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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Luther (BBC)

Britain does crime drama really well. The BBC have a knack for doing it really, really well. And I think, last year, they managed to squeeze out the one I've found most interesting and so enjoyable! Last year the BBC gave us Luther.

The series stars The Wire actor Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a troubled man with problems in every area of his life - a wife who no longer wants him, a genius sociopath stalker threatening to turn his life upside-down, a serious anger management problem and a tough case to crack, every bloody episode.

The first series begins with Luther chasing a man through an abandoned factory and, when a high platform gives way beneath the pursued, "not saving" a child kidnapper from a long fall into the bowels of the building.

Seven months later and Luther is recovering from a mental breakdown, a split from his wife and suspension from his job while the factory incident is investigated. We join him just as the investigation is dropped due to lack of evidence and he regains his badge.

His first case involves the execution-like murder of the parents of one Alice Morgan, a child genius. Luther believes from the off that Alice is the one to blame for her parents' death, despite there being no evidence, no murder weapon, no motive. And so begins a game of intellectual cat and mouse between the determined and talented DCI Luther and the cold and calculating genius, Alice. Once the pieces are in place on the board the rest of the series follows a "crime of the week" format, led towards a shocking and heartbreaking finale, with gentle encouragement from Luther's sociopath stalker.

The story arc is fascinating and unsettling and the "crime of the week" elements are made all the more interesting by the fact that there's no mystery to them. It's all about the chase. Luther is one of the most watchable characters in recent times, in equal measure morally sound and recklessly spontaneous. And he has one hell of a temper on him!

This is not good news for anyone who gets in his way! The host of "criminals of the week" get their comeuppance at the hands of this brute of a copper. I won't go too deep into the stories but the series contains some of the most horrific murderers you could think of.

Also in the path of this juggernaut is Paul McGann as Luther's wife's lover, Mark - his wife is played by Torchwood star Indira Varma. As the lives of Alice Morgan, Zoey Luther and Mark North collide with John Luther's own, it seems than nobody's lives will ever be quite the same as they once were.

This is the sort of series that throws its villains at you and allows you to watch - there's no whodunnit here. Instead the BBC have given us a deeply harrowing psychological crime drama filled to the brim with some of the most memorable characters to ever grace the screen. Alice Morgan's cold seductive charm is utterly compelling in particular; all credit to the wonderful Ruth Wilson for that! And the good news is that there's a second series in the pipeline. So eyes open for that, too. 

If you haven't seen the first series yet, it's available fairly cheaply on BBC DVD. I urge you to catch up. I promise that it's a six hour slice of your life that you will not grudge sacrificing. Luther is easily the most emotionally confusing crime drama I've seen in a long, long time. You'll love John AND you'll hate him. Sometimes within the space of one sentence! And it's that moral blurred line of all the characters that make this show so utterly, utterly unmissable.