There is a true abundance nowadays of good detective/crime tv shows, so much so (in the UK especially) that its hard to keep up with them, and then with the appearance of the much beloved gritty Scandinavian almost crime noire that followed after Stieg Larsson’s widely popular series of books – introducing us all to the mixture of political/crime thriller that mainland Europe seems to do best – it can be hard to choose which crime series to dedicate yourself to and follow properly. There are so many and I’m sure more crime/detective drama’s will crop up while I’m doing this but, we have to start somewhere.
The first series of Luther aired in the UK quite some time ago (2010 I think) and since then has had 2 more celebrated seasons. Following the turbulent life of a near genius DCI in London, the series focuses on the usual things, murder, brutality, social issues, twisted minds, and the victims of serious crime. On a more subtle and unassuming note however, the series as a whole displays a very accurate and honest representation of both the anti-hero style protagonist, (which is where the series gets its name from) John Luther (played by Idris Elba) and his fellow detectives, but also the criminal minds that he goes after; none more interesting and beguiling than the pathologically Narcissistic Alice Morgan (played by Ruth Wilson).
The relationship between Luther and Alice is one of the most psychologically honest and captivating I have seen on tv. Alice Morgan is a remorseless killer and a person with an enormous and inflated sense of her own self worth, and therefore believes she deserves everyone’s highest praise. She is a true narc in every sense of the word, she believes she is smarter than everyone, better than everyone and that there couldn’t possibly be anyone out there who could challenge her. So when DCI John Luther instantly recognises that part of her during a routine interview after her parents are found dead, shot in their homes, he see’s that part and challenges it, of course, he grabs her undivided attention.
There is a wonderful moment in this first encounter where the two are talking about dark matter, and you can see Luther pushing her, trying to get her to show off, reveal that narcissistic side, and more importantly, him enjoying it – it is a brilliantly scripted and electrifying, enigmatic moment where a mixture of the writing and the chemistry between the two actors completely pulls you into that world and it feels utterly natural and real.
It is something that you see in every great tv show or film, where two people create that excitement onscreen.
The show is shot beautifully too, with a muted pallet of pale greys, greens and blues – real vividness only being pumped into it with the odd red burst, the red of Alice’s hair or the flash of red on the bottom of Luther’s trainers.
Another element that makes this detective show in amongst all the others, worth watching is the sheer brilliance and well thought out nature of the storylines surrounding the murders. There are a few crime/detective tv shows (I wont name any specifically) that although I love them, they just miss the mark in terms of accuracy when it comes to psychological profiles, labels and the behaviours that come with those psychological profiles. In each episode there is a real legitimacy about how you as the viewer can follow Luther’s logic in terms of how he is going to stop/catch the ‘bad guy/girl’ in question. It is refreshing to see it being worked out realistically but not without the drama and excitement that is needed to make it enjoyable.
‘Decoupage, a cut-up technique. Take a bit of text, cut it up, randomize it, make new text. See new patterns…’
All these things paired with a, one can only say kick-ass opening sequence and main title song makes it a definite contender for the best detective show of the last 5 years award in my books. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_Qg1pQSOa0 – the opening title sequence.