This May BBC One’s newest production, Luther, hit the small screen. DCI John Luther is a maverick detective working the shifty, dangerous streets of modern London. He was suspended after a case where a serial killer met their end in a factory, not by his hand but with him present. Six months later, Luther is back and trouble is already brewing.
The show first came to my attention some weeks ago after seeing leader actor, Idris Elba, famous for his role as Stringer Bell in The Wire, on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. On the talk show, Elba described the show as “gritty,” and boy did he mean it. The first episode has an intellectual child prodigy, Alice Morgan, kill her own parents, destroy the evidence and then report that her parents have been ‘murdered’. The ensuing scenes between Luther and Alice are just glorious drama. The cold, unblinking stare of Ruth Wilson would scare many a hardened thug.
More than anything, though, this is Elba’s show. His performance has been unexpected and thoroughly transfixing in the first three episodes. Exuding a clear confidence and thinking two steps ahead of the villains, Luther is the one the rest of his team look up to, even if he is downright mad himself – episode two’s end scene saw him at gunpoint and forced into Russian roulette with a crazed Iraq War veteran.
I’ve only seen clips of The Wire and heard about it from friends, but I think I may have to give it a look now that I’ve seen Elba in action. He’s also starting in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Thor as Heimdall next year, so that may be more reason for me to make an effort there too.
Luther is a contemporary British cop drama at its best. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen anything as good as this come directly from BBC Productions (a lot are created and made by external production companies). It’s got a US level of quality to it, from the practical effects to its titles. Incidentally, Massive Attack’s ‘Paradise Circus’ was a great choice of music that really mirror’s the show’s dark tone. And when the script and performances are this good, I can’t help but grab my knee-length detective’s jacket and follow the investigations. Shaft is good, but I’m afraid he ain’t got nothing on Luther.