Judge Jim Thomas beats the streets with a heat that's neat.
DS Justin Ripley: "What you're doing is wrong."
Arriving home from work, Emily Hammond walks through her apartment and has some dinner. She gets ready for bed, slipping out of her clothes. She hears something, but dismisses it as just ransom noise. Later though, as she sits on the edge of her bed, she halts, her eyes narrowing—was that a noise in another room? After a few uncomfortable moments, she relaxes and slides under the covers. A few minutes later, she's asleep.
And then the dark figure silently emerges from beneath her bed.
Welcome to the world of DCI John Luther (Idris Elba, The Wire), a brilliant, troubled cop in the Serious Crimes Unit. While Luther always gets results, his means are often questionable, and there are always consequences: His wife was killed back in Series One, more than a few cops think that Luther's on the verge of a breakdown himself, and the only person who understands him is a murderous psychopath.
Series Three is the last go-round for Luther, and there's certainly an air of finality to the proceedings, a sense of old sins coming home to roost. Part of that comes from the initial case—Emily Hammond is found with a wig, made up in the manner of the Shoreditch Creeper, who terrorized the area thirty years ago. As the case begins, Luther's partner/protégé Ripley (Warren Brown, The Dark Knight Rises) is confronted by DCI Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Coriolanus), a detective who crossed swords with Luther in Series 2. She takes Ripley to retired superintendent George Stark (David O'Hara, The Departed). For reasons known only to himself, Stark has come out of retirement for one last case: To put Luther behind bars.
Okay, let's get one thing out of the way: Do NOT attempt to make sense of the plot, that way lies madness. Luther has had multiple nervous breakdowns and yet is still on the force. Stark appears out of nowhere, with no backstory, a walking, talking plot device. Instead, just sit back and enjoy everything else—the crisp dialogue, the gritty feel of urban London, the sense of fetid despair permeating the air…but above all, just enjoy Idris Elba. The man is a force of nature, and I'll fess up to fanboy crushing on him hard. An actor with a tremendous physical presence, Elba needs to be in all the things. He needs to be in a special episode of Chef! as Gareth Blackstock's rival chef; he needs to be the next James Bond; Black Panther…I want to see him beat the shit out of The Expendables. He is so damn good he makes your teeth hurt. In one scene he can tear your heart out as he sits crumpled next to a victim; then he can turn boyish as he meets his new girlfriend Mary (Sienna Guillory, Resident Evil: Afterlife).
Elba's supporting cast, amazingly, do not pale in comparison. All turn in solid work, particularly Dermot Crowley as DSU Martin Schrek, Luther's boss—he has but a handful of scenes, but they are pivotal in establishing his support and concern for Luther—no small thing, since in the first series he was looking to take down Luther just as Stark is now. Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger) is back as Alice Morgan, the psychopath who only has eyes for Luther. She doesn't quite exude the save level of whackadoodle sensuousness that she brought to the first series, but part of that is that after three series, she's more of a known quantity.
Technically, the disc is solid. The 1.78:1 anamorphic standard def transfer is crisp and clear; while there are scenes that are a bit washed out, that appears to be intentional—a lot of processing was done to achieve the grim, gritty feel. Audio is only Dolby 2.0 Stereo, but it is solid; there are very few scenes in which surround sound would add anything. The only extra is a fairly perfunctory making-of featurette that doesn't really add much—though it is somewhat comforting to see that the rest of cast are just as in awe of Elba as the court.
At times, Luther: Series Three makes you want to tear your hair out. The twists and turns of the plot make no sense whatsoever, and the coincidences would make Charles Dickens blush with shame. But those faults are balanced by a rich atmosphere, sharply drawn characters, and above all, sterling performances, foremost of which is Idris Elba. It's a shame that the series has come to an end (assuming that Luther and Alice don't open a detective agency or something), though there are a rumors of a theatrical release that chronicles Luther's life right up to the beginning of Series One. If that's what it takes to get more Idrius Elba on my screen, I'm all for it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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