Luther: A Review

I know, been a while since I’ve been out here. Been working on Book Two, and progress is being made on that front, which is good.

But Husband has been listening to the Writer Dojo, as usual, and mentioned to me that Larry and Steve enjoyed the show Luther. They were right about Bosch being awesome, so I decided to try Luther as well. The kids were at Grandma’s, so I had the TV to myself for a bit. Crime shows are kind of my thing, so I was glad to hear about another one that might be worth watching.

Bottom line: I mostly liked it, but Season One almost killed it for me. Below are some thoughts on the show, and I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

I really like Idris Elba, so I had high hopes for the show. When it began, it looked very promising. The opening scene with DCI John Luther versus the serial killer was intense, and very satisfying. But it seemed like all of Season One just didn’t live up to that good opening. The main plot about Alice Morgan, another serial killer who gets completely fixated on John after he has to let her go should have been very interesting. But it was missing something. It was almost like the creators were going for the British version of Bosch, where sometimes despite everything the good cops do, the bad guys get away or partially win, and they didn’t quite stick the landing.

The show is very dark, but doesn’t have a lot of the humanizing elements for the characters the way Bosch does. For example, the worst part of Season One was without a doubt Zoe Luther, John’s wife. Separated wife. Ex-wife? I couldn’t tell after a while.

She is TERRIBLE. Not in the least bit likeable, or even tolerable as a character. I liked Alice Morgan the serial killer better than her. I was wishing she was dead by about episode two — worse than I wished that Sherry Palmer was dead by about the middle of Season Two of 24. You don’t “separate” from a spouse, and find someone else to sleep with in the meanwhile, tell your separated husband (who thought you were getting back together) that you met someone else, and expect him to be okay with it. That’s practically saying “I’m justified for cheating on you, even though all I had to do was tell you that I wanted the separation to become a divorce and get it over with.” You especially don’t start sleeping with your husband (and cheating on your lover? What the hell?) and then expect both of those men to be okay with it, and (worse) expect the audience to feel sorry for you when your (ex)husband loses his temper!

Now, this isn’t supposed to be a total condemnation of any depiction of people doing bad things on television. That would be unreasonable. Sometimes, people are stupid, and people doing stupid things are what give us good plots. But from a purely storytelling standpoint, that just made the wife hateable, and lessening the sympathetic nature of the main character. While his anger issues are justified based on her behavior, the whole thing is just stupid from beginning to end because the wife is a moral coward, which means that as much as I liked Luther as a character, it was like watching someone who deliberately sticks his hand into a fire pit more than once, even though he knows better. It didn’t make him more sympathetic, or more likeable. Rather than Bosch having a nice daughter and a mostly-reasonable ex-wife (both of whom humanized him and gave him something to lean on), Luther was just plain dopey. He put himself into the scenario where he lost his temper (and it got him into trouble), because he let his (ex)wife play him.

I decided to give it the whole Season One, just to see if they could stick the landing, and strangely enough, they did. The final episode of the season was without a doubt the very best one. Dark, but with a good payoff. About the only thing I didn’t like was what happened to the Bad Guy right at the end, but that’s simply a storytelling difference of opinion, not a condemnation.

So, they made me more hopeful for Season Two, and that one was definitely better. Much more interesting character development, good plot for the main storyline, and the wife was not there to spoil it. The actors are excellent across the board: believable bad guys and good guys, and incidental characters that still have some personality. DS Ripley is awesome, perfect sidekick for Luther.

I made it to the first episode of Season Three, and that one looks to be just as good or better than Season Two. Unfortunately for me, the series is off Hulu on Saturday, so I don’t have a lot of time, and probably won’t be able to watch all of it between now and then. But I can wait for it to come around again on a streaming service.

Bottom line: watch Season One just to get it over with, and then sit back and enjoy the rest.

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