BBC1, from Tuesday, June 14, 9pm
The near-genius detective and the near-genius female killer return in another near-bonkers series of this crime thriller.
DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) returns, recovering from the murder of his wife, to put a team together – including DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) – for the new Serious and Serial Unit, headed by his old adversary Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley).
His first case is the random murder of women on the streets of London by a man wearing a grostesque Punch mask.
Luther quickly deducts – for no clear reason, but then he is the near-genius – that the man is obsessed with mythology and wants to enter folklore himself. The new Jack the Ripper, perhaps.
The detective is engaged in a frantic race against time, but of course manages to fit in a visit to see the murderer Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) in her high-security psychiatric prison. His attachment to her is certainly one of the series’ more baffling plotlines. OK, in the last series she shot Ian Reed, the corrupt cop who killed Luther’s wife, but their flirtatious relationship and the way he helps her is a little far-fetched.
Still, this four-part series consisting of two separate stories is pretty chilling, using many of the jolting tactics of the horror film – dark rooms, creaking stairs, sudden shocks. Writer Neil Cross ups the frights here, and Idris Elba is as watchable as ever.
ITV1 From Monday 6-Friday 10 June 9pm
A five-part psychological drama showing over consecutive weekday nights from the novelist and Foyle’s War creator Anthony Horowitz.
This stars James Purefoy as a barrister, William Travers, recovering from a crisis. Horowitz sums up the gist of it like this – ‘You defend a man who has committed a horrible crime and thanks to you, he walks free. How do you live with yourself.’
Dervla Kirwan plays his wife, and Charlie Creed-Miles steels the show as a nasty detective, DS Mark Wenborn. We meet Travers as he is recovering in Suffolk, no longer taking murder cases, but suffering flashbacks to a moment when he saw a man on the platform of Ipswich train station, and decided to follow him.
Meanwhile, Wenborn starts investigating the murder at a Suffolk farmhouse of an unidentified farm labourer. Eventually, Travers is pulled into defending another murder defendant – his old friend, Martin Newall (Nathaniel Parker), accused of killing his young mistress…
The storytelling is clever, with Wenborn and Travers’ stories circling each other and creating tension and anticipation. Be warned – there’s a big twist at the end of episode one. So if you miss the opening, see it on catch-up before the viewing the rest. Sky and Virgin both have the service, and it’s also online at ITVPlayer.com.
BBC1, from Sunday, 5 June, 9pm
Jason Isaacs – familiar as Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and as the gangster Michael Caffee in Brotherhood – is excellent in this adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s novels featuring the private eye Jackson Brodie.
As the former soldier and policeman, Isaacs is tough but vulnerable. Brodie is a man who can’t say no to cases, and sometimes women, he should avoid, usually because he can’t walk away when a potential client is in distress.
The actor sums him up like this, ‘He's not really a traditional detective. He's been in the army for a long time, he was a policeman for a long time and he never quite fitted into any of these moulds. He's not interested in catching the bad guys and punishing them as much as he is in understanding the human condition. It's more that he connects with people and he understands who they are and what makes them tick and why they are lying, as opposed to when they are lying.’
Part of the reason he wants to understand people’s motivations is his own damaged past, during which his sister was murdered when he was a boy. He also left the police under a cloud – uniformed cops keep uttering ‘Wanker’ whenever Brodie is near – though why is not revealed in the opening two episodes.
These form a two-part story that begins when Jackson is summoned by his non-paying client Binky Rain (Sylvia Syms) to find her missing cat. While in Binky’s garden he hears crying from next door, and is pulled into the orbit of the Land sisters, Julia and Amelia, who beg Jackson to investigate what happened to their three-year-old sister, Olivia, who vanished 30 years before.
With Edinburgh as a wonderful setting, this is a fresh take on the crime series, with an emotional and at times funny story, and some fine acting.
FX, from Friday, 17 June, 10pm
As series five begins, Dexter is in crisis. His wife, Rita, has been murdered, apparently by the serial killer Trinity, and Quinn is suspicious that Dexter may be the culprit.
Dexter finds his son sitting in a pool of blood, which eerily echoes the childhood trauma that set him on the path to his own life as a serial killer.
It’s an opener that grabs you be the lapels, even if you’ve never seen Dexter before. The recap at the start fills the backstory in very efficiently – revealing all you need to know about Dexter’s devotion to Harry’s code, whereby he’s a killer who only kills other murderers.
As the FBI circles, Dexter is tempted to run and trash his alter-ego as the respectable married father and police department employee. His stepsister, Deb, is mystified by his distracted behaviour and Dexter is shocked to realise he has developed feelings for Rita.
Few series mix this much tenderness, horror, black humour and tension in one hour. And Dexter’s inner-monologue is brilliant, such as when the funeral director says, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ and Dexter thinks, ‘So this is how normal people do it.’
The second series, now halfway through its run, is as good as the first and well worth catching (back episodes are currently available on the 5USA site).
Gun-toting, Stetson-wearing deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens – the very cool Timothy Olyphant – is now settled in his home county of Harlan, having been sent back there after his little showdown with a Florida gangster in series one.
So far he’s encountered the evil Mags (Margo Martindale), head of the Bennett clan, and helped Winona (Natalie Zea), his ex, to replace some money she unwisely stole from the evidence room at headquarters. Elmore Leonard is still onboard as a writer and executive producer, and the series is building to a mighty clash between the Crowders and the Bennetts.
There’s nothing like a good old Tennessee crime feud to light up Wednesday nights. Leonard’s next novel, his 46th, is about Raylan, and a third series of Justified has been announced.
Finally, the US version of the hugely successful Danish series The Killing is coming to Channel 4 next month.
No one likes to see classy series ripped off by Hollywood, but this one did get good reviews. It stays close to the original – a young girl is murdered and we see the impact it has on her family, as the police in Seattle investigate – but does not follow the story exactly. It is atmospheric, while the cast is low-key – Mireille Enos, Billy Campbell and Joel Kinnaman.
TV Guide said the acting was ‘tremendous’ and that, ‘Nothing about this show is routine.’
There aren’t many big new crime dramas around in the summer, so this one could be appointment viewing.
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