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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

LUTHER 3 Review

Article first published as LUTHER 3 Review on TheTVKing.

The BBC's Luther recently returned for a third (and final) series on BBC America and on DVD. The show follows a cop with dubious morals named Luther (Idris Elba), the killer he couldn't catch whom he now has a strange bond with, Alice (Ruth Wilson), and the various cases Luther is assigned to. Series 3 adds a fetishist murderer, a vigilante, and even the betrayal of members of Luther's own team to the mix.

The main draw of Luther always has been and always will be Luther himself. Elba captures the nuances of a man on the edge who can never find happiness brilliantly. Luther is tempted by many bad things, often at the hands of Alice, yet he always manages to come out ahead, even if only marginally so. He throws himself into his work more so than just about any detective on TV (and that's saying something!), which keeps him apart from any long-term romantic entanglements, though he does make a go this year with Mary Day (Sienna Guillory). And he's always near the brink of madness, seen in Elba's eyes, and other subtle bits Elba does so well, from time to time.

This personality is reflected in the tone of the show. It verges into the horror genre at times, bloody and scary. A man like Luther exists in a violent world, and Luther does not shy away from that, making Series 3 perhaps more intense than the first two. Dread is Luther's closest companion, as much a part of the show as the characters themselves.

Luther is sort of an anti-hero. While he is a cop, and so on the right side of the law, he often skirts over the line. His tormented personality keeps him from being noble sometimes, and he succumbs to his weaknesses far more than one in his position is expected to. He isn't anyone's role model, and perhaps deserves to be locked up himself, after all he's done and whom he associates with.  That outcome might be a good deal better for him than living with his darkness any longer, though that would leave the streets less safe for everyone else. It's this edge that makes the character unique and interesting.

And Luther might just be taken down. In Series 3, an out-of-retirement investigator named George Stark (David O'Hara, The Departed) gets on Luther's case, working tirelessly to bring Luther to justice. With everything else Luther must contend with, keeping an eye out behind him is not convenient. But it does add some more delicious tension to the installments.

The bond between Luther and Alice is a strange one, but highly satisfying for the viewer. We know Alice is wicked, we know she has committed some serious crimes. Yet, it's hard to root for her to get caught because that would limit her interaction with Luther, one of the strongest elements of the show. I don't know that I want them together romantically, if only because that just might destroy the last of Luther's soul, rather than save him. But I do enjoy seeing them in the games they play, which we unfortunately get less of in Series 3 than in the past.

The other characters in Luther are great, too, but none of them get all that much to do. This is solidly Luther's show, and so while we see some amazing glimpses of Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley), Benny Silver (Michael Smiley), Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and others, none of them get their own serious subplots.

Series 3 more or less picks up where Series 2 left off, with implications from those events echoing into this new batch of episodes. Characters are shuffled and replaced in different positions, and a couple of loose ends are tied up. Yet, I still wished for just a hair more of a serial nature to this drama, as it does get a little repetitive as it goes on, like American cop procedurals are wont to do. It also skirts realism a bit, but the performances are more than enough to make up for these drawbacks and keep the show worth watching.

Sadly, this two-disc DVD release has only a single extra, a Making Of featurette. One would love to get into the heads of the star and the creator, but sadly, this is not to be, at least not here.

Luther Series 3 is available now.

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