When it comes to crime series, the Brits do it best
A man in a suit and overcoat frantically runs up industrial stairs in an abandoned warehouse, going higher and higher until his progress is stalled by a red padlocked metal door. We later discover his name is Henry. Behind him stalks the shape of a hulking man, in a winter coat with a hoodie. Once the stalker reaches him, there is a moment when they just look at each other. The camera zooms in so close you can see the sweat on the upper lip of the running man. As Henry steps forward to confront his pursuer, a piece of the metal walkway he’s on gives way and he grabs the edge to stop from falling to the ground.
The pursuer is Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) John Luther of the Serious Crime Unit, played by British actor, DJ and musician Idris Elba. The scene ends with Henry tumbling to his death and Luther looking on, seemingly unconcerned about the fact that he could have saved Henry, who was a serial killer.
When Luther came out on telly, I didn’t get the chance to watch it, which is why, when I got Showmax, it was one of the first series I watched. There is something about British television, especially crime series like Luther, and Sherlock starring Benedict Humperdink, that draw you in. There is a darkness and a violence in the characters that I find strangely appealing — which may say more about me than the show itself. John Luther is obsessive and, at times, violent in a way that makes hard to love him completely. But it is also difficult to hate him, because he does what needs to be done to get his man or woman, in a tragic world with evil lurking in the shadows. As he sinks deeper into the darkness, you slide with him, all the while questioning whether there is another way.
The backdrop to Luther (and Sherlock) adds to this slide into the proverbial abyss. London is a city that, while vibrant, is often depicted as sombre, with wet-concrete-coloured clouds perpetually hanging over the city that adds to the overall feel of both series. But the multiplicity of the characters and the writing is top notch. Also, the series are structured more like mini-series than the traditional (American) format of 13 to 26 episodes. Season 1 (2010) of Luther has 6 episodes, season 2 (2011) has 4, season 3 (2013) has 4 and season 4 (2015) has 4. Each episode runs for close to an hour but doesn’t feel drawn out at all.
Word is that there is a season 5 in the pipeline to start shooting next year. I can’t wait. While I still enjoy programming coming out of the US, which dominates all our screens, big and small, the British have much to offer when it comes to the making of series, and their actors continue to do great work in Hollywood.
Originally published at Showmax Blog.