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Josh Reviews Luther

Idris Elba (The Wire) stars as DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) John Luther in the BBC television series Luther.  Luther is a brilliant investigator but he always seems to tread right up (and sometimes over) to the boundary separating a by-the-book police officer with someone willing to step over into the dark side and do whatever he feels it takes to see the guilty punished.  Five short series (seasons) of Luther have been released since 2010.  The series was created by Neil Cross, who has written every episode.  Over the past several months, I slowly made my way through the series.  I thought Idris Elba’s performance in the lead role was phenomenal, though the unrelenting bleakness of the show made it difficult at times to get through.

Idris Elba’s extraordinary work as Stringer Bell in The Wire made me an instant fan, and I’ve enjoyed his work in a variety of projects ever since.  He’s been great as Heimdall in Thor and a variety of subsequent Marvel movies, and his work has always impressed even in otherwise mediocre movies (such as Pacific Rim, Star Trek Beyond, Prometheus, and American Gangster).  His presence as the lead in Luther is what made me want to watch the show, and there’s no question that it’s his intense, live-wire of a performance that is the best thing about it.  Mr. Elba’s presence dominates the screen in a way that few actors can manage.  The series provides a fantastic showcase for his talents.  The show’s storytelling is 100% focused on Luther.  There are some wonderful actors in supporting roles, but none of those characters are very fleshed out.  This is the Luther show, through and through.  Mr. Elba’s passion and magnetism sucks the viewer right in, and you travel with him through these stories.  He is tremendous, start-to-finish.

In the past decade-plus, we’ve seen a lot of great shows about charismatic but deeply messed-up male leads.  (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Shield, Boardwalk Empire, and many more.)  Luther fits squarely into that mold.  It can a bit of a tiresome structure for a show; it’s one that I don’t think has aged well since the series premiered in 2010.  My interest has waned in that type of show, and there were times when I felt Luther teetered on the edge of becoming a show I didn’t want to watch.  But Mr. Elba’s magnificent performance always pulled me back in.  I loved this character and ultimately I wanted to follow his journey!

Though, wow, it was sometimes hard, because I found the show’s unending horror to be difficult to stomach.  First of all, every episode is about some sort … [continued]