This character and the show itself are extremely dark, really. There are elements within John that don’t sit easily with the conventions of detective drama. I was more used to detectives who had the vices of maybe smoking a little too much, or indulging in drinking scotch, and was expecting more of the same when I watched the first episode of the first series.
However it completely blew away all the preconceptions I had. Within that first episode, I saw that John Luther was unlike any detective I had ever seen on screen. He chases down a criminal who has abducted a young girl, and allows the man to fall from a great height, once he has got the information on the girl’s whereabouts.
Luther is a blend between a traditional cop, and almost a vigilante. He uses unconventional and often illegal methods to capture the criminals populating the series, who are capable of truly horrific acts. However on occasions such as the opening episode, they are things that many people say in the heat of the moment, when watching news reports detailing the crimes of those who harm children, and the vulnerable, ‘If I got my hands on them I would…’
If it wasn’t Idris Elba playing him, I’m not sure if I would have found him quite so compelling, there is something about his performance, that draws me in, regardless of what the criminal that episode is. That’s nothing against the way that he was created, by Neil Cross, as there are many different sides and fluctuating characteristics within him. It’s just that in less able hands than Elba, John Luther might have been a mess of contrasting stereotypes.
Also I loved the chemistry between him and Ruth Wilson, and Warren Brown in particular. Wilson plays Alice Morgan, a woman suspected of killing her parents, who morphs into a ally and protector of Luther’s through the course of the first series. Brown on the other hand plays Luther’s colleague, and partner in the crime unit, who has long since admired John enough to lobby hard to be partnered with him.
I had been waiting impatiently for the series to return, and was very pleased to see that the time away hadn’t lessened the skill of Elba, and that the character hadn’t changed beyond all recognition despite the events of the third series.