Grace Dent on TV: Luther, BBC1

Luther deserves a better nemesis than a clichéd bogeyman hiding under beds and in wardrobes

Until recently I have been evangelical about BBC1's Luther. “You MUST watch it,” I've quacked, cupping the faces of acquaintances in bars, in the manner of a woman still maintaining that watching TV is not merely proper, valid employment, but akin to an art form. Trust me, I'm a TV critic. Series two of Luther was a bleak, complex and visceral affair. Twisted pornographers, claw-hammer-wielding terrorists, corrupt police chiefs, mass horror, multiple corpses, Idris Elba being all pant-meltingly handsome in fine tailoring and a faint sheen of righteous perspiration. Glorious, horrific stuff.

Yes, real horror. Horribly horrific horror. The last series of Luther was so genuinely bleak – particularly those scenes where a killer calmly walked through a busy London office-block in broad daylight butchering all in his wake – that I often wondered aloud how BBC1 ever permitted it. This is the BBC for heaven's sake. The BBC, so cowed of late by fear of giving mild offence to some blithering complaining winnet with a Basildon Bond notelet set in Cleethorpes that large swathes of the schedule is back-to-back vintage Flog It. Of course Flog It – barely coherent tight-arses bickering over a price for stained antimacassars in Barnsley – is horrific in its own sense but seems to cause no offence.

This series of Luther, I'm not so in love with. Horrific it is, indeed, but revolving around such familiar, timeworn, spooky notions I can barely be bothered to be frightened. Luther's new nemesis hides under beds waiting for women to come home. Like a less affable Sulley from Monsters Inc. The baddie waits and waits for silly, vulnerable women who are foolish enough to live alone, who despite double- or triple-locking their front doors and using taxis could never prepare for a bogeyman under the bed lurking. He lurks in the cupboards in a shared house of nurses, watching them titter and drink wine, while he stands styled by the BBC wardrobe department to look exactly like a Crimewatch photofit. Standard “sex-offender chic”: black bomber jacket, black knitted hat, jeans, piercing stare. Or he waits and waits in the attics of daft middle-class sorts then jumps out after dark and first kills the foppish husband then lingers over the death of the doe-eyed Boden-clad wife. Attics, wardrobes and underneath beds, he's from the Hans Christian Andersen school of nefarious knobheads. He's the sort of character one might have seen in Charlie Brooker's beautifully observed crime spoof series Touch of Cloth. In fact tons of series three Luther is purely Touch of Cloth. Perhaps it always was but I noticed it less with Steven Mackintosh and Ruth Wilson in the mix. Also, in past series there's been more focus on the daily goings-on of the police station or Luther's flat which are both now missing too, leaving us skulking around council estates, car parks and kebab shops: more The Bill, less Prime Suspect.

After killing, the Hooded Claw plods broodingly and in a heavily attention-seeking manner along CCTV-filled main streets – clutching a holdall of S&M masks and restraints – using his Oyster card on tubes and buses all the way home to his requisite badly-lit, unhygienic flat, cries a bit, pops on the internet to surf some “I Love Serial Killing, Me, I Do” fansites before texting pictures of corpses to his equally creepy chum. Somehow, it still took Luther two episodes to locate him. The VAT office, TV licensing people or traffic wardens would have tracked him down quicker.

But then, Luther has a lot on his mind. In between investigating the death of a naughty internet troll whose death no one cares about – not Luther, not the viewers – our hero is also fending off a pesky Glasgow hardman police investigator who is vexed at the number of suspects and bystanders Luther kills during a typical case. Gosh, DSU Stark is a terrible fusspot. We all know you can't make an omelette without violently killing a number of innocent or not-proven-guilty eggs. This plot line allows me to spend a lot of time looking at Warren Brown, who I love so much I would him watch reading long excerpts from the Xerox 4250 Workcentre photocopier manual, especially if he did the Thai boxing warm-up moves between pages.

Despite all this, Luther has fallen in love. He's been swept off his feet by a floppy-elbowed, toddler-voiced blonde who crashed into his car but still got his phone number despite whiplash. After one date she was mewling needy, possessive stuff like “I don't want to play games! I'm too old for games! You didn't pick up my call? Where were you!?”

Luther, for some reason – one less believable than the serial-killer plot – finds this sort of carry-on very endearing. The only possible explanation for this bleating woman being on the scene after two episodes is that she's part of DSU Stark's plot to frame him. Either that or she's going to be killed by the serial killer just as Luther realises that she's taught him to open up and love. I know this sounds like a terrible storyline cliché, but so is a bogeyman under your bed.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine