Posted by : Wendy B Sunday, 23 October 2011

Last week I celebrated Idris Elba Day on G+. I really only know Idris Elba as Black Heimdall and Roque, but, as with Mortal Kombat Day celebrations, I was introduced to something new and wondrous. In this case, Luther.
John Luther is a Detective Chief Inspector working for the Serious Crime Unit in series 1, and the new Serious and Serial Crime Unit in series 2.A dedicated police officer, Luther is also a genius. He is obsessive, possessed, and sometimes dangerous in the violence of his fixations. But Luther has paid a heavy price for his dedication; he has never been able to prevent himself from being consumed by the darkness of the crimes with which he deals. For Luther, the job always comes first. His dedication is a curse and a blessing for him and those close to him. ~Wikipedia
Truth be, that description embellishes just a bit. Genius? Oh dear no. Luther certainly thinks outside the box sometimes, but he's not a genius. Our culture has taken to enjoy comparisons to describe things and the obvious one here would be Sherlock Holmes. But Luther is no Sherlock Holmes. There are no superhuman thought processes going on that allow him to reach his crime solving conclusions. In fact, my husband and I figure things out just before or just as Luther does. At least, unlike House, the figuring out always makes sense and doesn't conveniently occur five minutes before the end of the show. (Also unlike Gregory House, Luther isn't a detestable asshole who some how is always inexplicably forgiven for being a detestable asshole because no one else can apparently do his job).

Luther's obvious character flaw is a very bad temper, so I suppose we could compare him to The Hulk, but Luther doesn't rip his shirt off (awww) and his temper generally only flares in response to his estranged wife, Zoe, whom he learns has met someone else during their separation. Fortunately, this love triangle, while initially seeming to be an annoying side plot with an expendable third party, grows to become far more as the series progresses.

Consumed by the darkness of his crimes? Hm. We first meet Luther chasing down a child killer who's subsequent death leads to Luther's suspension and the break up of his marriage. Luther is having significant trouble dealing with his decision not to save this criminal - a decision that, while unlawful, was the right one and enough of us would have agreed to it. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Luther is very much human, as opposed to being a sociopath teetering on the edge of committing a crime himself. Luther is a man dedicated to his work, who sometimes makes questioning, rule breaking decisions, in order to achieve what is right: catching the bad guy. On a cop drama scale of one to blowing shit up to solve a crime, I'm going to give his questionable decisions a 4.5.

What truly distinguishes Detective John Luther from any of the other detectives out there, is Idris Elba. He brings a quietly explosive intensity to the character that is hard to deny. Elba gives Luther strength by not being afraid to show his weaknesses. He gives Luther the personality that gets under your skin as both a viewer, and the criminals he goes after. I suppose it was unfair of me to denounce the "genius" rating. Luther's genius is in his ability to understand the criminal mind, though not by sinking into its darkness as the description implies. He simply approaches things at different angles, sometimes with the help of David Bowie, and consequently is able to understand what is at play and figure out the right triggers to get to the truth. And when he can't figure it out, he turns to Alice.
Alice: "Kiss me; kill me... do something!"
Now here is where the show takes on a its all important twist, because it isn't just about Luther. Idris Elba meets his nemesis - his Moriarty, if you still require comparisons - in the form of Alice Morgan, portrayed to perfection by Ruth Wilson. Alice is a genius - a child prodigy - and she is a sociopath who does not believe in humanity or love. She develops an obsession with him that plays an integral role in the entire plot.

While I do intend to give this show 5/5 stars, trust that I am not blinded by the light. There are some plot holes, loose strings and, most importantly, the glaring frustration that comes from the typical cop trope involving not calling in things that could get you in trouble by not calling them in. But all of this just adds to the drama and suspense and my intense desire to yell at the TV the way my Grandma used to yell at the people in her stories.

I am very happy that Netflix decided to let me watch this, despite my continued Canadianness. Unfortunately, they only had season 1. Otherwise, last night would have definitely been an all nighter.

Also, soundtrack, need.

ETA: Watched S2 which turned out to be less suspenseful and climactic than the first season, and had not nearly enough Alice Morgan. It was still very good, however, and I'm very pleased to learn that there will be a third season, which will perhaps be longer than the second and first.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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