The Rear-View Mirror: Luther (2010)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Look, I get it. Luther is no longer the same now, compare to its first season in 2010. We still get to see Idris Elba playing the lead, his loyal sidekick DS Justin Ripley, gruff DSU Martin Schenk, Benny Silver and many other cool names that turn up for a few episodes or a whole season, like Saskia Reeves, Rose Leslie, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Indira Varma or Sienna Guillory. But since Alice Morgan dropped out of DCI John Luther’s life (and Ruth Wilson out of the series), something is missing.

And didn’t Ruth Wilson just play her to perfection. There was that constant dance between Alice and Luther, sometimes with knives drawn, sometimes like a flirt. They could break up as many times as they wanted, one of them would seek the other one out sooner or later. It worked like that even when Luther’s wife Zoe was still around, but it didn’t need that kink because it was all chase and no catch.

And now we are left with Luther at the centre and an Alice-shaped absence in every episode. Yes, Luther is interesting because he is smart and brave and tries to get the job done, but there is a voice at the back of his head that tells him that maybe he is not such a noble man, that he would really rather cut corners and endanger Ripley and others in order to catch the baddies. Alice Morgan held a mirror up to him; she seemed to say: “As long as you are fascinated by me, you are not entirely good.” Luther is flawed, but he is afraid of finding out that he might be unsuited for the badge, and that might just crush him.

So what to do? Sometimes it feels like work to keep watching Luther because the cases get sillier and sillier. Most of them start out risky, like the guy who throws dice in front of a gas station to find out who needs to die and who will live, but it turns out he has a twin brother, and they both have a knack for gambling, and that is where lose interest because the story lets its own improbability shine through for too long. That weakness always had a cover in that the series could cut back to the Luther and Alice angle. Both have blood on their hands, but it was intriguing to see how they both reacted in the face of the option of becoming better human beings. We seem to know one possible answer for Alice Morgan; for John Luther, the jury is still out.

The Rear-View Mirror will return every Friday, looking further and further into the past. Fasten your seatbelts: it may just be a bumpy ride.

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