Luther by Neil Cross – Review

The six-part TV series Luther recently ran on BBC America and the Nerd was regrettably late to the party by a number of weeks.  Now that the series has ended and only a handful of episodes are available on demand, I feel that it is the perfect time to hip you to this surprisingly kick-ass little police procedural (quit your bitching, dear reader, it’ll be available on DVD soon enough).  It’s certainly not The Shield and it sure as shit ain’t The Wire but it most definitely is a helluva lot of nasty, pulpy fun.

Created by Neil Cross, the show is centered around DCI John Luther (Idris Elba, better known as Stringer Bell from The Wire), a homicide detective under investigation regarding his culpability in a child murderer being put in a coma.  In the first episode, Luther is back from suspension after the investigation yielded no evidence of foul play, but his mental state remains shaky and his marriage to his wife Zoe is in shambles.  His first case back is the murder of a professor and his wife, Luther quickly deducing that the culprit was their sexy, brilliant and utterly sociopathic daughter Alice Morgan (the Nerd’s new fantasy girlfriend Ruth Wilson).  Thing is, Morgan has covered all her bases ingeniously, making it impossible for Luther to prove her guilt, no matter how many laws he bends.  Luther’s antagonistic/flirtatious relationship with Morgan is, along with the looming possibility of the child murderer coming out of his comas, the main serialized arc throughout the rest of the series as Luther takes on cases involving Satanic cult murders, a serial strangler, a hostage situation, and a string of cop killings in the next five episodes before the series resolves with Luther’s most personal case to date.

It’s out-sized, pulpy-as-all-hell shit, where the killers are extra-gross crazies and the filmmakers turn up the violence and creepiness factor to eleven wherever they can.  Luther as a character is familiar type, a guy with marriage problems, a nasty temper, and a willingness to break the law in the name of justice, but a great detective and good guy all the same.  The cases themselves are less mysteries than they are thrillers, the murders often shown and the murderers given their own storyline in their respective episodes with Luther eventually catching up to them and having a violent showdown.  It’s nothing new and it ain’t exactly gonna blow your mind, but it’s expo-fucking-nentially better than any other police procedural on TV.

What really sets the show apart from the shit you can see on CBS any night of the week is its cinematic qualities.  Any of these episodes would play nicely as a feature film, the freaky serial killers and their sick crimes graphic enough and the suspense and action sequences intense enough you’d feel your ten bucks wasn’t wasted, even if you couldn’t recall the name of the movie a month later.  But by stringing all these solid stories together in a compact little series and having strong serialized elements that resolve in a thematically sound and thrilling way, this material easily shoots up a notch from if it’d presented in any other form than it does now (okay, yeah, clumsy-ass sentence but you get what I mean).

Luther is a “really good”-level series that anybody who appreciates the police procedural will find involving and fun.  It doesn’t reach the heights of the best of crime TV dramas that we’re currently experiencing with shows like Breaking Bad and Terriers, but it is a familiar genre done exceptionally well, and that is an increasingly fucking rare thing in the boob-tubery world these days, indeed.

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Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

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About Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

2 Replies to “Luther by Neil Cross – Review”

  1. Did you ever see 5 Days? BBC crime mini series that HBO played a couple tears back. Nothing ground breaking but like a VERY well done adaptation of a more then solid crime story. It’s original of course but that’s what it feels like. Good cast of characters, couple of sub-plots, good relationships. Like I said good stuff.

    sounds like this could be similar. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Never saw Five Days but it looks cool and it’s on Netflix so I’ll definitely give it a shot. I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy Luther. It’s very strong stuff for what it is.