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Television Collision: Let Luther Reform You

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageThis past Sunday BBC America started airing the brilliant BBC mini-series Luther, which yours truly Phoebe Raven already recommended back in June of this year. So here are, reiterated, the reasons why you should tune in every Sunday at 10/9c to risk a look across the pond and how a cop show is supposed to rock your world. 


When it comes to producing serialized television of a certain quality (technically and artistically), America definitely sets the standard in the Western World. American shows get exported into countless countries, dubbed for European viewing pleasure and rake in the millions, giving the studios even more dough to put into producing the next big hit show. Yes, money is definitely a good thing to have when you are attempting to produce something as flashy as CSI:Miami or as groundbreaking as Lost.

However, other countries are capable of creating great TV as well and so this week I want to focus your attention on a brilliant mini-series by the BBC, which is currently airing in the UK. It’s name is Luther and if you are a fan of The Wire you are going to love this show, because it brings back Idris Elba to the limelight, as pitch-perfect as he ever was.
Now the BBC is known for having produced a lot of high-quality mini-series, TV movies and shows already, so it should come as no surprise they have landed yet another solid hit with Luther.

Every 50-minute episode (that’s right, there are less commercials in the UK, allowing for a longer running time) is like a mini-thriller movie every week and it is such a pleasurable brain twist every single time. Luther centers around Idris Elba’s London Police Detective John Luther, who is brilliant at picking the brains of serial killers and psychopaths, but also has a violent temper of his own.
His marriage to his wife Zoe is on the rocks because of his demanding job and the toll it takes on the ever thoughtful and cynic John Luther. He loves his wife to an unhealthy degree and although she tries to pull away from him and be with another man, she can never quite resist the pull Luther has on her.

ImageLuther constantly breaks the rules, not just bends them, flat out breaks them with reckless abandon, like any good anti-hero character should. His boss, DSU Rose Teller (played by the brilliant Saskia Reeves), knows this and knows she should probably do something about it, but at the same time Luther has a spotless record when it comes to actually bringing the criminals in. His tricks work, so she really can’t afford to lose him.

In Episode One we get a small glimpse at the burden John Luther carries around because of the fact that he is so good at catching the nastiest of the murderers out there. All this violence and hatred for human life does not leave him unscathed and when he has the chance to save a child murderer from dropping off a ledge an approximate distance of 40 feet, he doesn’t. He simply lets the bad guy drop, presumably falling to his death. Well, the guy doesn’t die, and this will come back later to hurt Luther, but most importantly: no one was there to witness the fall, so no one knows Luther could have saved the guy but decided not to. Luther knows, and it gnaws at him.

It takes a sociopathic, genius, family-murdering woman named Alice Morgan to make him face a lot of his own issues and his morality. He has the chance to convict her of the cold-blooded murder of her entire family (including the dog), but she threatens him with the fact that he let that other bad guy fall to his (almost) death and so an unlikely bond forms between Luther and Alice. Even as a viewer it is very hard to remember that she is a dangerous woman who killed her parents and her siblings without any remorse, because she makes so much sense at times. When Luther once says to her “Murder is murder, that’s it” she answers “But it’s not, is it?”

ImageAnd she is right. Not every murder is the same, some are worse than others, all are bad, but there is no black and white like Luther so desperately wants there to be. Even though he hunts criminals for a living, he is not a “good guy” himself. And every time he tries to do the right thing, he just ends up getting himself into more and more trouble. I simply cannot WAIT for Episode Six, hence the finale, to see if Luther will finally get what’s coming to him, or if once again serial killer turned his stalker Alice Morgan will come to his rescue and do his dirty work for him.

There are some arguments one could raise against Luther, like the realistic numbers of actual serial killers out there and how many the show throws at us every single week, but hey, CSI was the most successful show worldwide in 2009 and who ever said that stuff is realistic, right?
What’s great about Luther are the committed actors, all of which are stellar, especially Idris Elba in all his controlled and uncontrolled anger. And all the unexpected turns the story takes, which creep up on you or simply just yank you around by the shoulders to stare gruesomeness in the face, because some of the methods those killers have on the show are more terrifying than any Saw movie ever was.

So, for a mind trip packed to the fullest with thrills, chills and great characters, I strongly recommend you get your hands on BBC’s mini-series Luther and take a breather from the overly flashy, very American way of TV for a while.