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Take a walk on the wild side: why we love Luther

Its titular character may operate in a morally grey area, but I’m going to be as unapologetic as Idris Elba’s detective on this one. My name is Shelley, and I am Luther obsessed.

Any thriller worth its salt has its cast of goodies and baddies, its metaphorical line drawn in the sand. But the seductiveness of Luther is in how its namesake constantly seems to teeter tantalising on the fence between law-abiding and… doing whatever the hell he wants.

And who doesn’t love a misfit? Luther is this and more – a loose cannon, a passionate man full of inner demons. He’s seen a lot of bad stuff, and as a result finds it hard to adjust to normal life.

As for Idris Elba who plays him, he’s proved himself and then some as a Hollywood heavyweight – just look at him as drug lord Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s The Wire, or as an African warlord in indie flick Beasts of No Nation, for which you might have heard ‘Oscar-worthy’ uttered in hushed tones.

Sink into your sofa of an evening though – as Idris digs his teeth into the enigmatic DCI John Luther in this gritty London psychodrama, set in the Secret Crimes Unit of London’s Met Police – and your small screen is lit up with equally blinding doses of magnetism.

Encapsulated in one broody, hot as hell and deliciously disaffected man, Luther is quite unlike any other law enforcer we have ever seen on British TV. He’s certainly the most charismatic.


Luther’s dynamic with sociopathic narcissist Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) is hugely compelling, too. Their unique relationship throws up real tenderness. Is it normal for a detective to enjoy such a close relationship with a serial killer who shot her own parents dead? Not really. And that’s intriguing.

Then there’s the show itself, which refuses to talk down to its audience. Dark as night, full of existential angst, Luther is the only drama with a sense of believable danger on a channel which usually only serves up great dramas if they’re set a century ago and contain heaving bosoms.

And it can be terrifying, such as the series three opener. A woman comes home alone, and a masked man is lying in wait for her, under her bed – a scene swiftly followed by some horrendous shots of the woman after she’s been killed, her face covered in tape like a twisted DIY mask. Then the action switches to another killing, and we see a naked victim, trussed up in ropes on a chair with graffiti sprayed all over him.


Luther works as a gripping psychological drama, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Who could forget our favourite DCI being pursed by a serial killer in a Punch mask? Anything that messes with your head as it scares the bejaysus out of you has my vote every time.

The first ever episode saw Luther involved in a frantic chase through a disused warehouse, a sweaty man stumbling panicked from floor to floor until Luther, walking menacingly behind him Michael Meyers-style, finally catches up with him.

Looming over him as he dangles over a ledge, the man’s life hangs in the balance. Luther’s a cop, so he should haul him to safety and bring him in, right? Wrong. He waits until the man loses his grip, falling to his death. The show has barely taken its foot off the gas since. Keep us dangling Luther, keep us dangling…

Follow Shelley Marsden on Twitter.

Shelley Marsden
Shelley Marsden
Shelley Marsden

Follow Shelley on Twitter.


    I liked your analysis Shelley. I have read other books by Neil Cross but Luther stands out on TV. Idris Elba is so into the part. Start of the current series very deep and dark.

    Great write up Shelley, I love Luther too! So looking forward to him returning to our screens tonight, such a shame that it’s only for two episodes.

    Great piece Shelley. I saw one scary episode; a woman kidnapped held hostage; ultimate evil…thought the tension would lessen; it didnt; never descended to bland; enjoy all.

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