How one bone-chilling and utterly brilliant story made Luther so beloved 4 years ago

How one bone-chilling and utterly brilliant story made Luther so beloved

With Season 5 coming, a tribute a truly wonderful story.

Given the fact that Idris Elba is one of the most famous faces in the world, it's easy to underestimate just how much of a gamble he took in 2010 by returning to TV with Luther.


After Elba's arc as Stringer Bell came to a dramatic conclusion in the greatest TV show of all time - that's The Wire for anyone in doubt - the Londoner was on the wish list of every single director and producer in Hollywood.

Roles in the likes of 28 Weeks Later, American Gangster, and RocknRolla are proof of his burgeoning fame and you have to ask yourself, after starring in a show like The Wire, what else is there to do in TV? How do you top perfection?

Well, the answer came by examining the very depths of humanity in Neil Cross' beloved crime drama.

In its debut season, Luther made an instant impression due to its macabre mixture of Hollywood flair, murder mystery, psychological drama, horrific villains and shady heroes.


The first six episodes of Season 1 were a treat that featured memorable stories like a rogue sniper that was targeting police officers, killers that drained victims of their blood, and of course, Alice.

After establishing its tone, universe and characters, Cross (the show's creator) went and did something very bold, he flipped the show's singular story told over a one-hour format on its head and in doing so, he helped craft the template for its finest arc.

In terms of recent episodes, Season 4 didn't quite match the heights of what came before it but if the creators are looking for something to emulate, they could do much worse than reflect on the gripping story that unfolded in Season 2, Episodes 3 and 4.


In case you're memory is a bit foggy, one image will instantly remind you of that brilliant arc and in many ways, it's the best story of the beloved drama.

Two words, bedlam axis.

In simplistic terms, the two episodes revolved around a set of brothers that just killed people at random. Their motive? Chance. There was no reason, no plan, no rhyme, and no pattern, they were just two homicidal maniacs that terrorised and killed at random.


Before delving into the bloody details - and there are plenty - these particular episodes are also memorable because they also illustrate the scarred humanity and tragic history that defines DCI John Luther.

To begin with, we're treated to the scenes where he's taking care of Jenny in his grimy flat after he helped the young woman escape a life of prostitution and starring in depraved porn films.

Hell, we later see that Luther - after being coerced by the horrific Toby Kent - is prepared to fake a fire drill and steal information from DSCU Schenk's PC - just to keep her safe.

He even helps her to dispose of Kent's body after she stabs the mobster in the head. Later, he frames his former ally by putting Kent's body in his car. This is our hero.


Then again, as Ripley eloquently pointed out “there’s a difference between getting your hands dirty and being dirty” and when it comes to memorable set-pieces, these two episodes of Luther were the closest thing that you'll see to a horror film. When compared to true evil, Elba's character looks like an angel.

That chilling opening scene at the petrol station is arguably the best sequence in the show's history.

After smashing various cars with a baseball bat, the cold, remorseless and sheer crazed speed at which the killer sprays acid in people's eyes before bludgeoning them to death with a baseball bat is utterly terrifying.

Combine this with the dead and merciless look that he gives the rest of the onlookers as they huddle for safety behind the locked doors.

The suspense, tension and unpredictability of how that scene developed was a masterstroke because it felt like a horror movie that was slowly building towards its bloody climax.

Later in the episode, we see the same man randomly knifing people and smashing a group of people over the head with a hammer. Christ, the director of Oldboy would even wince during those moments.

What's truly terrifying about these sequences of events though are the randomness, 'normality' and tranquility of how such horrific events can unfold - by sheer chance.

The eery silence as those bodies started to pile up on the floor is still chilling. What use are police detectives when not even the killer knows what they're doing next?

After being apprehended, we learn that this killer has a brother, twins with a shared psychosis, and after a similarly chilling massacre happens at a train station, we know that this game is going to go to the bitter end.

During that climactic finale, we see the production values of Luther at their very best because the scale - both visually and thematically - are massive.

We're treated to sweeping aerial shots, huddled snipers on the roof, a thumping score and shots of an empty street that are akin to the start of 28 Days Later, but rather than being overwhelmed by the spectacle, we never forget that Luther is prepared to go to the bitter end to prevent an even bigger body count.

Petrol. Lighter. Detonator. Dice.

The ultimate dance with the devil and due to the character development that occurred in previous episodes, we're never quite sure just how far Luther is prepared to go in order to win this horrific 'game.'

Clip via - BBC Studios

Interestingly, as much as we love the relationship between Alice and Luther, Miss Morgan doesn't appear in any of these two episodes.

Now that we know she's coming back for Season 5, here's hoping that Cross decides to keep the majority of the focus on the main man. Interestingly, those two episode don't feature at the top of IMDB's most rated episodes for the show and with Season 5 fast approaching, we're expecting Cross to continue the 'story spread across a few episodes approach.'

If so, he could do much worse than push Luther to the brink again.