Friday, February 10, 2012

Luther and the tortured hero

I was trying to think of a cage match but right now my brain can only think in two directions at once. One direction is The Vampire Diaries and how every week it has a twist I do not see coming and the other direction is Luther, a BBC tv drama I've been watching over the past few months.

Luther is in some ways a procedural, but given the first season is 6 episodes long and the second season 4 episodes, it's not as if it's presenting 24 different cases to be solved. The other thing it does is make everyone, police and criminals deeply flawed and some of the time not that different from each other.

What is deeply compelling about the show is the main character, who actually is, truly, a tortured hero. It helps that he's played by Idris Elba, a really compelling actor, but it also helps that the writers committed to the character being not entirely likeable all the time, and also, morally flawed.

The writers balance this by making him truly excellent at his job, and so like a lot of flawed heroes out there, the balance exits between the good he does in stopping future crimes and the chaos he creates in his personal life and his career. But in this case, there is no redemption, at least personally for him.

(Spoiler Alert) Stop reading here if you plan to see the series.

In the first episode we see Luther make the choice to let a pedophile drop through a ceiling to his death and we also see, how years of chasing the worst criminals has eroded his soul and his ability to make the right decision. He just wants the man dead and gives into the impulse and doesn't regret it.

He has this fascinating relationship with a sociopathic woman who killed her parents, and he knows she did it, and still gets drawn in, because I think, he's fascinated with the idea that she feels no remorse or regret and deeply envies that about her and wishes he could be more like her, while she falls in love with him, partly because he's brilliant, but also because she is fascinated by his conflicting emotions.

He turns a blind eye to a cop that's making money illegally on the side, because they're friends and the end justifies the means.

He's truly a man that needs, for his well-being, to not be a cop, but he doesn't know how to do anything else, and by the beginning of the second season, he's weary and resigned, and almost suicidal and figures he'll do this until it kills him which might be soon, and he's OK with it.

I love this show, because it exists entirely in the grey zone between good and bad in a way the best HBO shows do. It's really hard to find, but if you can I think it's one of the best portrayal of a tortured hero I've seen in a really long time.


Eileen said...

Hmm. I have less and less tolerance for anti-heroes it seems. I didn't even like Chicago because I thought both women were icky and should both be executed along with the lawyer and the prison warden and . . . well, pretty much everyone but John C. Reilly who I thought should just be slapped.

Maureen McGowan said...

Ha! You're funny, Eileen.

Me? Like Sinead I love a good conflicted character. And didn't read much after the spoiler alert warning, because I really want to watch this show. Must get on that.

It's so hard to create a good character who walks that line, but they are so much more true to life than characters who are either good or bad...

Stephanie Doyle said...

Oohh and I love Idris. Must fine this show.

I'm also loving the modern day Sherlock - on Masterpiece.

Sherlock and Watson in a contemporary setting that makes so much sense you would have thought Doyle was writing him now...

That's author Conan Doyle... no relation

M.K. said...

I might have to check out Luther.

Saly said...

The last thing I need is to watch another show, but I gotta say Luther sounds good and most probably I will watch it ;)

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