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Series / Luther

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Stringer Bell becomes a bobby, or Idris Elba actually plays a character from the same city as he is.

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 and returned with a two-part special in December 2015. A four-part fifth season screened at the very start of 2019. A film sequel, Luther: The Fallen Sun is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on February 24, 2023, and on streaming platforms on March 10.

A Russian version called Klim made it to air by Channel One, but a planned American version seems to have stalled, with no news since March 2015 due to problems in finding a suitable actor to play as Luther.

A South Korean version has been broadcasted by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, known as Less Than Evil.

A prequel novel, Luther: The Calling, has also been released, as has Murdah Loves John, a Concept Album produced by Elba that uses music to reflect the mindset of the title character.

After years of discussion, a feature length movie Luther: Fallen Sun released in 2023 on Netflix, acting as a continuation of the series following its conclusion in 2019.

Not to be confused with Disney's Zeke and Luther, nor with the 2003 film Luther (about Martin Luther), or that bald bad guy they're always cutting a big ol' check for.

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 Millberry a lighter. If Luther can guess the number, Millberry deactivates the switch. But Millberry 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.
  • Action Prologue: What opens most episodes and indeed the series itself: a man is being pursued through an abandoned industrial factory by a big Scary Black Man when he's finally cornered, we get the setup; this is DCI John Luther, and he hunts the worst of London, wherever they may go.
  • 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 a hat pin 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.
  • All There in the Manual: The novel — Luther: The Calling by series creator Neil Cross — serves as a prequel to the first series; the main focus is on the Madsen case (of which the climax is the first scene of the first episode) but it also sheds light on the breakdown of Luther's marriage and Ian Reed's corruption. Plus, we get to hear Luther's theory on who Jack the Ripper was. It was originally thought that Cross would write at least two more Luther novels, but they never materialised.
  • Always Murder: Being kidnapped tends not to end well.
  • 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. Being a colleague of his isn't exactly good for your life expectancy either. 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.
    • And in Series 5 when Benny gets shot.
  • Ax-Crazy: Many of the killers come across as this, but the standout examples must be the Millberry twins, who view life as a video game where they gain more points the more people they murder, and definitely David Robey, who loves hurting and killing people and is characterized by his immense sadism.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: Alice Morgan serves as this for the series overall as John Luther’s archenemy.
    • Ian Reed for Series 1
    • Baba for Series 2
    • DSU George Stark for Series 3 with Tom Marwood as the Bait-and-Switch Boss.
    • Steven Rose serves as the Arc Villain in Series 4.
    • David Robey, a wealthy millionaire and a serial killer for The Fallen Sun.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Jeremy and Vivien Lake in Series 5
  • Big "NO!": Ian Reed gives one after he accidentally shoots Zoe during a Gun Struggle.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Jeremy and Vivien Lake are into BDSM and are sadistic serial killers.
  • Book Ends:
    • Alice confronts Luther on a bridge at the end of the very first episode. In the Series 3 finale, Luther meets up with Alice on the same bridge so they can run away and start new lives together.
    • The first episode of Series 1 shows Luther letting serial killer Madsen fall from great height. The ending of Series 5 has Luther desperately grabbing Alice to stop her falling. She chooses to stab Luther’s hand and drop, though.
  • 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.
  • Blown Across the Room: Tom Marwood must have the most powerful shotgun in England.
  • 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. The fourth series had only two episodes, but the fifth is set to be back up to four.
  • Broken Bird / Troubled, but Cute: Jenny Jones.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Quite literally Cameron's final plan, as he thinks making a bus full of schoolchildren disappear will give him the infamy he craves.
  • Celebrity Paradox: John Munch made an appearance in The Wire, which features Idris Elba as Stringer Bell, and is referenced here.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • 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 backseat 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.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Alice's appearances in Series 2 are greatly reduced and scarce.
    • Same again with Series 3. Justified in both cases, as she was incarcerated for the second series and travelling during much of the third series.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Defied and Deconstructed in a Series 1 episode when John tries to pick Alice Morgan's brain for insight into the killer in one of his cases, she points out that she doesn't suddenly gain the ability to understand other people just because one is a killer like her (allegedly), explaining that, ultimately, this criminal's mindset is as alien to her as it is to Luther or, indeed, as any human's mindset would be to her.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • 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.
  • Cowboy Cop: Luther.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Monotone: George Stark speaks with one.
  • Creepy Twins: Series Two has Robert and Nicholas Millberry, the very eerie twin killers in the third and fourth episodes.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Pell does this to Ripley.
  • Dating Catwoman: Luther and Alice approach it.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: DSU Rose Teller.
