Channel: BBC One
Cast: Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Indira Varma, Stephen Mackintosh, Warren Brown, Sasika Reeves, Paul McGann
The BBC has got itself stuck in a rut that has been annoying me the last couple of years. All of its shows appear to be cop or detective shows. In my opinion, the BBC has found itself a winning formula. People like cop shows and if you take the slow, darker route, more character-driven than action-packed, you can end up making them quite cheap. Therefore, British TV has become very repetitive. The bad news is Luther is one of those dark cop shows. The good news is that it is the best of the bunch by a mile.
Luther gets dark and isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of how far we, as an audience, will go to enjoy the show. The opening sequence shows maverick cop, John Luther, chasing down a killer who traps young girls until they run out of air or starve. He corners the killer, but rather than arrest him, Luther lets him falls to his death. The season shows us Luther returning to the force after suspension (the murder was never proven), and how he copes with the return to duty. On top of that, his ex-wife has start seeing someone else and there’s a new serial killer in town, portrayed brilliantly by Ruth Wilson.
There is something very artful about Luther. Just reading a copy of the shooting script shows us the style the show is going for. Rather than reeling off description, the script focuses on tones, giving the director an impression of where to go with the story. It is very important that we soak up as much character details as we can, especially with this masterful character of Luther. The characters are wonderfully written and there is something very moreish about this dark drama. It can be a tough watch, but we are glued to the screen, too mesmerised to turn off the TV set.
At the helm of the show is the powerhouse actor, who is Idris Elba. Although this isn’t his first appearance as an actor, I like to think that Luther is the show that put him on the map. It is the dream character for an actor to tackle, showing us this dark anti-hero, trapped in a downward spiral, redeemed by his driving nature to do good. The writers always hint that sometimes we get the sense that Luther doesn’t want to survive his battles with the hardened criminals he faces. In the second episode, he challenges a rogue solider to a game of Russian Roulette, seeing his duty as an easy way out of the problems that are crippling his life. If you are not a fan of cop shows, but love Idris Elba’s performances, I recommend watching Luther anyway. It’s the role of a lifetime and Elba handles it effortlessly.
Oddly enough, most critics praise Ruth Wilson, the show’s villain and sidekick character, as the defining feature of the show. I would say that she is one of the elements I put up with, rather than enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, Ruth Wilson owns the role. Alice is a cool figure, devoid of any emotion, except for a burning curiosity and empathy with Luther. She is introduced in the first episode, where Luther figures out she is a killer, but there is no evidence to convict her. They form an uneasy friendship and it is interesting to watch the two characters play off of each other. Personally, despite the brilliance of the character, I never quite got what Luther gets out of the relationship. Alice destroys his life, focused on punishing his ex-wife. Why does he stick around? Sure, her part in the finale is key, but I would like to think there is more to their relationship than a convenience for the writers.
I will warn you that the season does end on a jarring cliff-hanger that did shake me slightly. The second season saved it, but at the time, I was a little disappointed with the abrupt finish. However, the finale has a whole was very well done. There is a twist that works really well and takes Luther to an even darker place. Some of the more dedicated TV viewers may see the shock twist before it happens, but it still works well, taking the emotional level of the show to a new high. This is definitely a show I would recommend watching.
Final verdict: If you can handle the dark, disturbing nature of the show, Luther is a fantastic piece of British television that deserves a viewing.