Via Jeremy Mongeau, Stuart Heritage of the Guardian has written a spectacular review of Idris Elba’s BBC crime procedural Luther (which just started its second series in England, and whose first series played on Showcase earlier this year).
It’s a positive review, but makes the show sound deranged and crazy – because it sort of is. The Wire, the show Elba is most associated with, was the show that tried to avoid over-the-top crime-show Tropes™. This show sometimes seems lik the reverse; as the first series went on, creator Neil Cross took the typical unrealistic elements of gory cop procedurals – the brilliant hero with a problematic past, the creatively gruesome corpses, the this-time-it’s-personal twists – and instead of trying to disguise or paper over the implausibility, ratcheted them up to almost mythic levels. A sample from Heritage’s review – but read the whole thing – suggests that this continues in the second batch of episodes:
There’s a policewoman straight from the school of suspicious colleagues. There’s a hard-drinking mother of a prostitute. There’s the prostitute herself, who can’t work out which role from The Black Swan she’s supposed to be ripping off. And then there’s Alice, played by Ruth Wilson. It’s Alice who dances closest to the precipice; a cartoonish, lip-licking, sibilant psychopath who should be laughed out of every scene she’s in but manages not to be purely through the strength of Wilson’s conviction.
However improbable you may find Luther, you have to admire its audacity. It represents storytelling on a scope that isn’t often attempted in this country. It makes London look beautiful. And the last few minutes of tonight’s episode will grab you, force you to the end of your seat, give you about 12 consecutive heart attacks and then drop you at precisely the right time. Sincerely, I’m thrilled to have it back.
Most crazy shows are sort of accidentally crazy, which is mostly fun in an MST3K, ironic sort of way. You can make fun of Criminal Minds‘ bloody, serial-killer-filled fantasy world, but the show has a ploddingly realistic core; it thinks it’s trying to be plausible. One of the U.S. shows that has a willingness to truly, consciously risk being insane is Fringe, but that’s a science fiction/fantasy show, and we sort of expect craziness from shows with shapeshifting Senators. Luther is more of a regular cop show, but it’s a much more wild ride than the description would suggest.