I love crime dramas. Always have. I’m pretty sure I’m about the only person in the UK still watching Criminal Minds, which I’ve followed with a kind of limping, pathetic loyalty from its pilot episode when I was seventeen all the way through to the present day, through a parade of depressingly similar copycat killers and home invaders. Whenever the agents survey a fresh crime scene and note that the killer has a) wrapped the body in a sheet, b) painted its nails post-mortem or c) clothed the body before dumping it, I bellow gleefully ‘PROBABLY A SIGN OF REMORSE!’ just before one of the lead actors says it. I never miss a cue.
So Luther Series 3 should have held no perils for me. I’d been looking forward to it for ages, ever since I’d watched Lee Ingleby dashing about in a Punch mask a couple of years ago, getting up to all kinds of mischief.
But it held loads of perils. A cornucopia of perils. For some reason, this series was a bridge too far. I’ll admit it: Series 3 of Luther had broken me. Classic elements that I thought I was hardened to – a man clad entirely in black scuttling crab-like out from under a woman’s bed; the killer posing as mannequin under polythene sheet (I only have my boyfriend’s word for this, as I had fled the room) in manner of fisherman-killer in I Know What You Did Last Summer – suddenly, these age-old devices no longer occupy the nether-zone between morbidly thrilling and comfortingly familiar. They are unbearable.
And that was even before the head came through the ceiling (my boyfriend maintains this was ‘hilarious’, which I think says more about his sense of humour than the writing). It was all too much to cope with. The killer’s largely silent, which is quite unsettling, and he never leaves behind any signs of remorse, which I would say is the mark of a not very nice man.
The whole experience has left me strangely unmoored. I just don’t know what happened this time. Yes, the direction is particularly tense, and yes, the writing’s pretty gruesome at times. But I’m good at crime dramas. Was this episode really unprecedentedly scary, or did it just tap into some very personal fears about a crab-like man dressed as a ninja hiding under my bed? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I have struggled to sleep for the past few nights due to my fear of becoming ninja-crab’s next victim. I even tried googling the actor’s name in the hope he was called something unthreatening like Colin Flowers, which would rather take the sting out of my fear, but I couldn’t work out who he was on the cast list.
The reassuring thing about Criminal Minds is that the team is so relentlessly efficient that they always catch the killer within the hour’s allotted time. Luther, on the other hand, dropped the ball and the killer has been at large for an entire week so far. No wonder some of us are struggling to sleep.
I’ve been weighing up whether it makes sense to watch the next episode tonight in the hope that either Luther pulls his finger out and actually captures the crabman, or at least that I might absorb some of my boyfriend’s attitude and start to find the whole thing faintly amusing (though having said that, it’s precisely that kind of attitude that will seal Dave’s fate as the killer’s next victim). But I’ve concluded that it’s not worth the risk of multiplying my fear. I’m disappointed with myself, but I give up. I’m too old to develop a fear of the dark. I’m going to watch an old re-run of Criminal Minds instead.