By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
11:50 AM CDT, August 28, 2013
The new season of "Luther" opens with Detective Chief Inspector John Luther dropping off a suspect to waiting police officers, then walking alone against the tide of cops rushing to the scene. Later, he steps into his empty apartment and gazes at a photo of his dead wife. He's alone, again.
Anyone who has seen just a little of the first two seasons of "Luther"—and really, try to watch more*—knows that he's a talented detective with hella personal issues. But he's haunted by his cases, and trouble follows him like so many shadows. He's a loner longing to make connections that are wiser and less dangerous than his relationship with a killer named Alice Morgan (the marvelous Ruth Wilson).
I know what you're thinking: Luther is just like any other screwed up TV cop fighting his inner demons—been there, seen that. But what separates "Luther" (9 p.m. Sept. 2, BBC America; 4 stars out of 4) from the latest wave of dark police dramas is what separates Luther from any of those cops: Idris Elba. The outstanding Elba broods like no other actor, and adds nuance to the series beyond the excellent writing of series creator Neil Cross and his team.
I've been hooked on "Luther" since 2011, when the intense detective first rumbled onto my screen with his exemplary police work and inability to find happiness outside the job. He's incapable of creating a proper work-life balance, as a former boss of mine calls it. I can totally identify with that—even if I'm not dealing with some of the most twisted killers on TV.
Like the show's second season, the new one offers just four episodes over four nights**, but I didn't feel cheated. It gets darker, scarier and more captivating with each episode as Luther matches wits with killers and cops alike. Suspicions about his tactics have led DSI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird), newly promoted to the internal investigation unit, to team up with DSU George Stark (David O'Hara) and launch a secret inquiry. With Luther's trusted ally DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) having his own doubts about his mentor, Luther is on his own.
He finds a glimmer of happiness in a budding romance with shopkeeper Mary Day (Sienna Guillory), but we all know that won't last. Mary's "a daydream of the life you imagine you want to live," one ally tells him.
Luther can't be happy, because where would that leave us? Like that mysterious friend of his, we prefer him flawed, on the edge and alone.
* I'm posting this review kind of early so you can all have a chance to watch the the first two seasons—10 episodes total—before starting the new season. Not that you have to, but you'll wish you had. Find them on Netflix or rent the DVDs.
** The new season of "Luther" airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3; 8 p.m. Sept. 4; 9 p.m.Sept. 4 & 5, all on BBC America.
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