    • Erin has her moments.
  • 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.
  • Didn't See That Coming: In episode six. Reed overpowers Luther and probably thought he could escape, until Alice announces herself, standing behind Reed and wielding his own shotgun. His only response is a blank "Are you...?".
  • Dirty Cop:
    • DCI Ian Reed is revealed as one in the fifth episode of the first series.
    • Frank Hodge from the second series used to be The Mole for a human trafficking ring, but by the time we meet him he's left the police and gone to work for them full time.
  • Distressed Dude: In the second series, Justin Ripley gets kidnapped and tortured by Cameron Pell.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Graham Shand ends up getting killed by the wife he neglected for years after the full extent of his depravity is revealed.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Mark, so much so that one suspects he's putting on an act to manipulate Zoe into choosing him over Luther.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • 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 Suicide by 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.
  • 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 Series 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).
  • Fate Worse than Death: Discussed by Alice in episode six. Luther thinks a lifetime of prison is the worst thing that could be done to Reed. (See To the Pain below.) Alice bluntly dismisses it — death is 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.
  • 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.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Luther and Mark in Series Two.
  • First-Name Basis: John and Alice start calling each other by their first names a lot earlier than they should. All other villains use Luther's last name.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Alice and Luther have this, a lot!
  • 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...
  • Friendly Enemy: Alice and Luther again. Although Luther insists that one coffee does not make them friends.
    • In episode five, he calls her and she comes running to meet him in a church. Where she renews his faith in humanity... with a murder she committed. Oh, Alice!
    • As of episode six, she's the only one he can turn to. Luther, on the run for the murder of his wife, enlists her aid in exacting revenge against Reed.
  • Freudian Excuse: The sniper in episode two believes he's got one. So does Alice.
  • Genius Bruiser: Luther is large, can take a beating, and throw a good punch. He can also exchange ideas on logic and philosophy with a genius sociopath.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Luther has a temper. But is a good cop. But he will allow a serial killer to drop to his death. And choke a defenseless woman — albeit one who is evil.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation:
    • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Henry Madsen serves as this for Series 1 as the overarching threat/Arc Villain through the first four episodes that risks John Luther’s career
    • Alice Morgan is an unseen/presumed dead variant for Series 4 as she influences Luther’s arc
  • 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.
  • The Heavy: Alice Morgan serves as this for Series 1.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to Luther after he lets Madsen fall, potentially to his death.
  • 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.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The normally perceptive Luther assumes that his long-time friend Ian Reed is turning Vigilante Man. He's actually a Corrupt Cop trying desperately to cover his tracks.
  • 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.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: If you ever betray Luther, Alice will kill and eat you. She was probably joking. About the second part.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Insane Troll Logic: George Stark seems to operate on this. When Luther asks a suspect to come into the police station to have his fingerprints taken, and said suspect puts his hand in a blender to destroy the evidence, Stark accuses Luther of putting him up to it because... Luther likes to help murderers escape justice, apparently, even though this is something he's never shown any sign of doing before. Later on he's accused of being in league with Tom Marwood, because he didn't stop him getting away even though Tom had him at gunpoint, and John had no weapons or backup. He even accuses Luther of using Tom to kill Ripley (John's best friend) and try to kill Mary (John's girlfriend) because... reasons?
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted — beating up Owen Lynch leaves Luther with one hand in a cast.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Jeremy Lake from Series 5 uses an illuminated clown mask as a disguise.
  • Merciful Minion: Ian Reed pretends to be a dirty cop to get to a ritual killer for Luther. Painfully subverted later, though.
  • The Movie: Luther: The Fallen Sun was released in selected cinemas on 24 February 2023 and will be available for streaming on Netflix on 10 March 2023.
  • Murder by Inaction: The biggest source of blackmail against Luther comes from the opening scene in the pilot, when a child molester nearly falls to his death while fleeing capture. Instead of helping the molester back on his feet, Luther lets the man fall to his death.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Into the back of a car, no less. Just after someone else got out of the same back seat.
  • 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 or rock 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.
  • 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.
  • Post-Script Season: Series 3 was suppose to be the final season, but the BBC decided to commission a two part special in 2015 to properly send the show off.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Invoked with DS Ripley, who has shades of this. He read all of Luther's files and his loyalty helps Luther multiple times.
  • Psycho 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.
  • 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.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Luther, Alice, and Mark are this by the end of Series 1.
