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TV Quickshots #18

Luther: Season 3 (BBC; 2013)

The first ever TV Quickshots dealt with the first series of Luther, and its grand, galvanizing final hour remains the high point of the stylish detective saga starring Idris Elba as damaged and morally compromised DCI John Luther, Lutherwho’s always ultimately right, even he must be wrong to do it. Its second series had some clever moments, but seemed a showy, jokey diminishment after the wrenching finale of the first series. Series 3 attempts to inject some of that agonizing scope back into the mystery-solving proceedings, setting a bulldog-ish Scottish police investigator on the heels of Luther and his borderline methods while also violently depriving the detective of one of his closest allies. The latter climactic event in the third episode leaves many more questions than are justified by the anguish and conflict that it creates in Elba’s performance, mind you (in both the small and the large picture, the killer’s motivation for this act makes no sense). The delayed return of Ruth Wilson’s Alice Morgan in the finale is much welcome (her coolly sarcastic sociopath punches much-needed holes in the serious Columbo-esque facade of the master detective) but a bit too late. A fourth season of some sort appears likely, but with the show’s most memorable moments now five years behind us, it seems like Elba’s talents might be better spent elsewhere.

The Bletchley Circle (ITV; 2012-2014)

The Alan Turing-centric The Imitation Game aggregated a clutch of Oscar nominations this month, sealing its status as the most prominent of modern British mythmaking narratives around the operations of the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park during World War II which gave the Allies an advantages over the Axis and shortened the war by at least a couple of years. Another such onscreen ficitional take worth considering is The Bletchley Circle. Set in the 1950s, the show follows a group of women who worked at Bletchley during the war and are now variously employed in postwar life, sworn to absolute secrecy about what they did to aid victory. On the impetus of a bored housewife (Anna Maxwell Martin, the show’s central piston), four women begin to meet secretly to find a pattern in data that might lead police to a murderer of women at large in postwar London.

The period setting and focus on female characters allows for feminist questioning of gender bias in postwar British society (though not as much as might be preferred) as well as a welcome library and archive alternative to the computer cascade of data common to contemporary-set procedurals. Some of the writing is dodgy, though, as is the acting, and Martin’s exit halfway through the second series lets the wind out of its sails. Little wonder it was cancelled after Series 2, and after the concept had basically offered what it had to give already.

Categories: Reviews, Television
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  1. February 15, 2015 at 10:49 am

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