Periscope Depth

we can roll ourselves over ’cause we’re uncomfortable

Luther: Proof that the British may be more stylish than we, but they aren’t necessarily more sophisticated. Luther may feature talented actors with posh accents and some sharp writing, but it’s your standard cop-on-the-edge drama. Idris Elba (The Wire) plays John Luther, a DCI who doesn’t play by the rules but still gets results. He has a habit of getting into the minds of his suspects. This enables him to do brilliant work, but also makes him a bit of a nutcase, alienating him from his wife and, oh hell, do you even need me to finish this?

Each episode moves along at a swift pace. Plot twists come fast and furious. But the plots are all standard Law & Order fare. A murderer who thinks they’re smarter than the police; a traumatized veteran, back from the wars; a ritual Satanist; etc. The kinds of crimes that only exist in television fiction, in other words. Not the unending tide of knife crime which would cross the desk of a real London detective.

What keeps me watching?

I have a bias: I believe that good writing and captivating acting excuse almost anything. And the writing here is very clever. No point is dwelled on for too long before moving on to the next. The dialogue is harsh and direct. And there’s a large team of talented actors: not just Elba, but Ruth Wilson (of AMC’s “The Prisoner” remake), Saskia Reeves (of Sci-Fi’s “Dune” miniseries) and others you’ll likely recognize.

I’d call it a guilty pleasure but I have no guilt about it. For all my optimism I like watching stories about tormented geniuses. For all the time I spend fuming over police abuses, I like watching hard men who’ll bend the rules to put the bad guys away. I like believing that the world – both the good guys and the bad guys – are smarter than they are. And Luther is a little peek into that world, fictional though it might be.

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