Stringer Bell becomes a bobby.A BBC crime drama starring Idris Elba, about DCI John Luther, a police officer working for London's Serious Crime Unit, who's often at odds with others because of his unstable personality and ease with going outside the law to get the job done. The show ran over three seasons from May 2010 to July 2013.A prequel novel, Luther: The Calling, has also been released.Not to be confused with Disney's Zeke and Luther, nor with the 2003 film Luther (about Martin Luther.)
This series contains examples of:
Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Luther challenges Millberry to a roll of the dice. Nicholas Millberry has a Dead Man Switch and an explosive vest. Luther pours petrol over himself and hands Milberry a lighter. If Luther can guess the number, Millberry deactivates the switch. But Millbery has to deactivate the switch anyway to roll the dice, as he has Luther's lighter in his other hand. Luther (who is wired for sound) then tells the snipers where to shoot.
Affably Evil: Alice Morgan to a tee. After episode one she thinks she and Luther are friends. Of course, in episode one she murdered her parents and dog and threatened to shove an icepick in Zoe's ear, traumatizing her. But in episode two she gives Luther advice about his wife and goes for a coffee with him. Crosses over into Stalker with a Crush when she starts "helping" Luther by threatening his friends/family and smothering a bed-ridden man who could cause him trouble.
Anyone Can Die: Luther unfortunately has only a fifty percent success rate in saving the victim. And that's on a good day. Women get bled dry or gutted. Men get shot and wrapped in plastic. Towards the end of the first series, it's shown not even main characters are safe, as Zoe Luther and Ian Reed get Killed Off for Real.
Continues the trend in series 3 when Justin Ripley gets shot
Ax-Crazy: many of the killers come across as this, but the standout examples must be Robert and Nicholas Millberry. They view life as a videogame, where they gain more points the more people they murder.
Badass: Luther, Ripley, Alice Morgan, and Schenk are all badass in their own ways. Ripley has perhaps his most notable moment of badassness in the second episode of series 2, when after being tortured for days by Cameron Pell he immediately jumps back into the investigation as soon as he frees himself, and he and Luther are able to stop and arrest Pell without further violence. Also badass on Luther's part that he was able to stop any police from communicating with Pell, realizing that doing so would make Ripley expendable.
Batman Gambit: Luther's favourite tactic. His greatest asset is probably his ability to quickly grasp the psychology of the criminal du jour that he's facing.
Benevolent Boss: DSU Rose Teller seems to be one of these. Willing to play politics to allow Luther to do his job. Played with when Luther is expertly and convincingly framed for murdering his own wife. She cares for him, but also feels betrayed that he would do this, intensely guilty for bringing him back onto the job, afraid for the entire unit whom she's responsible for, and grieving since his wife was an acquaintance of hers. She goes to reasonable lengths to keep him alive, but doesn't hesitate to give the kill order when it becomes obviously necessary.
Schenk becomes this of S2 and S3 when Teller gets Put on a Bus between the first and second series.
Berserk Button: Luther, anytime someone threatens Zoe. When Zoe is murdered by Reed, Alice warns Luther that his temper is a weakness and Reed will use this to provoke Luther into attacking him (so he can be shot by CO19 snipers). Luther says it won't happen, but it nearly does anyway.
Stark and Erin target Mary as Luther's weakness in series 3, hitting the button in the process.
Beware the Nice Ones: Martin Schenk is perfectly polite and always speaks in a quiet, gentle voice, bordering on Warrior Poet with his carefully used figures of speech. But when he's interrogating someone, you don't want to be in the same room.
Bi the Way: Alice casually mentions that she wouldn't mind female "companionship" since she's in a woman's mental hospital but all of her options are psychotic.
Book Ends: Alice confronts Luther on a bridge at the end of the very first episode. In the series 3/show's finale, Luther meets up with Alice on the same bridge so they can run away and start new lives together.
Black and Gray Morality: One of the central focuses of the show. In series 2 Luther intimidates a witness and keeps him from testifying against Toby, to save Jenny even though he wasn't left with many choices.
Becomes a major theme in the third series when Luther comes under investigation by two cops. Both of whom could come under Black and Gray Morality.
The Book Cipher: In the series 2 finale, the numbers in a notebook are revealed to be this. The book they use to decipher is the Bible that Luther finds at the hotel room of the culprit.
