Luther

Luther
On the surface, Luther isn't anything particularly original. The brilliant but flawed detective has been done many times before, as has the investigator who is able to see through the eyes of the deranged because they are pretty close to deranged themselves. But fortunately, there are enough great performances and some very ingenuous plots that help elevate it from an already crowded marketplace. Much of the credit can be given to Idris Elba, who turns in a thoroughly convincing performance in the title role of Detective John Luther. Although those that have seen The Wire are already aware of his talents, he still gives a wonderfully nuanced turn that's sometimes better than the material. The other scene-stealer is Ruth Wilson, as Luther's current nemesis, Alice Morgan. While the relationship between the two characters is more than a little unbelievable, she's the perfect foil and their scenes together are a highlight of the six-episode first season. The same can't be said for Indira Varma, who plays Luther's estranged wife. That particularly fiery relationship feels clichéd and is only apparently there as a rather obvious plot element. The show owes a huge debt to Cracker, not only for Luther's ability to see the crime from the perpetrator's perspective, but also for the imaginative storylines that are so much better than the majority of the similar shows. The writing doesn't shy away from the grimier, gorier side of crime, but manages to stop short of sensationalism. It helps that there's a realism lacking from so many network shows in the U.S., where all the loose ends don't conveniently tie together with five minutes to go. Not every case ends successfully and there are enough genuinely shocking moments to ensure no episode drags. That makes Luther one of the more intriguing crime shows in the past little while, and the British "quality over quantity" approach prevents it from getting stale. The only extra included with the two disc set is a decent half-hour behind-the-scenes look at the show, which delves deeper than most token special features. (Warner)