Given my mixed feelings on the previous two seasons of the show, I didn’t really have particularly high expectations of this final season, and the show pretty much met them dead on. It continues to be one of those shows where one shining piece of excellence doesn’t make up for the rest of the mediocrity around it. In this case, the central character of Luther and the performance of Idris Elba isn’t just in a different league to the rest of the writing, it’s playing an entirely different game.
Luther is a truly brilliant character, he’s smart and good at his job, but functioning in a completely different paradigm to everyone around him. That conflict makes him appear to some as a rogue, something dangerous. He’s like Doctor House in some regards, he gets the results that everyone wants but they still endlessly complain about his methods. Idris Elba’s performance has been consistently superlative throughout the series, a masterpiece of consistency and surprise, and the only difference here is that he seems to have gotten even better.
Which is a bit of a shame, because it really draws attention to the way that pretty much everything else is worse than ever.
The four episodes are tied together by an ongoing investigation into Luther’s methods. The problem is that while this investigation is probably justified, and certainly has some potential for an interesting challenge, it’s compltley undermined by a pantomime investigator who has an unexplained vendetta against Luther and yet uses even worse tactics than Luther himself. It’s utterly ludicrous. Just the stupidest plot in the world.
In comparison the actual criminals were paragons of credibility. Except, well, no they weren’t. The second investigation, a grieving widower killing criminals who’d evaded justice in an attempt to avenge his murdered wife played out like a high school ethics class, all the beats utterly predictable from the first moment to the last. As for the fetish killer meanwhile was a cheap CSI plot with extra bonus gratuity and jumps.
Supporting characters, such as they were, got a pretty short shrift too. Poor old DS Ripley had to suffer through the familiar flip-flopping as the writers tried to decide whether he was on Luther’s side or his biggest threat. It was hard not to see where his character was heading (there was a particular line at the start of episode 3 that had me groaning), although I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being moved by the resolution. Psychopath Alice meanwhile was absent for all but the last episode and I really missed her, particularly given the soppy Mary as an alternative partner for Luther.
I don’t think the series ever really gelled. It was pulling in a lot of different directions, with over the top Bond villains going up against the detailed psychology and subtleties of Luther himself. Likewise the gritty realism of London was undermined by the unrealistic presentation of the way the police force works. While I will miss the character, I can’t say that I’ll miss the series itself and really hope Idris Elba finds something better.