It's not hard to say what's so amazing about the BBC's Luther, which ends on Tuesday (June 8, at 9pm) after a six-week run on BBC1. We're not going to shock anyone by saying that Idris Elba is a hugely talented actor, fans of The Wire will no doubt attest to that. The stories too are shocking and controversial with moments that even a hardened crime lover will find tough to stomach. And like BBC drama, Spooks, Luther isn't afraid to dispatch the occasional key cast-member for the sake of a bit of excitement. That could be something to do with the writer, Neil Cross, who was lead scribe on Spooks in its sixth and seventh seasons.
But, unlike Spooks, sudden character death has been handled in an interesting way. In the last episode, for example, the death of Zoe Luther came as a complete shock. It was heartbreaking because it was so avoidable and gripping drama because it happened in an instant and was over before we could collect our thoughts. As with all the best TV drama, you never know who is good and who is bad and it's never obvious what their motivation is. That might sound like a bad thing, but in real life, there is almost never an explanation for the way that humans chose to act. And, it's the show's ability to mimic reality that makes it so compelling. For example, in episode one, John Luther's interview with Alice Morgan stood out as being unlike other cop show interactions. It's subtle mannerisms Elba that give it an air of believability missing from so many TV drama shows. The superb Ruth Wilson shares the credit with Elba here, in this episode she plays first a meek victim first and then, increasingly, someone who shows pride in her crime. Any time this pair is on-screen together is a treat though, and the final episode looks as if it might hold the best interactions yet.
It's also clear that the directors--of which there are three working on Luther, each directing two episodes--also understand how to get a great performance out of their cast. Never was this more obvious than in the fourth episode which features Hustle's Rob Jarvis putting on the show of his life as a pretty horrendous murder and Nicola Walker--formerly of, you guessed it, Spooks--doing a pretty amazing job as his wife. We aren't crazy about Paul McGann's presence in the show, but he does justice to his character's more annoying traits, which helps us to despise him even more.
And it's not just the direction of talent that makes this show so compelling. You'll also notice that the cinematography is nothing short of superb too. Luther looks every bit as stylish and high-budget as a US network drama. The show also benefits from the same sort of digital cinema cameras that have altered the look of Doctor Who from a cheap BBC drama to something altogether more credible and slightly Hollywood.
What we're saying here is that almost every aspect of Luther is great. This is undoubtedly one of the best dramas ever to arrive on BBC One. We can't wait for the finale, and we really hope the show returns for a second season sometime very soon. Assuming, that is, that the whole lot of them aren't killed, or locked up, by the end of episode six.