Eammon Jacobs reviews the first episode of Luther series 5…
DCI John Luther has returned to our screens for a fifth series, continuing his crusade against depraved killers and criminals that haunt London’s sprawling underbelly. The first episode of series 5 plays up to the usual ‘whodunnit’ conventions, but has some surprising tricks up its sleeve. A serial killer with violent sexual fetishes, a psychiatrist who clearly isn’t revealing the full picture and the return of an old friend. Luther’s certainly got his hands full.
Make no mistake, Idris Elba is once again on fire as the hardened detective, the intensity he brings to the screen commands the audience’s attention. And although he still has no qualms with crossing the occasional moral line (or two), Luther looks tired. He’s been chasing killers, thieves and gangsters for years, there’s no wonder it’s all catching up to him. Enter, James Houser and Doctor Vivien Lake (Hermione Norris). The former is a mentally troubled man, who suffered years of abuse which has warped his mind. He indulges in perverted and merciless killings with no real pattern or agenda. One incredibly tense scene in particular sees Houser stalking a young woman late at night and without spoiling too much; it’ll be hard to sit at the top of a double-decker bus ever again. Throw in a frightening plastic clown mask lit up by LED lights (for confusing CCTV) and the series has once again delivered a truly unnerving villain.
However, this is no straightforward murder mystery. While his psychiatrist, Doctor Lake, is the one who gives the police Houser’s name, there are certain things she mentions in the back half of the episode which suggest all is not what it seems. Luther consistently keeps fans on their toes, and although they might think they have the plot sussed – it’s highly unlikely. The final moment of the episode proves that the producers know exactly what the audience want, without going over-the-top with fan service. Hopefully the next three episodes keep this pace. Hermione Norris’ performance was quietly intimidating, and it would be fascinating to watch a real showdown between Doctor Lake and Luther. How would that psycho-analysis play out?
If dealing with a sadistic murderer wasn’t enough, he’s also got a new partner to contend with. Catherine Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku) shakes up the status quo between Luther, Schenk and Benny (Michael Smiley) in the best way possible. She politely questions every single action without fail, clearly not wanting to step on any toes but also keen to make a good impression. It seems like she’ll have to earn her place in the investigation team, as Martin Schenk outlines how she’s been fast-tracked from the public sector. Or as he eloquently retorts; “Give it ten minutes and DS Halliday will be Superintendent Halliday”. Dermot Crowley’s Schenk seems to be battling his own personal demons, as we see him briefly sneak away for a quiet sip from a hip flask. It’s great to see that there’s still room for character development amongst all the murder and brutality.
As the sub-plot slowly begins to unfold, it becomes obvious that the detective has been accidentally involved with some dangerous members of the organised crime underworld. Or has he? Regardless, everyone here is on their a-game. However, the scenes with Luther and one of his informants brought a surprising levity to the episode, just to brighten the gloomy hour long run-time. That is until Benny and Luther had to race against time to save the informant’s life, which made for a pulse-pounding few minutes.
It might have taken four years, but Luther is back. This is British crime drama at its best.