TV & Radio
(BBC/Roadshow Entertainment, R16)
So, now what?
It's taken a week, but I have devoured all 14 episodes of New Zealand based writer Neil Cross's police drama Luther.
Cross, who cut his teeth on the BBC drama Spooks about the challenges faced by the British Security Service as they safeguard the nation, penned 2 very different Doctor Who episodes in Series 7 - The Rings of Akhaten and Hide - so how would Luther be?
Luther's R16 sticker, warning violence, offensive language, sexual themes and content that may disturb, nearly put me off altogether. But I'm glad I persisted because I would have missed so much if I hadn't: edge of the seat drama penned by one of the best writers in the business and performed by an extremely talented cast.
Over the course of my personal Luther fest Detective Inspector John Luther, played by Idris Elba, has become one of my favourite heroes. Cross's stories and Elba's acting have delivered a complex, and brilliant, character who constantly wrestles with himself. You see in Luther's almost comic book world there's good, there's evil, and there's Luther standing between them.
I say almost comic book because the directors of this series use comic book style imagery to set the tone of the story.
Luther's London is often seen in twilight . . . Luther seldom walks in the pure light of day. Right?
It's hard to categorise this television series because it's so much more than a police drama.
Luther, a man with perfect ideals, is trying to operate within an imperfect criminal justice system where the heinously guilty can walk free on a technicality. A system where the perpetrators of the most unthinkable crimes against the most innocent of society trade on those weaknesses and even taunt police with a "you'll never catch me" mentality.
It's the twistedness of the criminals of Luther's London that earns this series its R16 rating. My wife had to walk out of 2 of the 14 episodes because the criminals were so sick and depraved, but knowing Luther would somehow stop them and bring them to justice kept me on the edge of my seat and glued.
Advice from one suspect for Luther to "throw out the rulebook, change the state of play" is what drives this show.
To do his job, and protect those people, Luther must sometimes bend, break or even ignore the law to bring them to justice. He plays mind games with his foes, because he knows what it's like to have his head messed with. He's like this awesome avenging angel who operates in the shadows in a mainly black and white world.
At his side is Justin Ripley (Warren Brown). Ripley, a wide eyes idealist, has spent months requesting a pairing with Luther when he returns to work. A Robin to Luther's Batman then. Ripley knows that Luther is a good guy, broken by his job, but trying to walk the thin blue line.
For an ununiformed cop Luther has a "uniform" all of his own which he wears to work every day. His wardrobe contains half a dozen of each garment so that he always appears in the same clobber, and it takes 10 episodes to see him out of it. "I love this guy," says one character when he sees Luther's repetitive wardrobe.
Another criminal, driven by the loss of myth in the modern world, strives to create his own. I wonder how much of Cross is in this character, who has done exactly that with this series. Luther is, indeed, mythical. Few series could have me on the edge of my seat in the way Luther did, head in my hands in desperation when he misses out, punching the air when he wins.
There's no wonder that Elba won countless awards for his portrayal.
I'm very much looking forward to the prequel film now in development, but first Cross needs to finish the first series of pirate drama Crossbones which stars John Malkovich as Blackbeard.
- © Fairfax NZ News