Brand X: One episode has a generic knockoff coffee shop that's pretty clearly supposed to be Starbucks.
British Brevity: As per usual only six episodes in series one. The second series has just four episodes consisting of two two-part stories, as does the third.
In the final moments of the final episode of series one. After Reed had taunted Mark into agreeing with Alice, breaking a tiebreaker preventing Alice from blowing Reed away. Leaving a woman suspected of parricide, a cop suspected of killing his ex-wife and the ex-wife's boyfriend standing around a newly murdered Reed. To make matters worse Teller and the rest of the CID are about to storm the platform the three of them are standing on.
Luther: Now what?
In Series 2 Episode 1 Cameron pulls an Enemy Rising Behind by popping up in the backsteat of Ripley's car.
In Series 2 Episode 3 the killer has been captured, only he has an identical twin brother who is about to commence his own killing spree.
Cockfight: Between Luther and Mark, over Zoe. In episode two of series one, Mark lampshades it and says he's secure enough in his masculinity to not let Luther bait him like that, but he's actually somewhat mistaken in his assessment of the situation.
Co-Dragons: Baba from series two has two main lieutenants: her psychopathic grandson Toby and former Dirty Cop Frank Hodge.
In episode five of series one, Ripley is shown to still have the mugshots of the villains from episodes three and four on the walls of his cubicle.
In the first episode, Luther fakes a yawn during an interview with a bereaved relative, the idea being that yawning is only contagious to those with a capacity for empathy. Alice Morgan didn't yawn in response, thus telling Luther that her distress at her parents' murders was an act. While in conversation with Toby midway through series two, he again fakes a yawn and gets no reaction. This second test is never explicitly mentioned, but is a neat little bonus for viewers.
The coffee mug Luther was given in the first episode reappears at the end of the second episode of the second series, when Jenny Jones volunteers to make tea.
All three series end with the same line - "So, now what?".
In series 3 one of the postcards from Alice in Luther's flat has the Roadrunner on it.
He also still has the photograph of David Bowie Jenny gave him.
Crazy-Prepared: In episode six Alice helps Luther retrieve the Gun that Reed is going to use to set him up. We cut to a montage of her getting the necessary tools from her closet, as well as disguises. Also for a physics genius she knows more then Luther on how to properly clean a gun of evidence.
Deadly Delivery: A gang of home invaders looking to steal diamonds from a pair of white collar criminal who are about to leave the country turn up in an identical removalist van to the one that's just left. Thinking there's been a mistake, the man answers the door only to be struck in the face.
Death Seeker: A possible interpretation of Luther's behavior. Becomes much more apparent in series 2, when he starts his day with a round of Russian Roulette, loses Alice and already lost Zoe.
Defective Detective: Luther himself, who has anger problems and a seriously messed up personal life. Especially in series 2, where we see just how bad things have got when we see him sitting alone in his flat playing Russian Roulette early on.
Averted in episode two. Owen Lynch goes for this but a well-timed intervention from Luther stops him in time.
Ian Reed also considers this when he risks being exposed, but decides to go for Suicideby Cop instead. Luther sees through it, but Alice is more than willing to give him his wish.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Series two ends with Luther tying up most of the loose ends and eating ice cream with his Morality Pet, having gone through a whole lot of pain to get there. Series three ends with Luther running away with Alice - after the rest of his life has pretty much fallen apart.
Engineered Public Confession: In episode 6, Reed finally admits to killing Zoe when he believes Luther is about to kill him. Turns out Luther had a tape recorder in his pocket. Subverted on an earlier occasion when Luther uses an edited recording to make a kidnapper's girlfriend think her lover has refused to exchange her for a hostage.
Evil Counterpart: Series three's vigilante killer Tom Marwood is this for Luther. He represents the man Luther would be if he tossed aside all laws in the pursuit of justice, and he shows the innate problems of doing this, such as being forced into a confrontation with DS Ripley that leads to Ripley's death.
Femme Fatale: Every good detective needs one. Luther has one in Alice Morgan, who seems a nice flirty sort. Unless she doesn't like you, or you're a threat to Luther. Then she ends up being not so nice.
Face-Heel Turn: As of episode five, Reed has set in motion events that ended with multiple people dead and a woman gutted for diamonds. Then his attempt to cover it up led to the death of Luther's wife and Luther himself on the run as the prime suspect, set up by Reed.
False Reassurance: At the start of Season 2 Inspector Schenk becomes Luther's guvner, and insists there must be trust between them despite their past history. "No secrets, agendas, or Alice Morgan." Luther agrees. "No secrets or agendas." That same episode he visits Alice in the asylum and exchanges secret messages with her via an apple. (He ends up breaking the other two as well).
Finger in the Mail: Done with an added layer of Squick where the kidnappers cut out their hostage's tongue just to prove they're serious.
Foreshadowing: In episode three Reed makes a call to murdering Satanist Lucian Burgess offering to help him get away with murder, doing an excellent impression of a corrupt cop. It was all part of a sting. Turns out that Reed really is a corrupt cop...
Not that he was that sane in the first place, but when Owen Lynch finds out the truth about his father he doesn't take it well.
Linda Shand in episode four, once she learns how truly monstrous her husband Graham is.
Have You Told Anyone Else?: Ian Reed goes to tell the fence he's in cahoots with that his nephew has been tortured and murdered. He then asks the fence if he told anyone else about working with a Corrupt Cop. The fence is too distraught to suspect his motives, but it's no surprise when Reed strangles him with his tie.
High-Altitude Interrogation: Luther pulls this in the first episode of series three - it's unclear if he deliberately shoved the guy in the first place, but he takes advantage of the moment. It makes things very awkward for Justin, who's wearing a wire.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Luther tends to tower over most of the women he's seen with. Hilariously, in the pilot, Teller barely passed shoulder height. Same goes with him and Alice to a lesser extent.
Idiot Ball: In series 3, episodes 1 and 2, the husband in the second victim's house after hearing the cat in the attic, and then the girl from the nursing home who goes to investigate the mysterious banging upstairs.
I Know You Know I Know: In episode one, after Alice realizes this, she drops the facade of the distraught daughter and exchanges word games with Luther. Creepily, she likes that he knows and can't prove it. She knows he knows she murdered her parents and her dog. He knows she knows. But they both know he's got no proof. Also marks the beginning of their Foe Yay.
I Let Gwen Stacy Die: The death of his wife, Zoe, is responsible for much of Luther's angst in the second series.
Internal Affairs: Schenk tags along with SCU to keep an eye on Luther. He's a subverted case, since while he'll sack Luther without batting an eye, he also acknowledges him as a good man and brilliant cop. After Zoe gets killed, he's willing to accept that there are holes in the assumption of Luther's guilt.
Erin gets promoted to this between series 2 and 3.
Which, following the Munch Continuity Property, means that due to his appearance in one episode of The Wire, Luther and Stringer Bell are identical strangers.
Kick the Dog: We know that Alice is not a very nice person when she puts a round in both her parents heads. Shooting her dog in the head four times seems like overkill. Turns out she knows that normal procedure is to cremate the remains. And she hid the gun in the dog so she could collect the ashes and take it home as some sort of trophy of the crime.
Knife Nut: Alice leans towards this. She uses sharp objects to threaten Zoe, and has a favorite knife in her kitchen she uses for activities such as threatening to gut someone or when she needs to kidnap someone. Somewhat averted in that of the people she has killed so far, none have been killed with a knife.
Although she does use a nail (as in a hammer and a...) in a similar manner at the end of series 3.
London Town: The show is filmed in the British capital where it is set.
Love Makes You Evil: Knowing that Alice can't stand someone else getting credit for 'her' murder, Luther threatens to frame someone else for the crime Alice committed, unless she leaves Zoe alone. As he'd earlier accused her of not ever being able to understand love, Alice asks what's the use of love if it causes him to degrade the law he stands for.
Alice: "And you think I'm a monster. Love is supposed to dignify us, exalt us. How can it be love, John, if all it does is make you lonely and corrupt?"
Lampshaded in the Massive Attack song played over the title sequence.
Love is like a sin my love
For the ones that feel it the most
Malevolent Masked Man: Cameron Pell, the killer in the first two episodes of series 2, commits all his crimes while wearing a Mr. Punch mask.
Merciful Minion: Ian Reed pretends to be a dirty cop to get to a ritual killer for Luther. Painfully subverted later, though.
