Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
2 January 2019updated 03 Aug 2021 11:10am

Luther is as theatrically gritty as ever

Outrageous and flamboyant murders? Check. Creepy clown masks? Check. Gruff one-liners? Check.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Luther has become burdened by its own success. The BBC’s theatrically gritty portrait of a rain-slicked London and its criminal underworld, always put to rights by down-to-earth man’s man DCI Luther, catapulted the career of Idris Elba and gave a thoroughly deserved boost to Ruth Wilson for her turn as charismatic, unpredictable killer, Alice.

It’s nearly a decade since the show started and there have been a number of sidekicks for Luther, all manner of absurd murder plots, and several major character deaths, each less impactful than the last. Perhaps it’s been hard to pin down Elba and Wilson at the same time – Luther only makes it to air every few years (it’s four since the last season), often doing so without Alice, an enormous part of the show’s dynamism.

What a relief, then, to see her return in the new series – supposedly from the dead. (Alice was ostensibly killed off, but as fans of murder mysteries and Game of Thrones know, if a character dies off screen, they almost certainly didn’t die at all.) Luther’s new DS is played by Wunmi Mosaku, who has racked up a number of British TV roles as a concerned but assertive “supervising” figure in Kiri, The End of The Fucking World, and Black Mirror. Here she is given the space to do something different – she seems younger than ever, clever, and both vulnerable and brave.

Luther is back to his old ways, gruffly delivering lines such as “Tell the Spice Girls to back off” in his first five minutes on screen. The murders are still outrageous and flamboyant: episode one alone contains a body perforated with nails, a creepy sexual therapist and a take on Agatha Christie’s 4.50 From Paddington using two east London night buses. Who knew our capital city teemed with so many violent sexual deviants wearing clown masks? 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. Your guide to the best writing across politics, ideas, books and culture - both in the New Statesman and from elsewhere - sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
A better future starts at home
How to create an inclusive workplace and embrace neurodiversity
Universal Credit falls short of covering the bare essentials. That needs to change

This article appears in the 02 Jan 2019 issue of the New Statesman, 2019: The big questions