Idris Elba and Warren Brown
Fans of quality television get a welcome respite from the recent programming doldrums as BBC America’s award-winning crime drama Luther returns tonight as a “four-night television event” airing through Friday. Idris Elba is back in his Golden Globe Award-winning role as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, the iconoclastic London police sleuth who’s getting hammered on several fronts in these new episodes.
For starters, he’s investigating an eerie murder scene that bears the earmarks of a potential serial killer (spoiler alert: He’s right), so he’s annoyed and baffled when his superior, Detective Superintendent Schenk (Dermot Crowley), tries to pull him off the case to investigate the far more prosaic killing of an online provocateur who had been tormenting a grieving father.
What Luther doesn’t realize, at least at first, is that this second case is a trap laid by his nemesis DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her former boss, Detective Superintendent Stark (David O’Hara), whose outrage at Luther’s frequent forays outside the law has driven him into an Ahab-like hatred and an obsessive hunger to destroy the detective.
To that end, Gray and Stark enlist the very reluctant assistance of poor Detective Sgt. Ripley (Warren Brown), Luther’s steadfast sidekick, who faces the end of his own career if he doesn’t help the pair gather evidence to be used against his boss. It’s not long before Ripley is on the verge of a breakdown, as Gray and Stark play head games with him that start to make him doubt Luther’s innocence.
Meanwhile, a minor fender-bender introduces Luther to Mary Day (Sienna Guillory), a wistful blonde who feels an immediate attraction to the charismatic detective. Their budding romance, however, is sorely tested by Luther’s professional trials.
This love story, as well as the covert investigation into Luther’s rule-breaking procedures, stretches over all four nights, but otherwise, the miniseries is divided into two main storylines. Nights one and two are given over to the serial killer story, a genuinely chilling narrative that may have you debating whether you really want to watch this show shortly before going to bed. It’s intense and almost unbearably creepy.
On nights three and four, Luther pursues gentleman vigilante Tom Marwood (Elliott Cowan, Da Vinci’s Demons), a grieving widower who feels compelled to execute criminals who, for whatever reason, the justice systems has released back onto the streets. As his crusade escalates and claims a heartbreaking victim, Luther is startled but relieved by the return of Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), the vivacious and ingenious sociopath who feels an inexplicable connection to the tortured and world-weary detective. Their odd-couple relationship is far and away the most fascinating thing about Luther, and Wilson is, as always, absolutely delightful.
Sienna Guillory and Idris Elba