Luther 4, BBC1, with Idris Elba

Luther series 4, Idris Elba

On the edge: DCI John Luther (Idris Elba)

An abominable serial killer is hunted by Luther, who’s still haunted by Alice

★★★ BBC1, day and time to be announced

LUTHER IS BACK, and the new series is as nutty and nasty as ever.

A drama about a genius detective who is daft enough to fall for a genius female psychopath is always going to be a believability-stretcher, but Luther has nevertheless gained a cult-like status. Series one even got 94 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes, today’s final word in critical assessment.

Idris Elba is undoubtedly the key ingredient to its attraction. The actor has enough charisma and conviction to sweep fans along and make the bonkers stories seem almost rational. The other standout feature is the distinctively creepy London atmosphere it creates.

But Neil Cross‘s series is gratuitously nasty. We have a terrified woman being slashed by a lunatic within the first few minutes of this two-parter’s opening episode. Naked blood-spattered corpses, a ‘Bedlamite’ killer who is a devotee of ‘cannibal erotica’ and eats body parts, in addition to a character nailed to a table combine to push the series to the limits of what is acceptable on BBC1.

Rose Leslie and Darren Boyd

Anyway, we find Luther on leave of absence as the action begins, living in a rundown cottage virtually on top of the White Cliffs of Dover. Detectives Emma Lane and Theo Bloom, played by Darren Boyd (Fortitude) and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), visit him with news of Alice Morgan’s death after she has some escapades in Berlin, Madrid and Antwerp.

Luther, BBC1, DCI Theo Bloom (DARREN BOYD), DS Emma Lane (ROSE LESLIE) - (C) BBC

This case stinks: DCI Theo Bloom (Darrren Boyd) and DS Emma Lane (Rose Leslie)

We last saw fiendishly illusive killer Alice – the series’ other major-league presence in Ruth Wilson – at the end of series three, when Luther had needed her help in clearing himself of a murder charge. The big tease is, is she really dead? Luther can’t believe anyone could have got the better of her, and it would certainly set the story alight if she returns. [Read more…]

Luther series 3, BBC1, with Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Sienna Guillory PREVIEW

Idris Elba as John Luther in the third series of BBC1's Luther
He’s a smasher – Idris Elba as DCI John Luther. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 2 July, 9pm 

Story: Luther is loaded up with two big murder cases – one for a fetishist who is killing women, and the other involving the death of a malicious internet tormentor – while inside the police force itself, an operation is underway to nail the detective for past transgressions.

THE GOTHIC COP is back. John Luther, gloomy, dealing with grotesque cases that often have supernatural echoes, is giving it large once again – dangling suspects over balconies, having punch-ups with other detectives and messing with the minds of the deranged.

Idris Elba in BBC1's Luther, series 3
Out on his own – Luther is targeted

In what could the series’ last outing before creator Neil Cross transfers the character to the big screen,
Luther has a lot on his plate. He’s after a creepy fetishistic killer of women who seems to be emulating 1980s murderer the Shoreditch Creeper, a case that was never solved.

This being Luther, the killer has to have a wacky MO, so the Creeper would pleasure himself while sucking his victims’ toes. The contemporary copycat seems to be dressing up his victims like someone from his past.

DSU George Stark is gunning for Luther

DSU George Stark (DAVID O'HARA) in BBC1's Luther
Stark choice – David O’Hara as Luther’s enemy

The stories are always totally unbelievable in Luther, but what sells it are Idris Elba as the force-of-nature, intuitive cop – once again, he literally towers over everyone here – along with the show’s chilling atmosphere. In this brooding opener, the gore takes second place to some stomach-tightening set-piece moments.

What lifts this third series above the others, however, are two new plot developments. The first is the arrival of David O’Hara as DSU George Stark. The Scottish actor has a presence and raw menace to make him a formidable foe for our anti-hero, and his character is out to see Luther go down for killings he is suspected of carrying out during past investigations.

O’Hara, along with DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird), intimidates Luther’s deputy and best friend, Ripley, into spying on John. Once again, implausibility reigns and Ripley seems to speedily fall in line.

Love is in the air with the arrival of Sienna Guillory

DCI John Luther (IDRIS ELBA), Mary Day (SIENNA GUILLORY) in BBC1's Luther
Luther dates Mary in a, er, fast food cafe

The plan involves loading another murder case onto Luther – that of a malicious internet tormentor.

Again, the plot is stretched beyond plausibility as Stark and Gray know who the murderer is, but for some reason think Luther will let him go, and then they can arrest the detective.

