"Why did I come here? 'Cause I wanted to tell you I know you kept the gun, and sooner or later I'll find it."
The titular character, Luther is a brilliant cop with some serious personal issues. After a case involving a child murderer ends with the culprit in a coma, Luther comes under intense scrutiny from the higher ups in the department, who are just waiting for him to screw up.
Anti-Hero: John is relatively good, but dangerous. John has proved that he will go beyond the law and beyond 'good' to do what he needs to ultimately.
Death Seeker: If he's not outright suicidal, he's got a major adrenaline addiction.
Defective Detective: A brilliant copper - whose personal life outside work is nonexistent and who frequently finds ways to put himself in life-or-death situations. The fact that Alice is his only 'confidant' says a lot.
Dirty Cop: Possibly the only heroic protagonist to be this. Luther's definitely one of the good guys, but he's also pretty corrupt, though not in the traditional, bribe-taking sense. No, he's dirty in the sense that he's willing to go to any lengths to secure justice (or protect his friends), no matter what proper police procedure or the letter of the law require. Which basically means that he's not above planting evidence on people who are clearly guilty, nor using extremely underhanded tactics to produce evidence, consulting with a murderer, or letting a child murderer fall to his death (though he didn't die, at least not by Luther's hand). Lastly, and probably most importantly, Luther is willing to help Ian Reed cover up all his crimes (murder, taking of bribes, conspiracy, etc.) out of friendship, until, of course, Reed kills Zoe.
Establishing Character Moment: Right in the pilot: The very first thing he does after he extorted important information from a kidnapper who was responsible for the death of several abduceted children - makes him fall down from a bridge. From there it's quite clear that this isn't your usual "by the book"-tv cop.
Hero with Bad Publicity: John is helping people but all the people he works with just see rage issues and unreliability...
Dude, Where's My Respect?: ...and yet, he manages to avert this trope. Everyone acknowledges that he's a brilliant cop - his boss responds with "he's back" when Luther sees through Alice in one conversation; Schenk admits that while he'll sack him on charges of improper conduct without blinking, he'll also do that to a good man and policeman; and Zoe immediately trusts him when told that she's in danger without any evidence at all, solely based on Luther being Luther.
Hot-Blooded: Alice warns him that this is his biggest weakness in the first season finale.
Limited Wardrobe: A rack of nigh-identical outfits is another sign of how much work dominates his life.
Magnetic Hero: Interactions with him inspire Alice's and Justin's Undying Loyalty to him. Also, in the last episode of the first series he manages to convince Mark North, who until their meeting thought he was the one who murdered Zoe, not only of his innocence, but also to help him with his plan to bring down Ian Reed.
Morality Pet: A loose one to Alice. He is the only person outside of herself that she cares for and is willing to curb her more bloody and self interested tendencies for.
Undying Loyalty: To Luther. First shown during Season 1 when Luther is framed for killing Zoe. and later in Season 3 when he refuses to sell him out to Stark and Grey, despite the pressure they force on him.
DCI Ian Reed
Played by Steven Mackintosh
Luther's oldest and closest friend on the force, Reed has some secrets of his own that he is doing his best to keep covered up.
An internal affairs officer investigating Luther in Series 1, Detective Superintendent Martin Schenk becomes Luther's boss in Series 2 & 3 as head of the new Serious & Serial Crimes Unit. He is dedicated to ridding the force of corrupt police officers, which to his dismay, may include Luther.
A new detective assigned to Serious & Serial Crimes in Series 2. She is distrustful of Luther from the start, and after several bad experiences with him and Ripley transfers to Internal Affairs, where she's partnered with George Stark as part of a plot to bring down Luther.
Revenge Before Reason: Even though she left the Serious & Serial Unit in disgrace, she was still allowed to be kept on the force and even got promoted to Detective Chief Inspector (the same rank as Luther), never the less she feels the need to go after Luther.
DSU (retired) George Stark
Played by David O'Hara
Do you know what your problem is? You've spent your whole life thinking you're the whirlwind. While you're not. I'm the whirlwind, John. I'm the whirlwind.
An obsessive internal affairs officer who was brought out of retirement in Series 3 for the specific purpose of bringing Luther down. In sharp contrast to the likes of Schenk, Stark is willing to break just as many rules as the people he is investigating, so long as he gets his man.
Cowboy Cop: Hilariously, Stark breaks just as many rules and plays just as loosely with the law as Luther.
Moral Myopia: When Luther violates procedure, it's bad. When Stark violates procedure, it's necessary.
Played by Ruth Wilson
The Black Hole to his Burning Sun
Luther: I'm coming for you.
Alice: Not if I'm coming for you first.
