Photograph: BBC
Rating 7.2
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 5
Episodes 21 x 60 mins

When writing London-based Luther, Neil Cross threw subtlety out of his car window onto the busy M25, where it then got run over by a car, a lorry, and a cement mixer.

So, it’s no surprise then, that he opted against the traditional crime-solving-cop story, and has instead decided to tell three tales all at once.

All of them focus on one man: DCI Luther. Played by the ever-charming Idris Elba, Luther is a sullen, sharp detective. In each episode he’s presented with a (usually bloody and bizarre) case which he and his team of questionable coppers must solve. But there’s also a lot going on at home. His wife is off shagging some other bloke, and a highly intelligent, maniacal killer called Alice (Ruth Wilson) taunts him until he ends up in a weird, manipulative, toxic friendship with her.

Yet despite all this near idiocy, Luther amassed a huge, dedicated fan base. People couldn’t get enough of his erratic, unpredictable behaviours, and they clearly wanted more from evil Alice and her scheming. But more than this, they wanted them together. Turns out that these two characters – neither of them particularly likeable – somehow work, and make quite the crime fighting duo. And even we can’t get enough of their highly dysfunctional yet symbiotic relationship.

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Plus, “cor blimey guv’nah,” is Luther gorgeous? And we mean both Elba and the series itself. Here London’s grey vistas are splayed out in their all their grubby glory, interspersed by shots of tourist-friendly townhouses. Stormy faced DCI Luther moves from one to the other in his 80s Volvo, never too far from his next emotional breakdown.

It won’t come as a surprise to you that this series wasn’t for everyone, and the reviewers with a palette for subtle, fine drama weren’t sold on this show, with all its bells and whistles. The Telegraph’s Serena Davies called the first season “formulaic,” saying “Elba had to produce something exceptional from Luther, a standard piece of writing, and – so far – he hasn’t.”

But maybe things got better from there? The continued unsubtlety of season two went down well with The Guardian, who says, “however improbable you may find Luther, you have to admire its audacity.” And it seems people do admire it. Another Guardian Writer Stuart Heritage thinks it’s “genuinely great,” calling it “a slightly sillier version of Silence of the Lambs.”

And fans of the silly side will be please to know that it continues right to the final episode – Carol Midgely of The Times calling season five “very, very silly,” whilst the Independent’s Ed Cumming comments that the series is kept interesting “the chemistry between Elba and Ruth Wilson.”

First shown May 2010. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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