Yet the drama is still nicely poised for an almighty showdown between Luther and Stark. As Stark says, ‘He doesn’t know it, but his good fortune ran out the day I heard his name.’

The other juicy storyline is another new character that Luther runs into, literally, in his car. This is Mary Day, played by Sienna Guillory. Love is in the air immediately, and the detective, whose wife Zoe was murdered in the first series, seems about to relieve some of his gloomy work obsessiveness with a bit of romance.

Watch out for Alice…

Alice Morgan (RUTH WILSON) in BBC1's Luther
Lurking – Alice Morgan

But with Stark after him, and the impending return of the show’s favourite pantomime genius psychopath, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), the woman with whom Luther has a – wouldn’t you know it – reality-defying bond, the course of true love is unlikely to run smoothly.

Luther is a frustrating series. It gets so much right – terrific performers, intriguing conflicts and it’s dripping with atmosphere.

But it’s not just the series’ killers who are off their rockers. The whole drama could do with an occasional reality check.

Cast: Idris Elba DCI John Luther, Warren Brown DS Justin Ripley, Sienna Guillory Mary Day, David O’Hara DSU George Stark, Nikki Amuka-Bird DCI Erin Gray, Dermot Crowley DSU Martin Schenk, Michael Smiley Benny Deadhead

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Luther at Harrogate Crime Festival – series 3 is going to be ‘carnage’

Idris Elba as Luther. Pic: BBC

Special report: Charlotte Biermann

BBC1’s popular and critically controversial Luther came under the spotlight at this year’s Harrogate Crime Writing Festival over the weekend. Journalist  Miranda Sawyer led a talk with some its cast and production team, which saw them laughing and joking about the dark and disturbing material the show’s creator Neil Cross foists upon them.
The third series is currently being written and is eagerly awaited. However, it has now been revealed it will be the drama’s last TV outing before it makes its move to the big screen. Having received ‘a million-and-one movie offers’, its star actor Idris Elba and the show creator Neil Cross, as joint custodians, feel the move is evitable. So with the end being nigh, series three is set to go out with on hell of a bang: ‘It means there is no holding back of good ideas, they are all going in, so the intention is to make series three f**king awesome!’
As a result, Warren Brown, on the panel with Neil Cross, was excitedly waiting to see what will happen to his character Ripley, thanks to Cross revealing that we will see the spiritual corruption of Ripley spiral further, and promising it will be Ripley’s best series by far and away: ‘It will be carnage from beginning to end.’ 
Four Emmy nominations for Luther
Neil Cross

While Lutherhas been generally praised all over the world and especially in America, with even President and Mrs Obama admitting to being fans, it has had a bumpy ride with UK critics. Largely panned to begin with, Cross believes this was largely The Wirecasting a shadow and that the reviewers were ‘reviewing their own prejudices’, expecting Idris Elba to again be playing a drug-dealing Stringer Bell.

But as Luther bedded in and  became increasingly popular with TV audiences regardless, there has been a steady change of heart and even the odd apology. This will no doubt be further enhanced with the announcement that series two has been nominated for four Emmys (Neil Cross for best writing, Idris Elba for best actor, best miniseries, Sam Miller for best director)!

Luther has proved itself not to be a traditional cop show and with the whole production team all set to pull out all of the stops in the third series, the ambitions of the BBC for him to be an iconic copper may yet succeed.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you hear the word ‘Harrogate’ in episode four of this last series. Amidst the dark drama, Cross has set himself the fun challenge to slip the codename into the script.

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Hit & Miss gets better and better; crime events in Edinburgh and Harrogate

Hit & Miss: Ben, John, Eddie, Mia, Levi, Ryan, Riley and Leonie. Pics: Sky Atlantic
Ben (Jonas Armstrong) intervenes when the kids attack the hermit

• The fourth episode of Hit & Miss this Tuesday (12 June, Sky Atlantic, 10pm) continues to startle with its twists, brutality and tenderness. The hermit who’s been spying on the smallholding finally comes out of hiding when little Leonie is home alone, Mia’s penchant for violence and vengeance along with her novice parenting skills are exposed, and vile John is going off the rails in his craving to get Mia. The drama is bolder and brassier than anything else on TV right now. The northern setting is wild and stunning, instead of cloyingly twee as in so many mainstream UK crime shows, and the transsexual contract killer Mia (Chloe Sevigny) is a surreal combo of male/female, killer/parent, mum/dad. For all its chilling violence and nastiness (Vincent Regan as John can rarely have played such a brutal character), Hit & Miss has a big heart, with family and love as its core themes. And the performances have been excellent, particularly from the young actors – Jorden Bennie, Karla Crome, Reece Noi and Roma Christensen. Brilliant soundtrack too – a toe-tapping version of Beautiful Tomorrow by Beth Rowley kicks this episode off. Hats off to creator Paul Abbott, writer Sean Conway and to Sky Atlantic for making a series that’s so distinctive and fresh.