A narcissistic astrophysicist who managed to get away with killing her parents in the first episode of Series 1, Alice develops a twisted crush on Luther after he works out how she did it. Deciding that the two of them are friends, Alice repeatedly interferes in Luther's life, frequently making things worse in her attempts to "help" him.
For the Evulz: What could you say about a woman who murdered her two parents who raised her just to see if she could get away with it? She tends not to be restrained and seems amused about John and his morals.
The Mentally Ill: Alice's narcissism is treated as a mental illness rather than a personality flaw. Luther notes that it isn't her fault that she is what she is, and when she takes the rap for him at the end of Season 1, she ends up in a psychiatric facility, not jail.
Narcissist: Profiled by Luther as a malignant narcissist, a nasty form of narcissism that combines narcissistic personality disorder with traits of antisocial personality disorder, leading to grandiose behaviour, sadism, rationalized antisocial activities, and an inability to identify with any but the most powerful and sadistic of authority figures. That last part goes a long way to explaining Alice's identification with, and attraction to, Luther.
Odd Friendship: Considers Luther her only real friend. Also ends up spending a lot of time with Mark, who she initially hates out of loyalty to Luther.
An Afghan war veteran whose father was incarcerated for murdering a police officer in a brawl, Owen goes on a killing spree, targetting police men in an attempt at forcing them to free his father in the second episode of Series 1.
Abusive Dad: His father, Terry, emotionally and physically abused him, leaving him totally dependent upon his father's approval.
Driven to Suicide: Tries to kill himself at the end of the Russian Roulette game, but is stopped by Luther.
Freudian Excuse: He was abused relentlessly by his father. He served in Afghanistan and was discharged due to mental health problems. This caused his father to step up the abuse, leaving him the ruin we meet.
An owner of an occult bookshop who was investigated for murdering a woman ten years before, Lucien Burgess was beaten by the police, and parlayed that beating into a successful autobiography. A decade later, he tries to repeat his success, kidnapping another woman to replicate the pattern in the third episode of Series 1.
A former taxi driver and mechanic with erectile dysfunction, Graham Shand begins murdering young women when he discovers that his wife is cheating on him, using the rush he gets from the murders in order to get it up. His pattern of murder rapidly escalates throughout the fourth episode of Series 1, using his guise as a cabbie to locate victims.
Drop the Hammer: He normally kills by strangulation, but when prostitute Layla hides in the bathroom, he uses a hammer to break down the door. His wife kills him with it in the end of the episode.
Evil Is Petty: Graham is a fundamentally pathetic character, which his wife calls him out on in the end.
A professional criminal from the USA, hired by Tom Meyer to kidnap James and Jessica Carrodus in episode 5 of Series 1. He proves to be completely without scruples, maiming Jessica to make a point, and threatening to cut her apart piece by piece until the police give him the diamonds he wants.
An art student with a flair for the dramatic, Cameron Pell turns to murder in order to gain the publicity he wants, aiming to become a legend along the lines of Springheel Jack or Jack the Ripper. The hunt for him takes up the first half of Series 2.
Cool Mask: Wears a Punch mask and cannot bring himself to kill without it on.
Dirty Coward: Ultimately revealed as a coward and a weakling who cannot kill without his mask on.
Evil Is Petty: His ex-wife sums him up well, if ineloquently when she describes him as "a freaky little freak." For all his delusions of grandeur, Cameron is a pathetic, sad little man trying to gain notoriety.
Glory Hound: Looking to be famous, in the same way that his idols were.
Villainous Breakdown: Loses it when Luther ignores him during their last confrontation. It makes him less dangerous, rather than more, and he's practically sobbing by the time Justin knocks him out.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: If you believe his motive rants to Luther and Ripley, Cameron believes that he is going to shock the city of London out of its malaise and fix all of society's problems by giving them something to be really scared of. It's ridiculous, but he's not a mentally well man.
Would Hurt a Child: His master plan revolves around kidnapping fourteen children, killing them, and dissolving the bodies, creating a mass disappearance that he hopes will become legendary.
Played by Pam Ferris
A London crime boss and human trafficker who forces Luther to work for her by threatening Jenny and Caroline Jones. Her attempts at getting Luther to violate the law on behalf of her and her grandson, Toby, are a recurring plot thread beginning in the second episode of Series 2.
The Big Bad: Her plotline runs throughout Series 2, and drives almost all of Luther's actions that are unrelated to the specific cases he is working on.
Baba's psychopathic grandson, Toby is a gangster, a human trafficker, a murderer, and an attempted rapist. He acts as one of his grandmother's enforcers, and is without a doubt the most repulsive member of her organization.
Dirty Cop: Originally. By the time we meet him he's a retired dirty cop, and is working full time for Baba's human trafficking ring.
Even Evil Has Standards: Lectures Toby about how he's misunderstood their relationship with Luther when the latter dismisses the DCI as a dirty cop, falsely foreshadowing the latter's death, implying it will be at Luther's hands.
