The best show you’re not watching

Stringer Bell turns cop? Yup, it's about as awesome as you'd expect.

Stringer Bell turns cop? Yup, it’s about as awesome as you’d expect.

The third – and likely final – season of the BBC’s cop drama, Luther, is now wrapped up. If you haven’t seen Luther, here’s five reasons why you should check it out.

1. IDRIS ELBA. Idris Elba hit mainstream consciousness with his turn as Stringer Bell in the amazing American series The Wire, since popping up in films such as Thor, Pacific Rim and Prometheus. Elba’s Bell was a smooth-talking business student intent on helping his drug dealing partner Avon Barksdale go legit. Stringer is self-assured, intelligent, calculating, even-tempered. Elba’s Luther, the title character, is none of that. His life is a wreck professionally and privately. His passion and temper have driven away his wife and alienated most who would or could call him friend. His brilliance as an investigator is never denied, but he is a nightmare politically and tends to work in the gray areas on the fringe, a positioning that makes him a target of those who live and work strictly by the book.

What strikes me every time I watch Elba is how he physically inhabits John Luther. Luther wears his emotions in his gait, in his face. When the trail is hot and the evidence is fresh, Luther stalks the bad guy, a muscular predator tensed, ready to pounce. When he fails, when someone dies and he could have prevented it, the life is sucked from him, his trademark 3/4-length jacket just a husk on a desiccated, lifeless, drained soul. Luther’s body language and facial expressions are so honest, so of the moment, that when Luther occasionally does resort to some sort of subterfuge, it’s shocking.

What most saddens me about the end of Luther is that I won’t get to see Elba continue to evolve and own this role. Sad.

2. THE CRIMES. I won’t ruin any of the crimes Luther investigates, because it’s part of the fun seeing the investigations unfold. That said, they’re a step-up from the pedestrian plots of shows like CSI and Law & Order.

3. THE STORY. The crimes are just a front, though. What Luther is really about is how John Luther’s handling of said crimes affects him and those who work with him, care about him. Luther’s ruthless dedication professionally matches the passion of his friendships and romantic interests. And while that makes him interesting, that passion is ultimately his failing. It blinds him, it drives him relentlessly and destroys many of those around him. It paints a target on him, both for those who would see him fail and for those whom he encounters in his work.

4. JUSTIN. Played earnestly by Warren Brown, Justin is hard to pin down. Often, he seems the loyal and more even-tempered counterpart of Luther. But at times, his loyalty is to be questioned. Justin is the young cop trying to find his way, a little naive, but smart enough to understand that following Luther blindly could be the end of him. Is Justin with Luther or against him? Only time will tell.

5. THE AWESOMENESS THAT IS RUTH WILSON. British actress Ruth Wilson plays sociopath Alice Morgan, the one criminal who evades Luther’s investigative prowess. In the process, Alice gains a an appreciation for Luther. Alice has no morals, but she is fascinated by Luther’s strong moral dedication. She admires him for it. And in that, an unlikely bond is formed between lawman and lawbreaker. It’s a relationship that hangs over the show, even when Alice is nowhere to be seen.

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