know your wife was murdered by your best friend and your partner was murdered by a man with a shotgun and a mate of yours blew up when he was on the phone to you, but really, are you still banging on about it.’)

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If Benny’s death might yet count for nothing (because that description was a bit sparse, right?) Errol’s was equally as pointless. At least the anonymous henchman blown away by George served a way for the hard man to vent his grief at finding Alice’s fake call girl had said ‘not tonight darling, you have a headache’ to his son.

By now, Luther has basically split into two shows. In one, almost all the major characters do a lot of what Len Goodman would rightly call “messing a-baht”, to end up basically back where they were three scenes before. Even Schenk has made his way into what I would have traditionally thought of as the Luther ‘B plot’. And old friend Paul McGann made a reappearance, when perpetually reluctant host Mark went on holiday by mistake to John Luther’s latest crisis. Welcome back mate. Do you know how Jenny is doing? Got any orange juice?

Meaning that the traditional A Plot – psychopath/psychopaths, kills people ad hoc/infinitum/nauseam – is starting to feel like in it’s a whole different programme. Catherine carries on regardless with help from PC Phone Distraction and PC In The Foreground Doing Something With A Sheet of Paper.

All of which is somewhat disappointing given that portion of the show contains Wunmi Mosaku (possibly the best young actress we have in the UK at the moment) and given that Hermione Norris and Enzo Cileti are having an absolute ball as Dr Strange and her husband Dr No You’re Alright Mate I’ll See If I Can Stitch Myself Back Up. Seriously, even without the death these two are weird. They have a photo of their house, in their house. They fold their clothes up before they go to bed. Who does that?

(And talking of that house, I remain convinced that I’ve seen it on Grand Designs. Anyone remember one where Kevin wasn’t allowed in the basement?)

One of the most redeeming features of Luther is that, from Idris Elba down, everyone is giving it all they’ve got, making it clearly more than the sum of its parts. So, much as I’m not clamouring to see more grisly murder and mayhem, it definitely feels like the show has lost interest in the actual police work, which feels kind of rude, not least to the cast populating it.

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If the writing’s failing there somewhat, it does shine in other areas, not least in some of its characters’ use of understatement. I can’t make up my mind up what I liked best – Luther telling a man who’d just lost his son “we are where we are” or the killer calling his wife with the words “things have taken a turn”.

And taken a turn they had because Luther showed up to rescue the woman who will never sell anything online ever again, like some sort of goal-hanger. Mrs Lake is in custody and Mr Lake is off, presumably making a new wife from body parts. Sleep well.

Until tomorrow.