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Luther: Season 2 Premiere

By Jim Rohner · October 3, 2011

In series 1 of BBC's Luther, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) returned from a 7-month suspension, befriended Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), a sociopath who murdered her parents, was framed for the murder of his ex-wife, subsequently fled from the authorities and stood by helpless as his colleague, DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), was knocked down to grunt police work for aiding and abetting him.  Is it any wonder that season 2 opens with a Luther playing a solitary game of Russian roulette?

Seeing as we have a Luther series 2, it's obvious that Luther's attempt at suicide is a failure; good thing too, because his name has been cleared for the murder of his ex-wife and he's recruited by DCI Superintendent Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) for the new Serious and Serial Crime Unit.  Though Luther's reputation as an officer prone to bending and breaking the rules proceeds him, his reputation for having a brilliant analytical mind is the reason he's called back into active duty.  A murderer donning a Punch mask is leaving cryptic messages on the voicemails of all his victim's family and friends.  But eventually identifying the killer as failed art school student Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby) doesn't get Luther any closer to catching the man.  Vowing to shake Londoners from their widespread complacency by reintroducing them to fear, Pell's admiration of Spring Heeled Jack seems to be more than just hero worship as the police keep finding themselves one step behind him.

While Luther's mental capacity is stretched with a modern day serial killer, his emotional loyalty is pulled when Caroline Jones (Kierston Wareing) appears in his life.  The widow of an accidental murderer who committed suicide after being caught by Luther, Caroline claims the fallout has adversely affected her daughter, Jenny (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), who has fallen in with a website that produces necro porn, in which the women are choked out and then raped while unconscious.  Caroline desperately wants to save her estranged daughter and feels like Luther is obligated to aid her because of his direct involvement in the death of her husband.  Luther eventually does drag Jenny kicking and screaming from a shoot, but only seems to raise more issues as she swears the men involved will find her and make her pay.

And thus, in one episode, we are introduced to the two main story threads that will carry us through the 4-episode second season of Luther.  The brevity of British TV series provides an inherent urgency for each series that American TV seasons generally like and also allow the writers the freedom to make each series stand alone and unravel the narrative with ample time and care.  Though we only have 4 episodes to look forward to in this season of Luther, the first episode in the second season introduces enough elements that will undoubtedly lead to a plethora of twists and turns that will elevate the tension and stakes with each passing hour. 

At every moment the conflict between Luther's professional and personal duties are painfully apparent, thanks to the weighty performance of Idris Elba, who's at his best when mentally sparring with Wilson, who seems to take a perverse delight in diving headfirst into the role of the psychological enigma.  There are many cop dramas on the air today, but what allows "Luther" to stand out is its Columbo-like approach to the story, revealing the identity of murderers and the motivations behind plots ahead of time so that the audience must sit on the edge of their seat and witness as the police navigate through a veritable minefield. 

Another subplot worth keeping an eye on is the differing principles of Luther and the latest addition to the force, DS Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird), who plays things by the book and has already warned Luther about her unwillingness to bend the rules.  The idea that Luther could be sabotaged from the inside is an intriguing one and one that may only rear its head when the focus has shifted to other plots and the potential for surprise it as its peak.

Undoubtedly, this season will see Luther once again stretched to his limit and forced to compromise either his moral or professional obligations for the sake of the other and while no one yet knows what that'll look like (except for those who've already seen the British broadcast), the promise of it being explosive is very high.