Monday, July 23, 2012


Written by Joe the Revelator

Cop shows and police dramas have never been a big interest of mine.  CSI, CSI Miami, NCSI, ASDF-CSI, Miami Heat...It's a game for people who like to guess who the killer is, why the killer went on a spree, and what evidence will turn up to convict them. The same vindication can be had from reading Encyclopedia Brown novels, or if Jeopardy had a killers and victims episode, and the audience could guess at the categories without feeling dumb when Alex Trebec hits them with "Who Is: Ed Gein?"

Luther is all the crime drama and the police politics interplay without the feeling that you're being brought for a squad-car ride along, or that you're a lab tech fumbling through last year's cutting edge crime analysis tools. Luther, played by Idris Elba the captain in Promytheus, is a cop-on-the-edge, spiraling out of control after catching one too many kidnappers.

His first real breaking point and the opening scene is of a child predator hanging from a catwalk in a warehouse like the Joker, waiting for the good-guy detective to haul him to safety. Without knowing the inspector's background it's still evident he's struggling with the notion of upholding the law when he has the opportunity to remove an infected limb of society by simply not lending a hand. Dirty cop? That's the whole magnificent package, from seasons one to two.

Offices are made to be broken.

The foes Luther faces are as stunningly strange as the rivals in a Sherlock Holmes novel. Alice, played by  Ruth Wilson, is a sociopath extreme. Her flop of a case is one of many recent failures Luther is faced with, which somehow earns him a companion, albeit a very disturbing one. And the challenges get stranger, between men he's known and worked with turning the guns on him, to a severe case of Role Playing, which a pair of 'Gamers' roll dice to see which weapons and methods they'll use to slaughter groups of innocents.

I honestly don't know why Luther works at the police station at all. Any real stumbling block in the case, any argument with his wife, results in a broken window or a smashed keyboard. Watch the series on Fast-Forward and you could make a drinking game out of the show. Every time he breaks something take a drink. If he does something ludicrously self-destructive (playing Russian roulette, dousing himself with gasoline, running into gunfire) take a shot.

That's what the killer said.

If my judgement of Luther so far sounds overboard, that's because it is. It's amazing they've kept up the tension this long. Any real cop would have been suspended, killed, or just plain retired after making so many back alley deals. The third season should have Luther sitting in a doctor's office complaining of high blood pressure and a ulcer. Watching this show could give you both. But like me, you might love every minute of it. Despite having the drama in the red for every minute of every episode, Luther manages to come off smart and compelling. You may feel you need a hot bath and an antidepressant, but it's worth giving it a spin.

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