Karma Houdini: He has to leave town, but he's still not punished in any real way for his crimes.
The Rival: To Toby, whom he loathes but has to protect.
Robert & Nicholas Millberry
Played by Stephen Robertson
A pair of identical twin killers engaged in a game to see who can kill the most people with the most primitive weapons. With each kill, the brothers earn experience points, which they use to upgrade their arsenals, graduating to more lethal weapons and greater massacres. The hunt for them takes up the second half of Series 2.
Dead Man Switch: The bomb on Nicholas' chest is rigged up to one. If he dies and releases the detonator it goes off, killing everyone within a hundred foot radius. Getting him to deactivate the switch of his own free will is part of Luther's plan to stop him.
Disc One Final Boss: Robert is one within their arc, with his arrest serving to set them up for the appearance of Nick.
Drop the Hammer: One of the weapons they'll allow themselves to use as part of their game, using them to bludgeon people, smash windows, and vandalize cars.
Fatal Flaw: Luther tries to use the twins' need to play games against them. It fails against Robert (who rolls a different result than what Luther was hoping for), but succeeds against Nicholas, letting Luther maneuver him into a position from which he can be more easily taken out by snipers.
Final Boss: Nicholas is one for Series 2. He himself views Luther as one, who has to be defeated so that he can ascend to the "next level."
Hikikomori: Luther references the term when describing the total emotional isolation the twins have inflicted on themselves.
Knife Nut: Robert uses a knife to kill the three motorcycle couriers, and Nicholas uses one during his first attack in a shopping mall, wounding numerous people, and knifing one man to death onscreen.
Mad Bomber: Nicholas straps a bomb to his chest to force the police to leave him alone.
The Mentally Disturbed: Luther describes the twins as suffering from a "shared psychosis", and their total emotional withdrawal from society and unwillingness to make decisions without rolling their dice is indicative of something more than garden variety psychopathy.
The son of a murdered prostitute, Paul Ellis grew up to be a deeply disturbed man, who apprentices himself to retired serial killer the Shoreditch Creeper, picking up where the older man left off. He targets victims Carney missed, as well as several employees from the nursing home before being stopped by Luther. The hunt for him occupies the first half of Series 3.
Abusive Mom: His prostitute mother locked him in a closet so that he could watch her with clients. This left him very screwed up.
Freudian Excuse: His mother made him watch her with her clients; he then saw the Shoreditch Creeper torture, rape, and murder her. This has left him with a fundamentally broken attitude towards women, sexuality, and the world in general.
Would Hit a Girl: All his chosen victims are female, though he's willing to attack Luther and murder Craig Lane when they get in the way.
Played by Ned Dennehy
An old man in a nursing home, who is later revealed to have been the original Shoreditch Creeper (a serial rapist and murderer active from 1979-1983). Arrested for an unrelated murder, he spent twenty-five years in prison, and is now using his apprentice, Paul Ellis, to kill those he missed back then.
Even Evil Has Standards: He does seem genuinely angry about Paul's mother forcing him to watch her with her clients.
Evil Cripple: Reduced to being on an oxygen tank in his old age.
A vigilante who attempts to gain public support for his campaign by murdering criminals on the internet, giving his audience the chance to vote on whether they should live or die. He is the final antagonist of Series 3, and the show as a whole.
Cop Killer: Kills Ripley in Series 3's third episode. He then murders George Stark in episode four, and tries to kill both Gray and Luther.
Cruel Mercy: Luther saves his life so that he is denied martyrdom and trapped in prison with the very people he loathes.
Cynicism Catalyst: The murder of his wife, and the inability of the justice system to do anything about it. Though it ends up being quite subverted as he himself ends up with a very idealized view of the world that results in his rampage.
Vigilante Man: Realistically deconstructed after the attempt at lynching a paedophile fails he targets one other criminal without killing him and ends up killing police, targeting loved ones of police and prison doctors. All because they're in the way of his moral crusade and can't see that he's right.
Villainous Breakdown: Killing Ripley triggers one as he starts to slide from his idealized, heroic, moral crusader to just a rampage killer with a desperate need for approval
Luther's ex-wife's new boyfriend, Mark is a nice guy who finds himself pulled into Luther's increasingly screwed up world, as his relationship with Zoe draws anger from Luther, and worse from Alice Morgan.
A teenaged prostitute and porn star, Jenny is rescued from the control of Baba and her family by Luther, who allows her to live at his home. Baba and Toby both attempt to use her as leverage against Luther, forcing Jenny to grow up along the way.
The Cynic: She likes to think she is, though contact with Luther and Mark North softens her considerably.
The Dog Bites Back: When Toby tries to rape her Jenny drives a knife into the back of his head.