Sunday, December 28, 2014

Best on TV: Idris Elba returns in 'Luther'

Why you should drop everything and watch Idris Elba's BBC America thriller, 'Luther'

Best on TV: Idris Elba returns in 'Luther'

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Idris Elba stars as DCI John Luther in BBC America's psychological crime thriller, 'Luther'

How much injustice is there in the universe? In our lives?

More to the point, how much injustice is there in the entertainment world?

Such injustice!

Take British actor Idris Elba.

Far too many of our otherwise fine countrymen and women are not acquainted with Elba or his extraordinary BBC America show, Luther, now in its second season.

Elba, 39, is known here primarily for his amazing turn as a Baltimore drug lord in HBO’s The Wire. He’s had a few supporting roles in Hollywood pics, most notably in 2009’s Obsessed, a Fatal Attractions-esque thriller which had him married to Beyoncé and stalked by Ali Larter.

The success of Luther may finally earn Elba a place on the Mount Olympus of actors (that’d be the fabled A-List). He was recently rumored to be in talks to play James Bond (he’s not, but wouldn’t say no, he says); NBC reportedly has signed him to develop a legal drama; he was featured last year opposite Laura Linney, in Showtime’s The Big C; and his fellow Brit Kenneth Branagh featured him in a funky role as Heimdall in this year’s superhero hit, Thor.

Elba’s greatest role to date

Luther features Elba at the top of his game.

One of the most intense and harrowing psychological police thrillers to hit the airwaves in a while, Luther features Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a brilliant police detective entering middle age, who has been battling dark demons for most of his life.

Like his namesake, the Christian reformer, Martin Luther, DCI Luther is an anguished soul who is too keenly aware of the evil that men (and women) can do to one another – because he recognizes the criminal impulse in himself.

The second season of Luther debuted on BBC American last Wednesday.

Episode two will air Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

(Previous week’s episodes will be available on Video On Demand, as is the entire first season. Here’s more information about BBC America shows on VOD, and BBC America’s broadcast schedule.)

Thought it’s highly-recommended, you don’t need to watch the first season to enjoy Luther: Each season is a self-contained miniseries, the first with six episodes, the second with four.

Although the crimes and criminals featured on the show are spectacular, Luther excels because it kneads and weaves its stories and characters into the life, mind and soul of its titular hero.

A peek at the first season

As Elba plays him, Luther is a man who can’t always keep his demons in check. And he knows it. He’s a ticking bomb.

(The first season opens with the detective returning to work after he was forced to take a leave of absence to deal with a nervous breakdown brought on by his last case.

In a flashback we learn that the case, about a child killer, ended with Luther torturing the suspect to find out where he’d hidden his latest victim.

Forced to take a leave, Luther also is forced out of his home and his marriage. His wife, Zoe (Indira Varma from HBO’s sword ‘n’ sandal epic, Rome), can’t take the anguish anymore.

With his demons put back asleep – for now – Luther comes back to confront a personality as complex, as brilliant, as dark and twisted –  and as potentially loving as himself.

The first season’s opening  episode has Luther catch a–beautiful young woman named Alice Morgan (played by the lovely, um, ruth-lessly beautiful Ruth Wilson) for killing both her parents. Luther knows she did it. She even boasts about it. But he has no evidence. That’s because Alice is smart.

Alice earned a PhD in astrophysics when she was 18. So smart, Luther realizes with equal parts horror and fascination, that she’s committed the perfect murder.

Cool story line. Where would you take it? One would imagine the rest of the season would be about Luther’s dogged pursuit to find evidence to put Alice away. Wrong. The two lost souls befriend one another. It’s an uneasy alliance, fraught with rage and distrust, but as the season progresses we find out Alice may be Luther’s only true friend.

The second season will have Luther – and friend Alice – tackle two big cases.

Elba already has signed on for a third season of Luther.

How to watch ‘Luther’

  • BBC America: Luther airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America through October 19.
    (To find out what channel it's on, go to the top right corner of the main BBC America site and click on "Channel Finder.")
  • Video on Demand will feature each week’s episode 24 hours after its original broadcast.
    The entire first season also is available on demand.
  • DVD: The first season is already available on DVD.
         The second season will be released on DVD on Oct. 25.

Photos: From top down (courtesey of the BBC): Idris Elba; Indira Varma (Rome) stars as Luther's estranged wife, Zoe; Ruth Wilson stars as genius-physicist-turned-killer Alice Morgan; Warren Brown plays John Luther's protégé, Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley; The two women in John Luther's life, Alice (Ruth Wilson) and Zoe (Indira Varma) have a close encounter of the dangerous kind.

Here is a clip from Luther’s premiere episode from last year.

Tirdad Derakhshani Inquirer Sideshow Columnist
About this blog
Tirdad Derakhshani was born in Tehran, Iran, and raised in London and rural North Jersey, where he closely studied a theoretical, radical post-Hegelian approach to cow-tipping. He moved to Philadelphia in the mid-‘80s to seek enlightenment, and instead received a B.A. in literature at Penn. While pursuing doctoral studies in modern religious thought and philosophy, he worked at the Inquirer as a news clerk, researcher, editor, and entertainment writer.

He hopes SideShow will help citizens better understand the vicissitudes of the Consumerist-Military-Industrial-Infotainment Complex, or, in other words, why Britney Spears has a tendency to shave her head, Brangelina to adopt children, and Lindsay Lohan to crave imprisonment. Read SideShow every morning.


Tirdad Derakhshani Inquirer Sideshow Columnist
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