Idris Elba is back in his second best role on television as Luther - his best was Stringer Bell on The Wire, so you can see how highly I regard Luther. Its first season was scalding, pull-no-punches, brilliant guts-in-your-face British detective work, with twists and turns that kept your heart in your mouth and your seat on the edge, and the second season was almost as good.
The third season - a short one, just four episodes on four nights this week - is off to a great start. Luther is typically not only hunting psychos and vicious killers but is the target of what we here in the US would call an Internal Affairs investigation himself. Not only that, but the cops investigating Luther have enlisted his loyal partner DS Ripley - not completely believable at first, but making a depressing, infuriating sense by the end of this first episode.
And not only that, but Luther's opponents are no dummies or cartoon-stupid police. When Ripley realizes that Luther might be suspicious of Ripley being in a car with DSI Erin Gray, the high level inspector who is one of the two leading the investigators against Luther, Erin starts snogging (one of my favorite British expressions) with Ripley. A smart move.
And, typically and excruciatingly, the investigation into Luther not only endangers him, but the people he's trying to save - that is, the victims of the stone cold killer Luther is investigating. Luther manages to put a call into a couple who are about to be attacked, to warn them - but he's interrupted by Ripley's badgering and his phone is left hanging. A few minutes later, we see the devastating results.
What makes Luther stand out, in addition to Idris Elba's deftly powerful performance, is the way almost no one bars any holds. So the most memorable scene in tonight's episode probably goes to another suspect, another killer, but not a bad person, who, receiving a call from Luther asking him to come in the next day so the police can get his fingerprints, put his fingers into a blender. One way of not worrying about any fingerprints you may have left at the scene.
Not for the faint of heart, but for anyone who likes a story unafraid to confront human nature in all of its depths.