Back with swagger
Series 4 Review
Ditching the touted prequel/sequel movie ideas in favour of more TV outings, Luther returns with a suitably grim fourth season that can’t help but feel like a Christmas Special filler.Luther wasn’t the only show to go for a Christmas Special, with Sherlock’s Abominable Bride playing similar tricks. But at least the Great Detective’s feature wasn’t trussed up as a complete season, as this purports to be. Season 4 is actually just two normal-length episodes, telling a single typically Luther-ian murder mystery story played out against another quest to take the troubled detective down. Whilst police conspiracies and investigations into corruption are thankfully kept to a relative minimum this time around – instead opting for the more fun, and tension-inducing, random hitmen out-to-get our hero – the backstory of childhood grudges and dastardly decades-long vendettas doesn’t quite sit right, with the show distinctly missing the presence of Luther’s great love/hate arch-villain/heroine, Alice.Returning to the fold to investigate Alice’s disappearance, Luther finds himself caught up in a suitably bloody investigation into a serial cannibal, and has to juggle a new partner whilst evading some rather self-provoked attacks from the hit that an aggrieved local gangster put on his head. Whilst some (or all) of that feels a little contrived, it’s only the appearance of a random ghost from the past, with purported knowledge into what happened to Alice, that really sends the story into the realms of frustrating silliness, and tails off into a tiresome wannabe-cliffhanger. Indeed, at best, this Christmas Special is little more than half a full normal season, hence why there is so much unresolved, but with no ‘Season 5’ on the horizon yet, it’s hard to swallow this as anything more than a tease for what’s yet to come.
Picture QualityEven with its 1080i presentation, Luther still manages to look a top tier BBC production.
Luther Season 4 hits UK shores complete with a Region B-locked Blu-ray which boasts the double-episodes, on a single disc, in 1080i/AVC-encoded High Definition, framed in the show's original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. Certainly the show has improved across the seasons in terms of video presentation, and, considering that the Blu-rays were only released last year for the first time, that appears to be largely down to original stylistic choices and filming, rather than the actual quality of the encode. Season 4 remains the strongest of the lot, and whilst Luther was always going to veer towards being more gritty than you'd like from pristine HD, it largely rests on the right side of gritty, maintaining impressive detail, clarity and texture, whilst boasting rich tones within the grim London backdrop, and even retaining relatively strong black levels, although some of the more darker-dominated sequences are where the shadow detail does not quite appear fully resolved. However it's strong, impressive, and perfectly apt for the show.
Sound QualityFinally Luther makes the transition to HD sound.
After three seasons were released without High Definition sound, Season 4 finally gets upgraded to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and the difference is noticeable, with the brooding, engaging menace of the dangerous streets of London coming to life with added punch. Bringing the LFE channel into the fray, and affording us a more enveloping surround effects design, car screeches, street noises, sirens, sporadic gunshots - silenced or otherwise - and the bustle of a busy police unit all provide a welcome audio backdrop to the proceedings. Dialogue remains clearly and coherently disseminated across the array, dominating the front and centre channels where appropriate, and Massive Attack's superb Paradise Circus kick-starts the whole thing with weight and rhythm.
ExtrasAlthough we only get a couple of Featurettes - a Behind the Scenes Featurette and an In Cold Blood Featurette - that's still two more than any of the previous seasons got.
Blu-ray VerdictGritty, with plenty of attitude, 'Season 4' still can't cover up the fact that it's half the season it should have been.
Although the double-episode totals less than 2 hours of Luther - half the size of even the shortest preceding Luther season - it comes with the best presentation so far; strong video, albeit 1080i, and the first HD audio the show's ever had, as well as its first selection of extras, however, slim. Fans will want to add this to their collection even if it feels like just the first half of a conclusion which isn't yet even on the horizon.
You can buy Luther - Series 4 on Blu-ray here
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