Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tales from the DVR - Luther

I'm an unrepentant Anglophile, especially when it comes to TV, so I was predisposed to like the new detective drama that premiered this week on BBC America. The best TV series in the procedural/detective genre have come from the BBC -- Cracker and Touching Evil are probably my all-time favorites, but there are literally too many to mention. They just seem better-crafted, more compelling, more unpredictable than the flavor you get from American TV.

Luther, starring Idris Elba (The Wire), is no exception. The premier starts off in media res, with murder detective John Luther on the heels of a serial killer who buries little girls alive. Within a few minutes, a child is saved and the killer is in a coma, and you know as much as you need to know about Luther without any doddering backstory and wanky "character" development.  

Elba is brilliant. He's one of those rare actors who really inhabits a character, so much so that you can see his thoughts played out on his face, you can watch his mind like a clockwork animation stripped bare. The scene where his estranged wife admits that's she's found someone new is just beautifully acted, and Elba and Indira Varma seem like a genuine couple in the midst of a  messy, lost, heartbreaking relationship.

The plot is the first installment in what looks to be a large story arc that will cover the 6-episode first series. Luther knows whodunnit almost immediately, the problem is there's nothing he can do about it. We are left with a wonderfully cold adversary in Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), who promises to be both cat and mouse.  I don't know where it's going, which is a good thing, and for someone who reads as watches as much detective fiction as I do, relatively rare.  Definitely one of the best things on TV right now.  Watch it.

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