  • 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 Series 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.
  • Reverse Whodunnit
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • 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.
  • Russian Roulette:
    • Luther forces a Villainous Breakdown from Owen Lynch, but then has an Oh, Crap! moment when Owen empties all but one bullet, from his snub nose 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.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Used to murder Ian Reed.
  • Scotland Yard:
    George Cornelius Sorry, mate, who are you again?
    DCI John Luther Police.
    George Cornelius Which police?
    DCI John Luther The police.
  • Scary Black Man: Luther came across this in the opening minutes of episode one while chasing the serial killer with a penchant for killing children. And, well, a lot of the rest of the time.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Alice.
  • Serial Killer: Pretty much once an episode, starting with the one who Luther allows to fall off a catwalk in the first five minutes.
  • Series Fauxnale:
    • The series was originally going to end after Series 3 with John Luther and Alice Morgan “walking into the sunset together” however the series was renewed for a two part fourth series and, a few years later, a fifth and final series.
    • Series 5 serves as this as The Movie, Luther: The Fallen Sun, continues the storyline following the end of Series 5. The series ends with John Luther finally being arrested for his corruption, seemingly ending his story with his comeuppance. The Fallen Sun continues the story.
  • Ship Tease: Aside from Luther having this regularly with Alice, and later Mary, Justin gets some with Erin Grey near the end of the series. sadly he gets killed before anything can happen.
  • Shout-Out: A sociopathic killer with the last name Morgan? Where have I heard that before? It's a bit of a stretch; but even before that one...
  • 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.
  • Sitting on the Roof: Luther.
  • 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 take downs 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.
  • Son of a Whore: serial killer Paul Ellis, of Series Three.
  • Spoiler Opening:
    • Ruth Wilson returns to the opening credits for the final episode of Series 3, before Alice has reappeared onscreen.
    • Subverted in Series 5, when Ruth Wilson is omitted from the opening credits for episode 1 despite Alice reappearing at the end of the episode.
  • Spring-Heeled Jack: Cameron Pell is revealed to have had a lifelong obsession with the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack, to the point his parents sent him to see a psychiatrist. Following failing as an art student, desiring attention he aims to become a mythical boogieman like Spring-Heeled Jack and Jack the Ripper, donning a Mr Punch mask and going on a killing spree, believing it will immortalise him.
  • 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.
  • Suicide by Cop: Reed at the climax of episode six. Of course this may have been a result of Alice cheerfully informing him of his other options with a bright cheery smile on her face. A true Suicide by Cop is Tom Marwood's eventual exit plan. For a minute he thinks it will work.
  • To the Pain: Alice when threatening Zoe.
    Alice (holding a hatpin 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.
    • Also Alice vs. Ian Reed.
    Alice: He thought the humiliation of prison would be worse — the beatings, the rapes, the incessant fear for your life, but I told him, "No John, you're wrong." Dying would be worse. Because well, honestly — it is, isn't it?
  • Token Evil Teammate: Alice is this to Luther from the final episode of the first series onwards.
  • Undying Loyalty: Alice and Justin to Luther.
  • 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.
    • Look up Unfettered in the dictionary and you will find Alice Morgan smiling right back at you.
  • Unholy Matrimony: One is at the center of Series 5.
  • 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 resolved. John finally decides to leave London with Alice in the Series 3 finale, but whether they remain frenemies or become lovers is initially left up to the viewer's interpretation. Series 5 flashbacks confirm that they were lovers, at least briefly.
  • Vigilante Injustice: The second half of Season three see's John Luther go up against Tom Marwood a vigilante who broadcasts his murders on the internet, giving his audience a chance to vote whether they deserves to die. Whilst initially sympathetic considering he was failed by the police over his beloved wife's brutal rape and murder, it soon becomes clear that underneath Tom's protected image of a heroic moral crusader he is truthfully an unstable, attention obsessed hypocrite with a massive Never My Fault complex. Its not long before he's descends into killing innocent civilians simply for being in the way of his crusade. By the end he's further deteriorated into threatening to rape and kill a completely innocent woman himself. Sergeant Justin Ripley calls him out in the final confrontation that his actions have accomplished nothing but ruining more innocent lives and that his philosophy can only get people killed.
  • 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?!
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: The perpetrator in the second episode of Series One.
  • 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.
    • In episode five, Reed of all people.
  • "What Now?" Ending: Each series (or at least the first three). In fact, they end with Luther or Alice saying "Now what?" or "So, now what?", respectively.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: After Luther refuses to let him commit Suicide by Cop, Reed pulls a knife and stabs Luther then kicks him along the ground screaming, "NOW LOOK WHAT YOU'RE MAKING ME DO!"
    • 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.
  • Wunza Plot: He's a Cowboy Cop with rage issues. She's a psychopathic killer. The other he is a hapless, sensitive lawyer who distrusts both of the above. And later, a teenage sex worker with a crappy mom.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Luther The Fallen Sun