Posted by: Paul | May 5, 2010

Luther

Laaaadiieeees aaaaaaaand gentlemeeeeeeeeeeen… The Idris Elba Shoooooooooow!

[music and riotous applause]

This may as well have been the opening to new crime drama Luther last night. It’s so clear that since the success of The Wire and his rapidly rising star, the BBC have been desperate to work with Brixton’s own Idris Elba. And nothing screams “star vehicle” louder than a show which bears the lead character’s name as it’s title. I can just see the pitch meeting now – “I know, let’s cast him as a grizzled cop coming back from a breakdown caused by his dedication to his job, which has left his marriage in tatters, his working relationships frayed and given him serious anger management issues!” Come on – surely one day someone will come up with something more original than this?

However, I shouldn’t be so dismissive. From a relatively flat premise came a series of compelling performances from an accomplished cast, and the thing which grabbed me the most is the casting of Ruth Wilson as a proper nemesis for John Luther, seemingly to run throughout the series. Why don’t shows have villains like this any more? TV dramas, especially British ones, seem obsessed with wrapping things up every week so they can show them out of sequence if they need to. I know things like Waking The Dead have loose, gradual arcs that span not just a single series but the course of several, but in the main they are very self-contained pieces and they don’t return to set themes and recurring ‘evil’ characters every week. It’s nice to see someone thinking bigger than that for a change, and making a commitment to a piece of work that has to be viewed in its entireity, in order. Like American shows 😉

Wilson was, as ever, hypnotic to watch and she chilled the screen. A character like Alice Morgan walks a fine line and if you stray to either side she becomes caricature, but she made a thoroughly convincing narcissistic psychopath.

Elba himself smouldered with repressed rage. The scene when he found out about his wife having met someone else and his subsequent demolition of a wooden door was quite striking, and the on-screen chemistry between him and Ruth Wilson was realistic and entertaining. So from an unpromising beginning, I hope will come a worthwhile series – I will certainly carry on watching to see how things pan out between them.

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