It’s very telling that the opening of Luther’s third series begins with the titular detective emerging from a burning warehouse bruised, beaten but having got his man; with his endless wardrobe of grey shirts & red ties, the world of John Luther is a ridiculous but engrossing one.
When it first hit our screens back in 2010, Luther faced a huge backlash from the critics, who claimed it to be preposterous and certainly not the intelligent thriller that was to be expected. After all, star Idris Elba was an accomplished actor best known for his superior performance in HBO’s acclaimed televisual masterpiece The Wire. Even now, Luther has its fair share of critics, but also a number of high profile fans; including Guillermo del Toro, who apparently offered Elba the lead in Pacific Rim based on his performance of John Luther. After struggling to find its place in the schedules, Luther has found its niche as a superb piece of brainless entertainment that should be praised for its tightly written stories and excellent central performances.
Idris Elba is a charming marvel, consistently lighting-up the (perpetually dark) London setting. His slouched shoulders suggests Luther carries the weight of world, while his brooding voice gives creed to the detective’s brilliant mind. Elba injects Luther with a dogged determination to catch killers, no matter what the consequences, which gives the show an unstoppable energy. Even when investigating the most absurd murders – the most recent episodes have had a killer who emerges from under ladies beds, before strangling them and dressing them as prostitutes – Elba’s performance allows the audience to become emotionally embroiled in the story, without which Luther would be just another by-the-numbers detective drama.
Meanwhile, the strong supporting cast allows for moments of genuine humor and relatable humanity. As Luther’s partner, Warren Brown provides the show with its identifiable moral heart. Ripley is the character we, as the audience, can identify with; especially in his most recent narrative, where Ripley is torn between loyalties to his friend & partner and his want to do his job properly. Next to Brown, there’s Dermot Crowley playing Luther’s long suffering boss DSU Schenk, who gets all the show’s funniest lines and Ruth Wilson, who brings an intoxicating mix of loopy and intelligence to the role of Luther’s murderous equal Alice Morgan.
Luther also remains one of the most exciting shows on British telly. Creator Neil Cross and his team of writers keep the show tightly focused and because of this the pace is constantly breakneck. Yes, the stories are beyond baffling but they progress at such a speed that you barely have time to realize just how absurd the show is until the credits have started rolling; and even when you do realize, it’s hard to care about the show’s ridiculousness when you’ve had so much fun getting there.
It may be as ludicrous as his unchanging wardrobe, but Luther is also the most unashamedly entertaining detective show on the box. Why should you be watching Luther… because it’s well acted, unrelentingly exciting but most of all, it’s fun; all of which are rare in the over-populated detective drama genre.
Luther Season 3 is currently being broadcast on BBC1 on Tuesday nights and is released on DVD July 29th. Seasons 1 & 2 are also available to buy.