I haven’t been writing as much as I would like, because I have been watching a lot of television lately (probably too much). This is supposed to strictly be a blog about films, but I can’t help myself here.
Luther is easily one of the best things I’ve seen on television this year, and with a couple of possible exceptions, as good as any film this year as well.
The words escape me as I try to type out what it was like to watch this. A simple description does not do it justice: Luther concerns the title character, Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. As the story begins, he is rejoining the British police force, back from a psychological evaluation concerning a rather difficult case involving the mysterious death of serial killer in his presence. Along with trying to reacclimate to his job (which he is apparently very good at), he is dealing with the lasting effects of this previous hunt on his marriage and his overall outlook on his fidelity to the Law. This is complicated further by the development of a rather unusual relationship with a suspect that he could not quite prove was more than a suspect. If all of that seems the least bit familiar enough to the countless number of police dramas in the history of British television, then I have left room for the awe-inspiring surprise that awaits you should you choose to watch this.
The writing by Neil Cross is superb, weaving its sweeping themes of good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, dead and alive, law and justice, etc. into an ensemble of flesh-and-blood characters. There are some great supporting performances (Ruth Wilson being the beyond magnificent one), but the series belongs to (and is associate produced by) the actor playing the title character: Idris Elba.
I have been a fan of his since his role as Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire (hyperbole aside, one of the best television series ever). He is simply an amazing actor who brings an engaging range of intensity to every scene; he is the kind of actor that can show you what the character is thinking or feeling without the need for words (which is not as easy as it may appear). He will be getting much more deserved mainstream exposure as Morgan Freeman‘s replacement in Cross, the next in the series of movies based on James Patterson‘s Alex Cross mystery/thrillers…
I don’t think I can really articulate why this series of a mere six episodes is so great. It follows a formula, like all television dramas. However, the interplay between episodes places it among some of the best of the more recent trend of long-form story arc drama that television has the benefit of creating. Though it helps to have such a great group of performances, the series allows room for the characters to realize themselves through the writing in ways that most dramas simply gloss over without any growing depth. It is the rare type of morality play that refrains from pandering to its audience (read: most American network television dramas). I can only hope that it will continue onto a second series. Though it has played through in the U.K. already, it premieres on BBC America on October 17th.