Series Review: Luther – Season 1 (2010)

This is a show I’ve only seen an episode or two of over the years. So when I saw that it was leaving Netflix at the end of the month, I felt that it was the perfect time to catch up on the entirety of it over the next few weeks. So look forward to more reviews coming in this little project I’ve decided to call “The Ides of Elba”.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Luther” season 1.

John Luther (Idris Elba) is a brilliant but rough-around-the-edges police detective as he’s reinstated after an extended absence following a horrible and traumatic case. And we follow him as he works to solve various dark and horrific crimes, all while struggling to keep his personal life together, along with developing an uncomfortable kinship with a deranged young woman (Ruth Wilson). At first glance, “Luther” might have the air of a typical police drama, it manages to stand out partly thanks to a gritty and dark tone, exploring much darker and heavier crime stories. But it also works thanks to the overarching storylines, involving Luther’s past, his tense relationship with his estranged wife (Indira Varma), and his newfound “friendship” with the aforementioned deranged young woman. Yes, there is a lot going on, and it can make the episodes feel slightly long in the tooth at times, but it’s all written with so much nuance and suspense that I can forgive some of the slower and more feet-draggy (that is now a word, shut up) moments. So yeah, the story here’s good.

What I love about the characters of Luther is that none of them are really written in a perfect black and white manner. Everyone’s written with a lot of ambiguity and nuance. Be they “hero”, support, or villain, all of them have many layers to them that make them deeply fascinating. Even our main character, while a policeman who tries to do good and save the day, is written incredibly grey, and it makes him an incredibly compelling character to follow. It also helps that Idris Elba is fucking incredible in the role. The supporting cast is great too. Ruth Wilson, Indira Varma, Steven Mackintosh, Warren Brown, Saskia Reeves, Paul McGann, there’s not a weak link in this cast.

The score was composed by Paul Englishby, and I think he did a really good job with it. Very brooding, very eerie, really helps maintain the gritty vibe that the writing goes for, often elevating the suspense of certain scenes. They also use licensed songs on occasion, and they work really well in their respective scenes. Overall, there’s good music here.

“Luther” was created and written for the BBC by Neil Cross, with direction by various cool people. And I think the craft here is superb. The scenes have a very deliberate pace to them, shots willing to linger for a while, slowly building this creeping suspense that often culminates in really intense and at times even brutal payoffs. It helps bring the material to life in a fresh and exciting way that wasn’t seen that much on tv back in 2010.

This show/season has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic the season has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com the show has a score of 8.5/10 and is ranked #247 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

Season 1 of “Luther” makes one hell of a first impression, giving us a dark and captivating six episodes that had me (mostly) enraptured from start to end. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Luther” is a 9.44/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Luther” season 1 is now completed.

Beware the Ides of Elba, for there’s more coming your way…

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