Fans of British dramas — particularly those that star big-time Hollywood crossover actors (how’s it going, Benedict Cumberbatch? Is Sherlock enjoying the holidays?) — will know by now not to hold their breath for new seasons.
That’s because, unlike their steadfast American counterparts, British TV shows come and go at unpredictable intervals, designed to best suit the schedule of their lead stars.
As a show, we hardly ever mention race. But I think for [Wunmi Mosaku’s] character in the Met [the Metropolitan Police Service], her climb, there’s no talk that she’s black but it’s rare and that’s a fact.
The same can be said for Idris Elba’s seminal detective series, ‘Luther’, whose last offering was a two-episode holiday special back in 2015. But our favourite emotionally volatile detective chief inspector is finally back for season five. Four new episodes are now airing on OSN’s BBC First until January 5, and will also be available on demand on OSN Play. According to Elba himself, the season is twistier, darker and more complex than ever before.
So if you haven’t jumped on the Luther train just yet, you really should. You can start with our list of five things to know about the series — or rather, a case study in why you should start binge-watching it immediately.
1. It boasts a stellar lead cast led by a magnetic Elba
I had a former editor once lambast me (affectionately) for claiming that I was an Idris Elba fan without having watched ‘Luther’. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now: this is Elba’s seminal work. It’s also one where the British actor seems most at home: he films in the UK and can delve deep into a complicated character while embracing his thick East London accent (we’re still cringing over his forced New York drawl in ‘Molly’s Game’). A special shoutout has to be given to the ingenious Ruth Wilson, who wears sociopathic homicide suspect Alice Morgan like a second skin and plays off of DCI John Luther’s volatile nature beautifully. It’s worth watching the series for the back-and-forth between these two characters alone.
2. The twisted storylines will have your head spinning
Yes, ‘Luther’ can be pretty formulaic, but it also breaks the mould in a lot of delightful (and chilling) ways. The storyline of detective-chases-baddies-and-gets-tormented-along-the-way is elevated by a healthy helping of gore, Luther’s frequent ethical dilemmas, and scriptwriter Neil Cross’ love of moral grey areas. Before you dive into the show, know this: Cross will not spare a thought for your feelings. While this isn’t exactly ‘Game of Thrones’ in terms of body count, the showrunners feel no obligation to keep all your favourite characters safe. Luther himself is no saint — he’s a man at odds with his demons, intrigued by the psychology of his suspects and far too emotionally involved in his cases. Just like we like him.
3. Luther doesn’t carry a gun… but his suspects do
If you’re a non-British viewer, you might find yourself flabbergasted at first that Luther is often face-to-face with an armed suspect, yet never reaches for his holster himself. You might also Google, ‘WHY DOESN’T LUTHER CARRY A GUN?’ That’s because the majority of the British police force is unarmed, with only a specially trained unit carrying firearms. This makes for a different kind of detective series than, say, an American one, and it can amp up the tension at some pivotal scenes in the show.
4. Luther’s new partner is played by Bafta-winning Wunmi Mosaku
Detective Sergeant Catherine Halliday is played by British-Nigerian actress Wunmi Mosaku, who earned a Bafta for her performance in 2016’s TV movie ‘Demilola, Our Loved Boy’. The gore-shy actress admits she’s not a big fan of watching gruesome thrillers, but is just fine acting in them. “She, more than most characters, challenges Luther more. He has a real sense of protection with her character, I think because she’s a black female detective and he wants her to climb,” said Elba in a Q&A. “As a show, we hardly ever mention race. But I think for her character in the Met [the Metropolitan Police Service], her climb, there’s no talk that she’s black but it’s rare and that’s a fact. We don’t talk about it but Luther’s aware of it and so is she.”
5. ‘Luther’ could finally be turned into a movie
The only thing better than watching Luther in the comfort of our homes would be watching him larger-than-life in IMAX. There’s been a lot of talk over the years of the TV series moving into the big screen, and the conversation is heating up again. Elba, who has now signed on as an executive producer of the show, seems to have something to do with it — among other things. “We were quite heavily criticised in the early stages that female characters were always the first to go. And having that producer’s title allowed me to have some thoughts and implement some changes,” said Elba, of his new position. “[I]t’s Neil’s and my ambition to take it into a larger screen so we paid attention to what we were writing. If we were to make a movie, this show would be the segue into that.”
WHAT IS SEASON FIVE OF ‘LUTHER’ ABOUT?
DCI Luther is up against a new kind of evil this season, as a series of monstrous killings around him gets more and more outrageous. Luther and DS Halliday are plagued by red herrings and false leads covering up a horrifying truth. As always, Luther has to fight his own past and choose who to protect in a seemingly no-win situation.