Written by Jen Offord

Arts

Why I (kind of) ❤️ Luther

The brooding, complicated detective is back on the small screen tonight. Jen Offord explains her conflicted relationship with Luther – and Idris Elba.

DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) ponders the mysteries of his local laundrette opening hours. Photo: Steffan Hill/BBC.

DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) tries to unravel the mystery of his local laundrette’s opening hours. Photo: Steffan Hill/BBC.

As the esteemed recipient of a 2:2 in contemporary history from the University of Sussex, I like to think of myself as something of a detective. This means I respect the work of another great one as much as the next person. When I first met John Luther back in 2010, I was hooked. A complicated, brooding genius with a history of mental health problems, and my God did that man know his way around a primary and secondary source – Luther was right up my street.

It was Idris Elba as the complicated detective, HAUNTED and yet strangely SEDUCED by all the darkness in his criminal underworld that finally made me bother to watch The Wire, several years after it was first recommended to me. The fact that he doesn’t exactly look like a bag of spanners probably also had something to do with it.

As Stringer Bell he had a similar effect on me, with the same dark complexity that you knew if you really went out with him, would make you cry quite a lot – but that’s how I like ‘em! Oh Stringer, you complicated bastard, a hustler in the Projects on a part-time accountancy course, with a very thinly veiled love of your partner in organised crime. SWOON.

The period after the first series of Luther was a giddy time: for Elba, as Hollywood came a-knocking, and in turn, for me. That was until I stumbled across a music video on YouTube for a song called Private Garden, and the relationship began to sour.

When Luther returned to my screen, I couldn’t help but think it was like they’d just made the first series again, but a bit shitter. Suddenly I began to notice how Luther shouted “NO!” a lot, sometimes several times in a sentence: “No, no, no, NO!”, for example. In fact, he’d actually be a really shit colleague, between this, the gross misconduct and all those laptops he throws through windows.

Why was he always running with his hands in his pockets? Even I could tell him that’d do nothing for his pace. And in the same way you don’t mind waking up in the stinky armpit of someone you’re fond of, but the stench of the man next to you on the bus is unacceptable, I began to wonder how badly the noose of that red tie he always wore must smell. In fact all his clothes must have been honking – he never changed them.

The only saving grace of the second series, really, was that he took his top off, but it was much harder to enjoy, having seen him rocking a denim waistcoat, dancing awkwardly while singing about accessing a lady’s foof. Even imagining he was singing about my foof couldn’t make the betrayal hurt less.

“Big Driis plays a man who can solve a crime on the basis of having simply looked at someone’s face, or sometimes even less evidence than that, remarkably believably. ”

I’ll be honest; my heart sank a bit when I saw the advert for the new series and my friends wetting their pants about it, on Facebook. So I decided to revisit Luther, in the name of research, and I was a little surprised by what I found.

There is no getting away from the fact that the first series is by far the best, even if the crimes didn’t get increasingly ridiculous, and he hadn’t gotten all Damien Rice about a teenager in the second series – that’s not sexy, either. But the first series – THE FIRST SERIES! It’s tremendous, it really is.

Big Driis plays a man who can solve a crime on the basis of having simply looked at someone’s face, or sometimes even less evidence than that, remarkably believably (apart from the shouting and laptop abuse, which any HR department would have real problems with). Erstwhile Hollyoaks date-rapist Warren Brown is adorable as the strait-laced yin to Luther’s yang: his loyal, devoted partner, Ripley. And the twist with DCI Ian Reed! Even watching it the second time, I didn’t see it coming.

Paul McGann – who doesn’t love Paul McGann? Especially when he’s being really far more understanding than anyone should be about their girlfriend making the beast with two backs with their ex-husband. And London! London, you shoot so bleakly and yet so beautifully. It’s almost like you’re a METAPHOR FOR LIFE!

Another brilliant thing about Luther is that it is a great lead role for a black actor in the UK, in the absence of so many other great roles. And there are some great female characters, too – strong, brilliant ones like, er, psychopath Alice Morgan played by Ruth Wilson, and the boss is even a woman in the first series.

Will the fourth series be as good? Probably not, but I probably still would, denim waistcoat or not. At least he’s got a new jacket if the advert is anything to go by. Christ knows he needed one – I’m pretty sure tweed needs dry-cleaning once in a while.

@inspireajen

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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen