Starring: Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Ruth Wilson
First aired: 2010
Where you can watch it: Netflix, Amazon Prime
“Do you ever worry you’re on the devil’s side without even knowing it?” DCI John Luther (Elba) asks colleague Ian Reed (Mackintosh) while standing on the roof of the London police precinct, toes teetering off the edge of the building.
“No . . . so are you going to jump?” Ian inquires.
“Probably not,” Luther replies.
Ever at odds with the law and its ability to properly bring vicious felons, like murderer Alice Morgan, to justice, detective John Luther is notorious for being as passionate about his job as he is tormented by it. Created by novelist and scriptwriter Neil Cross—Crossbones (2014), and Spooks (2006), Always the Sun (2004), Burial (2010), and Luther: The Calling (2012)—the series follows Luther as he outwits villains, staggers through a deeply troubled home life, and fights time and again for his life and his career.
Fans of Elba from his portrayal of slick swindler Stringer Bell on The Wire (2002) (hopefully everyone on Earth) will revel in his depiction of Luther: a candidly flawed man with a perceptive grasp on the evil around and within him. His peers, also vividly realized, are equally haunted: Ruth Wilson’s performance as Alice Morgan, a murderous, obsessive, and un-incarcerated sociopath, is utterly beguiling. Warren Brown’s impossibly earnest DS Justin Ripley serves as an ideal moral foil to the often enigmatic and brash Luther. And Dermot Crowley’s DSU Martin Schenk is both refreshingly reliable and pragmatic.
Remarkably, the show largely avoids pitting good against evil in a conventional manner. Rather, as the pressure of one increasingly necessitates the other, viewers are frequently left wondering (like Luther himself): whose side are we really on? With murder, frame jobs, ethical dilemmas, desk throwing, and wall punching aplenty, all packed into seasons so short they demand to be binge-watched, what more could you possibly ask for?