Played out as a special feature rather than a full length season, Luther’s return is a confident, polished effort, dispelling any wavering faith fans may have after a lacklustre third season. A returning Idris Elba is as absorbing as he’s ever been and the case depicted is another solid effort this year. With a more cohesive, simple narrative this time around and better characterisation, this two part special is a well written, absorbing piece of television.
The case, split across two episodes, revolves around a cannibalistic killer who murders and eats parts of his victims. With the police struggling to catch him, John Luther is approached to return to the field of duty whilst taking an indefinite absence following the devastating loss of Justin last year. Upon hearing the news that another close associate has died under mysterious circumstances, Luther begrudgingly returns to duty, hell bent on finding out what happened whilst trying to solve the cannibal case. This duelling conflict of interest plays heavily over Luther for most of the two episodes and his emotionally charged dialogue and rapport with newcomer DS Emma Lane (Rose Leslie) is good although short lived given the run time. The remaining cast members not killed last year return, including tech whizz Benny (Michael Smiley) and DSU Martin Shenck (Dermot Crowley) although their presence is brief at best.
There’s no denying the writing in Luther’s third season didn’t quite match the excellence seen in past seasons. A lacklustre overarching plot line, poor characterisation and the questionable decision to kill off key characters dampened what was otherwise a decent couple of cases for Luther to solve. Although there’s only two episodes, Luther’s fourth season is surprisingly well written, managing to contain a satisfying, simple story within the two episodes whilst furthering the narrative of the show. The cohesive beginning, middle and end rounds everything out nicely; a welcome change compared to the unresolved issues hanging over some of the previous seasons. Although there’s a satisfying resolution to the plot and case, there’s enough here to leave it wide open for a fifth season. Of course, more than 2 episodes could easily have made Luther’s fourth more absorbing as the two episodes this year do enough to whet your appetite but never quite fill you up, leaving you hungry for more when the credits roll.
Those doubting the integrity of Luther following a disappointing third season are sure to be silenced after this well written two part special. The acting is as good as its ever been, driven forward by Idris Elba and Rose Leslie who together steal the show in a well written, but disappointingly short, team up to tackle the cannibal killer. Along with good camera work and cinematography, Luther’s fourth season is a return to form for the BBC thriller and a reminder that this show still has life in it yet.