Murder By Inaction: The biggest source of blackmail against Luther comes from the opening scene in the pilot, when a child molestor nearly falls to his death while fleeing capture. Instead of helping the molestor back on his feet, Luther lets the man fall to his death.
Not So Different: Alice likes playing this card. Also put to good use by Luther in series one, episode two.
Odd Friendship: He's a hot tempered cop who solves murders. She's a genius physicist who got away with murder. She gives him supportive encouragement regarding his wife. He takes her out for coffee. In episode three of series one he goes to her as a sounding board regarding the case of the week and in episode six of the same series she gives Luther shelter and aid while he is on the run for the (framed) murder of Zoe.
On the Next: A very specific one. Each episode interweaves the closing credits with a thrilling montage of the next episode, usually emphasized by a well-known pop song.
The last episode of series 2 is the only episode ending without any added montage.
Series 1 and 3 ends with credits interwoven with the actual end of the series.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Luther has to disguise himself to steal the gun Reed planted at the crime scene. Alice points out that as a huge Scary Black Man, he's difficult to disguise. Luther replies that it's all about plausible deniability in court. Seen earlier when Luther dresses up in shades and an earwarmer beanie to assault Lucian Burgess. The idea is that Burgess should know exactly who assaulted him, so he'll panic and think Luther is setting him up when the latter carefully wipes blood off Burgess' nose.
The Plan: Two in a row by Lynch, to enable him to kill more police officers.
The street-beating of Mark North, Luther's Love rival. Alice gets the girls doing the beating to claim Luther sent them. Luther denies this, naturally enough. Only Zoe, his wife, believes him — and she has doubts. Then, when Alice tells Mark the truth and scares him into retracting his accusation, Zoe's faith in Luther is reaffirmed and she walks back into his arms. Which is almost certainly exactly what Alice had planned all along.
Luther seems to have done this in episode four, when he finds himself under investigation for the aforesaid attempted murder of serial child killer Henry Madsen. When Madsen wakes up from his coma his accusations place Luther's career in jeopardy. Luther visits Alice Morgan and informs her point blank he can never speak to her again due to this investigation. Her cries of 'No' at this news don't seem to surprise him. He's pretty much unleashing one killer on another — she murders Madsen to save Luther. A case of Luther pretty much pushing Alice's Berserk Button for his own benefit.
Of course it could also merely be a case of Luther intending one thing and bringing about another (much more horrible) result, as he is apt to do.
At least up until the last two episodes of series 1.
Post Rape Taunt: Part of Reed's taunting speech to Luther and Mark in episode six, in which he claims that not only was Zoe a slut but she enjoyed fucking him the most because he was her revenge on Luther.
Promoted Fanboy: DS Ripley has shades of this. He read all of Luther's files and his loyalty helps Luther multiple times.
Put on a Bus: Rose Teller. Even though it had some shades of foreshadowing, still a bit surprising when she's just not there in series 2.
Also Jenny Jones and Mark North after series 2. Mark makes some sense, as he was always sort of on the peripheral, but Jenny is very surprising, given that she was living with John, and the end of series 2 gave no indication she wouldn't be returning.
Red Herring: Alice puts in a single contact lens when carrying out her Sickbed Slaying, presumably so the police officer she speaks face-to-face with will remember this unusual detail rather than her actual features.
Retired Monster: In the first half of season three Luther meets former serial killer William Carney, now elderly and living in a nursing home. He has been mentoring younger serial killer, Paul Ellis,(the son of one of Carney's victims) into continuing his crimes.
Inspector Schenk is investigating Luther for corruption. He knows that Luther is a good cop who gets results, but he will bring him down for the unethical way he conducts investigations, and will live with the consequences of putting an effective and basically good cop behind bars. An attitude that Luther respects. He's also willing to accept that there are holes in the theory that Luther killed Zoe.
Rose Teller, too. She's behind Luther's back, but if necessary, she will put him in his place if there is need.
Romantic False Lead: Mark North is originally set up as this, but it's ultimately a subversion as the Love Triangle is rendered irrelevant after Zoe's death. By the start of series two, he and Luther end up as firm friends.
Luther forces a Villainous Breakdown from Owen Lynch, but then has an Oh Crap moment when Owen empties all but one bullet from his snubnose revolver and starts putting it to their heads and pulling the trigger. Eventually Owen is down to the last chamber and it's his turn — Luther decks him when he puts the gun to his head to commit suicide.
