First Look: Luther

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Luther-391794Luther is one of the UK’s premium-brand crime dramas and one of the country’s most successful global exports. It has helped to solidify Idris Elba’s status as a household name and as a CILF (work it out yourself), but more importantly it has introduced us to another angry detective, Neil Cross’s creation involving himself in some thrilling, terrifying cases and some intriguing character dynamics that placed this iconic character in the grey area between good and bad. There were rumours it was the end for Luther and he was only going to appear in big screen outings from now on, but he’s back next month for another (very short) run on BBC1.

In a cinema in the heart of London’s West End, The Big Man himself (Idris Elba) was joined by co-stars Rose Leslie and Darren Boyd, who join the show this series (the two-parter can hardly be called a series, but, y’know) as new characters.

We left Luther at the end of the last run a shattered man. His partner DS Ripley was dead and there were certain members of the force who were out to get him. It took long-time pal Alice to bail him out. The end of series three was ended neatly, so much so it kind of tied things up to the point where we didn’t really need any more. So when I heard new stories were in the pipeline I hoped that they would signify a new chapter and a fresh start. As much as I liked her a character I actually want Alice back – her presence in series three felt like a stretch.

The opening episode to this two-parter did feel different. We found Luther in an alien landscape (at least to him) and it was interesting seeing him in another place other than London. Back in the capital, we were introduced to two new police characters – Boyd and Leslie – and also a really terrifying new serial killer, once again showcasing Luther’s ability to merge crime drama with elements of the horror genre.

People will want to know if Alice returns but all I’ll say is that she is in it. A little bit. Kind of.

Most importantly, this is about Luther and his interaction with new characters and new adversaries. And perhaps a slightly different Luther – less angry, perhaps even less impulsive. As ever it looks fantastic and it’s well acted and plotted… it’s just a shame that there are only two episodes.

A lot has been spoken about Elba recently, speculating that he’s in line to be the next Bond. But looking at John Luther and watching the first episode onscreen it dawned on me that Luther and Bond are very similar characters – brooding, complex, ruthless and quite happy to bend the rules. I honestly don’t think Elba needs to do Bond because he’s already playing him in a way.

Anyway, here’s what Elba had to say in the Q&A afterwards. Luther will return in December.

On the gap between series:
I don’t think [the audience has] been satisfied with the fact that we’ve been off the air for nearly two years. That’s a long time for a TV show, so I’m very happy it’s here. We have an audience that’s very loyal and demanding, and I don’t think they were satisfied – nor Neil or I, actually – by the ending of the last one. It felt like there were some unanswered questions. Perhaps we answer them here, but I think we needed to conclude some stuff and maybe close down a chapter to release a new chapter.

On his absence from the force:
It’s a leave of absence. He didn’t quit. Luther would be that kind of person, whether he’s a police officer or not, to go chasing people who were in the wrong. He can’t help himself.

On his new enemy:
I think they’re all pretty nasty and serious, but in this one – because of the break – we wanted to heighten everything. So these characters have been written with a lot of thought. The idea was to really up the ante and increase the fear. This new character touches a nerve. Neil’s designed a very contemporary and topical adversary.

On whether Alice will be in it or not:
I guess it comes down to satisfying the audience. I spoke about it with Neil and he said, “the show’s not called Alice.” I understood what he meant. In order to keep the DNA and the fabric of the show alive, he does have these nemeses that are really popular with the audiences. They become part of Luther’s life but they can’t become a part of the show in that way, which is difficult to swallow from an audience perspective.

On why the character is so popular:
I really don’t know the answer. I think the show is very heightened and has got a very bold style, but not overcooked too much. I think it offers a very unique perspective on a detective’s life and his thoughts. He makes some ridiculous assumptions but he backs them up. I also think that London is shot so beautifully, you really feel like you’re in a city. It feels like Gotham City for me. It’s heightened and it’s escapism.

On The Coat:
We knew we wanted to make a look for him. In the show, especially in the first three series, there were design elements that were recurring. Red was a colour that pops up here and there. So a grey shirt and a red tie became a symbol of the show. That coat was Paul Smith, and he doesn’t make it any more so we had to remake it. It’s the Batman outfit.

On why there are only two episodes:
Luther’s never really stuck to any rules when it comes to the number of episodes. We did six, then we did four.. we changed it about a little bit. That’s because we want the audience to be malleable in the way we present them. I don’t think we can take six or seven weeks of that all the time. I think there needs a different way to dissect it. I think it’s smart. I think it works well for this type of show. I don’t think we ever resolved it to be the end. That version of Luther had to stop, but now this version of Luther – slightly older and little smarter and wiser – gives us the next chapter. The film idea… to us this WAS the film. It’s two hours. We would love to get a film off the ground but it just depends on when me and Neil are ready to pull it off.

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