• Nordic and Scottish crime fiction are being celebrated at the Edinburgh Festival this month. The event has been developed by Edinburgh University students, and is called Midnight Sun at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It sounds like a convivial get-together, which will culminate in a screening of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s 1997 film Insomnia. On Thursday, 21st June, Midnight Sun will take  advantage of the summer solstice to delve into our fascination with Nordic noir within a Scottish context. Proceedings begin with a drinks reception at the Point Hotel’s Sky Bar at 8pm, where guests will be able to enjoy complimentary Scandinavian canapés surrounded by panoramic views of Edinburgh’s skyline. Then Scottish crime writer Lin Anderson will whet the audience’s appetite for the screening of the moody Norwegian noir Insomnia by drawing comparisons between Scottish and Scandinavian traditions. What’s not to like?

Luther comes under the spotlight at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival on Saturday, 21 July. Neil Cross, who wrote the BBC1 crime series starring Idris Elba, will be discussing the drama alongside cast members Michael Smiley (Benny) and Warren Brown (Ripley), as well producer Claire Bennett and police adviser Simon Morgan.

• Euro 2012 is currently filling the TV schedules and sucking in audiences. While the channels are definitely not risking new dramas against all the sport this summer, they are wheeling out some old lags. Next week you can see repeats of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (Cat Among the Pigeons, ITV1, Saturday, 16 June, 8pm); Inspector Lynley Mysteries (BBC1, Sunday, 17 June, 8.30pm); Inspector George Gently (BBC1, Tuesday 12 June, 8.30pm); and Midsomer Murders (ITV1, Wednesday 14 June, 8pm).

Pic right: ITV

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Luther DVD series 1 & 2

DVD: ★★★½  Extras: ★★★

Cast: DCI Idris Elba John Luther, Ruth Wilson Alice Morgan, Indira Varma Zoe Luther, Warren Brown DS Justin Ripley, Steven Mackintosh DCI Rian Reed, Saskia Reeves Det Supt Rose Teller, Paul McGann Mark North

When the Beeb went to novelist Neil Cross to commission a new police drama they apparently asked for an ‘iconic character’, like ITV’s Morse. Cross dreamed up a detective who symbolised the maverick as out-of-control avenger in Luther.

Detective chief inspector John Luther is a marauding, passionate and at times furious cop with a volcanic temper. He dominates investigations, occasionally terrifies suspects’ wives and fills the screen with his intensity. Fortunately, Idris Elba was on hand to play him, and this year picked a deserved Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for his performance.

Extreme storytelling
He is almost consumed by his horror at the psychos and mad folk he confronts – and there are some pretty crazed baddies in the two series here. During the first series he is also in the torment of being separated from his wife, Zoe, who has moved onto someone less obsessive and grim in Mark North.

While the series cannot be faulted for its bold storytelling, it is not remotely believable, and as the DVD extra here, Luther – The World of a True Maverick, makes clear, it is not meant to be realistic. As Ruth Wilson says,  this is ‘not realism. The characters are theatrical. It’s very extreme.’

Alice the psycho ally
So Luther is a law breaker and near genius whose hunches are spot on and who thinks nothing of planting evidence to flush out an evil doer. His chief ally is eerie Alice the psychopath, and Ruth Wilson even wonders if her character is real, or part of Luther’s imagination.

Neil Cross created a ‘how-catch-’em’ rather than a whodunit, and in Luther he wanted to fuse the eccentric brilliance of Sherlock Holmes with the ‘moral danger’ of Philip Marlowe. All of the characters operate in their own heightened world.

Killer in a punch mask
This boxset follows Luther’s progression from his return from a breakdown and the separation with Zoe, through to her murder and into the second series, which veers into horror territory in episodes such as the series opener in which Luther hunts a crazed killer in a punch mask, which is full of creaking staircases, creaking doors and nasty murders.

Luther is a long way from Morse, and could never have the mainstream appeal of John Thaw’s hero. He’s unhinged, unbelievable, but – in Idris Elba’s hands – Luther is an indelible presence.

•  The Luther boxset was supplied by

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