Luther is also seen doing this in the first episode of series two, to show exactly how bad his life has become now that Zoe is dead.
Sickbed Slaying: Alice disguises herself as a doctor, hits the fire alarm, and then tells the police officer guarding Henry Madsen that there's some violent patients on the floor below who are hindering the evacuation. She then walks into the room and smothers Madsen with her bare hands.
A true Suicide by Cop is Tom Marwood's eventual exit plan. For a minute he thinks it will work.
Smug Snake: Lucian Burgess. It makes you actually cheer when Luther sets him up.
Another standout example would be serial killer Cameron Pell. He receives one of the most satisfying takedowns on the show, with Luther thwarting him by proving that he's really just a Dirty Coward, and stopping him from "escaping into history" like he intended. Quite an entertaining Humiliation Conga.
Stalker with a Crush: Alice Morgan. She only wants to help Luther ... by having his wife's lover beaten by street thugs and killing a man who could cause problems for Luther.
Alice(holding an icepick to Zoe's ear): Your husband assaulted me. He touched me. Intimately. He made me do things. He hurt me because of you. And as he touched me he talked about you. He said you were dead. And you'd been very badly burned, your face was cut and your skin was gone. You'd been abducted off the street by a man. A very sick man. He kept you alive for days. He used knives. A blowtorch. He kept pieces of you for seven years. I'm worried...that someone might want to hurt you like that.
The Unfettered: Luther has a whatever-it-takes attitude to beating the criminals. He threatens serial killer Henry Madsen with the prospect of death unless he reveals where his latest victim is, and still lets him drop a couple stories to the ground after Madsen tells him. To keep Alice away from his wife he threatens to frame someone for the murder of her parents, denying her the narcissistic pleasure of being the center of their murder mystery. He also casually mentions that he will kill her if she persists in stalking his wife. The fact that he means it may be one of the reasons Alice likes him so much.
In episode three Luther finds himself up against a Smug Snake of a man named Lucian Burgess, who enjoys psychological torture and bleeding his victims dry. What does Luther do? He goes and visits another villain he knows, and over a friendly conversation Alice gives him the idea to change the playing field. So he beats Lucian bloody and uses the blood from the assault to trick Lucian into running to the crime scene.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: They may live on opposite sides of the law and at opposite ends of the moral spectrum, but Luther and Alice spend an uncomfortable amount of time taunting\confiding\flirting with each other. Also joking with each other and going into fits of rage over the others actions and comments. Many are waiting for inevitable hate sex to follow.
Ultimately played with. John finally decides to leave London with Alice in the series 3 finale, but whether they remain frenemies or become lovers is left up to the viewer's interpretation.
Rumors of a followup novel from Cross may end up closing the debate one way or the other.
Villainous Breakdown: Happens once an episode. Notably subverted when Reed pretends to be suffering this to lure Luther into a trap (fortunately Luther knows what he's up to). Probably the best example is when (on the advice of Alice) Luther deliberately engineers this in Lucian Burgess.
Burgess: Well, DCI Luther. First you umm...you assault me. YOU PUBLICLY-ASSAULT-ME! WHY CAN'T YOU SHOW ME SOME RESPECT?!
With Friends Like These...: In episode three, Alice, who considers herself Luther's new friend. She sends a gang of teenage girls to beat the stuffing out of Luther's love rival, Mark, to help Luther with his marriage woes. When this of course backfires and Mark points the finger at Luther, she fixes it by scaring the crap out of Mark, leading him to drop his accusations against Luther over the attack.
In episode four Alice pays Henry Madsen a visit after he wakes up. Madsen, who Luther let fall in episode one, is a threat to Luther because he keeps repeating his name, possibly accusing him of attempted murder. While Luther is not happy about what Alice does, he still covers up for her. Making one think it may have been his plan to set her off on Madsen all along.
This is how Marwood rationalizes his murder of Justin Ripley to Luther. In fact, he has a noticeable habit of avoiding responsibility - while still trying to claim credit.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The third episode of series two seems to resolve its main plot entirely, with Luther having captured the murderer before he can strike again. but in the episode's final moments, it's revealed that the killings were the work of a pair of Creepy Twins — and the other one's still out there.