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'Luther' Recap: 'Series 2, Episode 4' (2.04)

October 19th, 2011 11:02pm EDT

Luther Can you believe Luther is already over? Weren't we just talking about its beginning a month ago?

While trying to help Jenny cover up the death of Toby (the psychopathic grandson of Jenny's former madam Baba), Luther gets to deal with "twins with a shared psychosis" who look at their crimes as one big competitive game. I would complain here about how our hero cannot catch a break, but I'm not sure that he'd want one if he could get it. John Luther is not unlike an addict; he's consumed by the world he lives in and doesn't seem very interested in getting out.

Once again things start to spin out of control for Luther, being that he always seems to tackle more than he may be capable of controlling. One moment he's working with Justin on their case, as one of their perps breaks into a minivan and brutally murders its occupants in the middle of a traffic jam and there's no visible reaction, even as he leaves the scene of the crime with obvious blood spatter on his face. The next moment, Luther's trying to keep Jenny one step ahead of Baba's right-hand man Frank, who in turn is trying to get to Jenny through her mother Caroline.

Luther and Justin finally snag the twin who committed the minivan slayings, and try to convince him to turn on his brother. Robert makes his decision by a roll of the dice: he's not helping. (I'm going to have a real hard time not feeling uncomfortable the next time I break out the dice for a game of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.) At the same time, Jenny runs back to her mother, but when she figures out that Caroline is selling her out to Frank (or was she planning it all along?), she sets the both of them up. The cops arrive and find Toby's body in Frank's car, courtesy of Luther.

One problem half-solved, the other rears its head: the remaining perp has a bomb and he's just going to wander around London with it until he decides who he wants to blow up. Schenk and Luther aren't satisfied with the tactical team's idea of acceptable losses, and our hero gets the green light from his boss to make one last effort. This being Luther, said last effort involves dousing himself in petrol and daring the perp to light him on fire. Rather than leave his fate to another roll of the dice, our hero tells his colleagues just where to aim their bullets, and has his foe shot dead before he knows what's hitting him.

As for Baba? Well, Alice has that covered, allowing Luther and Jenny to walk away scot-free. Jenny even utters the same last words that we heard at the end of series one and the beginning of this one: "Now what?" At least this series ends on a more positive note than the last.

Episode four is a suspenseful end to the second series of Luther. Yet while I enjoyed series two, I have to say it wasn't quite up to the standard that was set by series one - an admittedly high standard, of course. There was something about series one that pulled a little bit more on the heartstrings and punched a little harder in the gut. Without Zoe, largely without Mark, there's that extra personal depth that isn't there. Yes, Luther had a backstory with Caroline and Jenny, but it doesn't compare to how invested Luther was - and we were - in his failing relationship with his estranged wife. The mysteries are still intriguing and brutal, but the B-story isn't quite as good.

Despite that, though, Idris Elba (who earned an Emmy nomination for the role of John Luther) is still one of the best actors working today. He was fantastic when I first saw him in Channel 4's Ultraviolet thirteen years ago, and he's been outstanding in everything I've seen him in since. He has a natural intensity that is only bolstered by his physical size, and he knows how to blend the two together to turn in consistently great characters who demand your attention. I'd watch him in anything - and he will always be Luther's biggest weapon, no matter what happens in the scripts.

As for that disappointment that series two of Luther is so short? There's consolation in the fact that series three has already been ordered. We haven't seen the last of John Luther yet.

(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.

Related: Idris Elba, Luther, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Television, Drama

Photo Credits: BBC America

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