Review: In Season 5, That Familiar Exasperated 'Luther' Swagger Returns
The always popular Idris Elba has had something of an up-and-down career, largely owed to either an agent who doesn’t know what the hell he or she is doing or a Nic Cage like affinity to take any project that is offered him. To his credit, however, though Elba never turns down an opportunity to appear in a big-budget film (Thor, The Dark Tower, The Jungle Book, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), he never strays too far away from what made him big, namely television. The Wire launched his career, but in the last two years alone, Elba has starred in several seasons of television, including Turn Up Charlie for Netflix, the British TV miniseries Guerrilla, a British show he created and starred in called In the Long Run, and this latest season of Luther, which Elba returns to every few years as something of both a security blanket and a reminder that there’s still no one better suited to take over for Daniel Craig in the Bond series than Elba.
It’s been four years since the two-episode fourth season of Luther, and nine years since Ruth Wilson’s Alice Morgan got a full-fledged arc in a Luther season, which may be why season five is the best Luther season since at least the second. The four-episode fifth season runs on two tracks, and while the transition between the two is not always smooth, those two storylines give us exactly what Luther fans clamor for: A twisted serial killer, lots of Alice Morgan, and absolutely no reluctance in killing off major characters.
The serial killer this time around has a fondness for poking, piercing, jabbing, and prodding human skin, which means his first victim suffers a brutal death by nails. I won’t dare spoil the identity of this serial killer, except to say that he has a mysterious relationship with a therapist played by the reliably excellent Hermione Norris (Spooks, Wire in the Blood), who is either covering up for the serial killer or an actual accomplice. The storyline is pretty conventional Luther fare: A huge body count, and lots of squeamish imagery. Luther is investigating this case with another in a series of partners, DS Catherine Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku), who apparently doesn’t understand that the most deadly role on this show is that of Luther’s sidekick.
Meanwhile, Alice also returns (basically, from the dead) to seek her revenge upon George Cornelius (Patrick Malahide), one of those British mob-like figures who inexplicably operates above the law. He’s the kind of guy that can kill at his discretion because no one — including most of the cops — are brave enough to rat him out in part, probably, because of all the leverage he holds over dirty coppers. Cornelious and Alice end up getting in a deadly pissing match that Luther is dragged into, both to protect his serial-killer old flame and the people that Cornelius uses to get to Luther (Michael Smiley’s DS Benny Silver and Paul McGann’s Mark North both return to fulfill this role). It’s not a particularly original or well-written villain, but Patrick Malahide brings a lot of menacing life to the character.
The whole season operates like a fairly pedestrian crime novel of the mass-market paperback variety, the sort you’d pick up in an airport, finish in one flight, and completely forget about by the time you get home, except that Elba and Wilson — and our investment in their characters — provides the series with higher stakes. It’s never not fun seeing that Luther swagger, or vacillating between loving and hating Alice, between wanting to see Luther kill her or her run away with her. No spoilers, either, except that the final episode of the season — which airs Sunday night on BBC America — may be the deadliest, bloodiest, and most heartwrenching finale of the series.
Header Image Source: BBC America