You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Luther’

Idris Elba, Rose Leslie, Laura Haddock, John Heffernan, Patrick Malahide, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Darren Boyd

Luther” never got any better than it was in its first go-round, thanks to sparks that flew between Idris Elba and a pre-“The Affair” Ruth Wilson. Yet if the fourth installment, presented by BBC America as one long movie, has a certain rote quality to it — especially after the title character’s break from the grind last time out — there’s still fun to be had in watching Elba occupy this role, playing a troubled detective who has the misfortune to run across a lot of bad guys prone to committing truly sadistic, gruesome crimes.

Without giving too much away, it takes another personal loss — for a character that has already suffered a lot of them — to rouse Elba’s John Luther from his idyll and semi-retirement at a seaside cottage that looks borrowed from “Broadchurch.” Pretty soon, though, quite a lot is happening, with Luther not only investigating that personal matter but being drawn into the hunt for another serial killer, and working with a young detective (“Game of Thrones’” Rose Leslie), who obviously hasn’t heard about his track record with partners.

Finally, there’s Luther’s run-in with an old-school criminal (the always-reliable Patrick Malahide), who responds by ordering up a hit against him, so that you never know when someone will randomly try to off the title character; and a self-described psychic (“Da Vinci’s Demons’” Laura Haddock) who insists she has information from the great beyond to assist Luther.

Once again, writer Neil Cross taps into deep-seated fears, linking voyeurism and technology, with a killer (John Heffernan) who observes his victims before slaying them. The body count, frankly, begins to grow a bit wearisome, but it’s broken up to a degree by the alternating threads that occupy Luther’s time. (There’s also one especially jarring moment in the early going.)

The message, ultimately, is that like a lot of hard-bitten detectives, Luther is inextricably drawn into this world, steeped in a darkness that allows him to see into the minds of these psychopaths, but that invariably exacts an inner toll. Elba wears all of that on his face while often saying very little, and even if it’s a pretty familiar conceit, he and Cross (working with director Sam Miller) have more than made it their own.

For all that, the third installment’s conclusion — which really felt like it could have been a series finale — makes this return feel a trifle superfluous, to the point where the cat-and-mouse game has lost some of its allure. It’s telling, too, that each “season” has progressively shrunk from six chapters down to two, presented here as a movie that runs slightly under two hours sans commercials — a testimonial to both the scaled-down narrative and, perhaps, how in demand the able Elba has become since we saw him last.

Then again, that’s in part because the previous chapters rather logically built on each other, making Luther’s decision to leave feel less like an arbitrary break than an inevitability. That’s not to say it’s not somewhat reassuring having DCI Luther back on the case. It’s just that after the assortment of lunatics that have passed into his orbit, and the perils he’s endured, the copper really deserves a chance to savor that ocean view.

TV Review: 'Luther'

(Movie; BBC America, Thur. Dec. 17, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in the U.K. by BBC Drama.

Crew: Executive producer, Elizabeth Kilgarriff; producer, Marcus Wilson; director, Sam Miller; writer, Cross; camera, John Conroy; production design, Paul Cross; editor, Elen Pierce Lewis; music, Paul Englishby; casting, Andy Morgan. 165 MIN.

Cast: Idris Elba, Rose Leslie, Laura Haddock, John Heffernan, Patrick Malahide, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Darren Boyd

More TV

  • THE MASKED SINGER: L-R: Monster (T-Pain)

    New-Model Murdochs: Fox Corporation to Emerge Tuesday

    A new era for the Murdoch clan and the media business begins with the debut of Fox Corporation on Tuesday, a day before Disney completes its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The new-model Fox will begin trading Tuesday on the NASDAQ under the FOXA symbol. On Tuesday, 21st Century Fox will initiate a complex transfer [...]

  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2' Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has dropped the first trailer for “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2” starring Kiernan Shipka, and former “O.C.” star Rachel Bilson has been cast in Fox’s drama pilot “Lovestruck.” CASTING Related Idris Elba on ‘Beasts of No Nation,’ James Bond and Hollywood Diversity Golden Globes: Idris Elba, Lily Tomlin, [...]

  • Ron Howard and Brian Grazer

    Imagine TV Sets 'Mindscaping' as First China Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Imagine Television is developing “Mindscaping,” a 24-episode science fiction series written by Oscar Yang (“Medical Examiner Dr. Qin,” “The Ten Deadly Sins”). The series is the first Chinese-language series developed by Imagine Television, part of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment group, for a Chinese audience. The show is pitched as an original sci-fi [...]

  • "The Bow Tie Asymmetry" - Pictured:

    Pilot Season 2019: Multi-Camera Comedies Remain in High Demand

    For the second pilot season in a row, multi-camera comedies have proven to be a hot commodity. The Big 4 have collectively ordered 28 comedy pilots this year, including two animated straight-to-series orders at Fox. Of those 28, 12 are single-cams and 13 are multi-cams (including one multi-cam hybrid at ABC and two at CBS). [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Hollywood Agents Warn of Losses to Writers Without Packaging Fees

    The bitter war of words between Hollywood agents and writers continues. Agents are warning that the Writers Guild of America’s proposed elimination of television packaging fees will hurt writers to the tune of $49 million annually in commissions. Related Idris Elba on ‘Beasts of No Nation,’ James Bond and Hollywood Diversity Golden Globes: Idris Elba, [...]

  • UFC 235 Mixed Martial Arts, Las

    All UFC Pay-Per-View Events Moving to ESPN+ Exclusively in U.S. Through 2025

    The UFC — in a major jump to digital away from traditional pay TV — inked an expanded pact with ESPN under which all of the mixed martial arts promoter’s pay-per-view events will be available exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S. for the next seven years. Under the agreement, the ESPN+ subscription streaming service will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content