Luther Stringers Us Along…

Posted on May 8, 2010

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If, like me, you are one of the few souls left on earth who have yet to see any of The Wire, then being told excitedly that Stringer Bell is in new BBC crime drama Luther isn’t really going to register with you. If you are not one of these people then the chances are you were clapping your hands with glee at the thought of a new Idris Elba lead series.

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The cop drama has evolved to such an extent that one has to wonder if there is anything more that can be done with the genre to reinvent it again. We’ve had everything from straight-lace to corrupt, to time travelling cops and still the genre doesn’t seem to get old. It has gotten to the stage where the characters and their flaws have become more interesting than the weakly plots but despite all this, the cop series remains among the most popular genres on TV.

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Luther then, in comparison to recent cop offerings like Ashes to Ashes or even Idris Elba’s last vehicle The Wire plays it pretty safe. What we get is a standard, run-of-the-mill cop drama with a slight twist in the sense that we know who the killer is almost from the first minute. And no, that’s not because the writing is paper-thin (pun intended), it’s intended that way. What we get for the next forty minutes is a lot of Luther proclaiming that he’s right but cannot prove it because he has no evidence. Thus begins a cat and mouse game between Luther and Alice (Ruth Wilson).

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What draws the audience in is Luther himself. Up until today, I had never seen Elba in anything else but he has a screen presence that you can’t take your eyes off of. When we meet him he is apprehending a suspect except it goes a little bit wrong, though Luther doesn’t seem to mind too much. He is a bit of a cliché though, which is a pity because it is obvious that Elba is a good enough actor to give more challenging material to.

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The supporting cast is strong, though for the most part, they don’t get a word in edgeways between the two leads. Wilson is wonderfully menacing and chilling in her role as remorseless murderer Alice and there is that hint of the hunter (Luther) falling for the hunted (Alice) in the coming episodes.

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Coming back to Idris Elba though because as one other reviewer wrote, the BBC managed to cast “the coolest man in the world” in this series (Again, I’m impartial, I haven’t seen The Wire) but it certainly seems that people are really expecting a lot from this new role. Unfortunately, Luther has thus far failed to set my interest levels soaring.

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Luther would be quite an unremarkable series, were it not for the casting of Elba, the kind of series you’d sit through if it was on but not get too invested in. It’s relying on him really to carry it along. It’s not even that his character is that interesting but the crimes and plots are so far uninspiring and you find yourself watching the two leads for their performances more than anything else. We can’t even have the fun of trying to guess the killer because they’ve already told us the bloody answer.

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Perhaps the second episode will draw us in a bit more.

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If not, cop series are like buses, there’ll be another one along in a minute.

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Luther airs Tuesday nights at 9pm on BBC 1.

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