Someone said to me once that Hell is empty and all the devils are here…
Detective Chief Inspector Luther is a very angry man. Angry enough to let a suspect dangle over a chasm like hole in a factory catwalk to get information out of him. In fact, this is our first introduction to him in the first episode. He paces back and forth as if in an interrogation room as the man desperately tries to keep his grip. What comes next is even more shocking.
Yes, he actually lets him fall!
Luther is a BBC1 television series in the same vein as A Touch Of Frost or George Gently. Dedicated but rundown coppers holding the line against a wave of diabolical monsters threatening the towns they live in.
Like many of his fellow TV coppers, DCI John Luther has a genius IQ with a limitless memory for facts and powerful observational skills. Unlike most of them, he doesn’t have control of his emotions. Frequently lashing out at co-workers, suspects and his family. He is often his own worst enemy.
Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, chews through the scenery like some fire breathing primeval monster. Criminals and co-workers alike fear him and consider him to be dangerously unstable. Indeed, the first few episodes it seems like almost anything will set him off. As the show progresses we start to see the why and the how of what makes Luther tick. We also realize that he is quite capable of bending rules and even breaking the law when he feels it is necessary to stop a threat.
The threats range from child molesters, terrorists and sociopathic gangsters and drug gangs. I can’t really go into detail without dropping spoilers, but the villains are every bit as capable and dangerous as Luther is. Professor Moriarty, Al Capone and Charles Manson would feel right at home with this bunch.
Overall, this is a very dark show with very few clear divisions between good and evil. Sometimes good people have to do evil things to get results and sometimes bad people will do something good for reasons of their own. All of the characters have their own values and beliefs that are more complicated than simple binary responses.
Idris Elba is spectacular in this role, perfectly portraying a man teetering on the knife edge of complete breakdown.
The only actor that even comes close to matching his intensity is Ruth Wilson, who plays Alice Morgan, a dangerously brilliant killer. Sometimes a friend, sometimes an enemy of Luther’s who enjoys taunting him when he can’t solve a particularly tricky murder. Their cat and mouse relationship is a frequent element in the show.
Also good is Bollywood star Indira Varma as his unfaithful and frustrated wife, Zoe.
Like most BBC productions, this one has top shelf acting and production values, combined with a gritty realism. The camera work is top notch, showing the worn and rundown world.
American directors could pick up some tips from their English neighbors on how to create dystopian visions in film. This show, while set in a modern English rust belt, is actually darker and more dystopian than some so-called future worlds I’ve seen in recent films produced here.
Luther’s world is a bizarre amalgam of total surveillance state, combined with overworked and sometimes incompetent bureaucracy. Creating a bizarre nation state that is almost omniscient about detecting crime, but seemingly helpless to stop it.
DCI Luther is one of the few who steps into the line of fire, quite literally at some points. It’s this courage that redeems his more negative qualities. The same passion that makes him a dangerous powder keg, also gives him the drive to go that one step further in pursuing his idea of justice. He always seems to be one step away from self-destructing in one way or another.
Verdict: 4 Gavels out of 5
If you like your police dramas served with extra drama; Luther will not disappoint. Powerful performances and diabolical villains make for an intense show. Luther is currently (5-23-16) streaming on Netflix.