03/07/2013 00:45 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

Luther: Idris Elba on superb form in scary series three

TV review: BBC drama Luther, starring Idris Elba, kicks off its third series in suitably macabre fashion.


Idris Elba as Luther (© Idris Elba as Luther. Image. BBC)


Summary

The BBC's popular crime thriller Luther returns for a third series of four episodes, again starring Idris Elba as the eponymous London detective operating in a moral grey area.

Highlight

There are always memorable thrills and unsettling images propping up episodes, but this week's unforgettable moment was when Luther and partner Ripley (Warren Brown) heard a father's testimony about suffering abuse online regarding his dead daughter.

The heartbroken man had to excuse himself to break down into tears within earshot. A heartfelt, human moment in a show occasionally accused of being too cartoonish.

Lowlight

I'm certain it will grow into something more substantial in part two, but the introduction of Luther's new love-interest Mary Day (Sienna Guillory) felt too perfunctory for my tastes; although it was fitting that this show's version of a 'meet-cute' involved a car accident.

Full review

The first series of Luther contained flashes of genius, but the second is where things really coalesced for writer Neil Cross's deliciously demented and frightening crime drama.

After an interminable wait (due to the increasing profile of Idris Elba and writer Neil Cross), the popular BBC series is finally back for another four episodes.

"Neil Cross's deliciously demented and frightening crime drama."

To a large extent it's business as usual, but in the gritty world of Luther that's small mercy.

There are numerous reasons for Luther's success, not least the excellent performance of Elba as the shambling detective on the side of angels, but mixing with demons.

It's also the best example around of a British drama taking cues from glossy American productions to create a hybrid unlike anything else just now.

A genre mash of police drama and horror, its influence is clear on other works, such as Hannibal.

The horror of Luther

One of its strengths is how it plays like graphic novel page-turner, with Luther himself cleaving close to a vigilante Batman figure. He even has a penchant for standing atop tall buildings and dangling baddies off rooftops.

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In this premiere, our not-so-friendly neighbourhood copper was assigned two grim cases: the first, to catch a fetishist serial killer who invades homes and grotesquely dresses his victims' dead bodies with a mask and make-up.

The second, to search for the killer of a notorious internet troll who once created degrading photos of a dead girl and sent it to her grieving parents.

In an intriguing sub-plot, DSI Grey (played by Nikki Amuka-Bird) also returned with sinister friend George Stark (David O'Hara), a retired copper out to prove Luther's dirty with the help of his closest friend DS Ripley - whose loyalties to his boss are certainly tested through this hour.

In some ways, Luther is just a series of horror tropes pasted into a grim detective serial (one woman even hides from a psycho inside a closet with slat windows, a la Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween), but that's not actually a bad thing.

Luther is more than the sum of its parts as a strange alchemy has taken place and transformed it into a piece of ridiculously entertaining pop art. Taut, exciting, intriguing; television's scariest cop show is back and shows no signs of wilting.

  • Verdict: Luther deserves all the acclaim it has received from critics; a superb British drama.

    Star grade


What other reviewers said

Digital Spy - "Idris Elba returns in must-see TV."

Den of Geek: "A promising, pacey episode of the detective drama that's sure to please loyal fans."

What people on Twitter said

@thedimmick - "Genius from #Luther... Classic childhood fears (something all adults retain) of monsters under the bed / in attic, become real."

‏@jojomoyes - "I think I just woke up all my children screaming. #Luther"

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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