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Luther is a talented detective and pivotal member of London's SCU (Serious Crime Unit). He once quipped that he has been a police officer "since God was a boy". Life and work have merged into one for Luther and he relegates all other aspects of his life to afterthoughts, including his wife, a humanitarian lawyer, Zoe. His intelligence is unparalled in the force and it is referenced on more than one occasion that he is well-read with an interest in literature and philosophy, much to the disappointment of his father, for whom sports and the military were paramount.
The series begins with Luther chasing a child killer named Henry Madsen into an abandoned warehouse. Despertately climbing to escape, Madsen eventually falls and finds himself dangling from a ledge. Luther stands calmly above him and forces a confession detailing the whereabouts of Madsen's most recent victim. However, after obtaining the intel, Luther allows him to fall and at once both regrets and affirms the decision. This battle in the moral grey area will become a characteristic affliction for Luther. Idris Elba said of his character:
- "You know when you watch the news and someone has killed their children? And your instinct is to be like, 'Oh, if I got my hands on them'? Well, his instinct is to do that but he's a police officer. And when he does get his hands on them, he doesn't necessarily follow procedure. He will be as vindictive as the criminal".
John is intuitive and instinctive but always with the support of logical reasoning. His problem-solving prowess and particularly high capabilities in deduction and inference often allow him to outwit suspects, and even his fellow officers. Perhaps the most powerful attribute is his tenacity and almost obsessive commitment to work - a commitment that costs him dearly. With the physique of a military veteran, Luther is physically intimidating and robust. His strength is of especial benefit, and he displays sufficient skills in hand to combat, though he rarely engages in combat with other people. Examples of where he has done so include ex-Royal Marine Owen Lynch, Ian Reed and Paul Ellis. Mostly, however, his fits of rage are confined to inanimate objects and are a source of frustration rather than violence. In this sense Luther is very much misunderstood - due to his appearance and mannerisms - as aggressive and hostile. In actuality, he is observed by those close to him as gentle and with distinct paternal tendencies and a moral conscience.
John was suspended but later returned to find out who a murder was commimted by. A dedicated copper, Luther is also an inspired maker of connections and a whirlwind genius. He is dazzling, obsessive, possessed - and sometimes dangerous in the violence of his fixations and when he becomes agitated. But Luther has paid a heavy price for his dedication; he has recently suffered a mental breakdown following the traumatic investigation into child serial killer Henry Madsen. On his return to duty, Luther struggles to balance the psychological demands of his work at the same time as trying to save his marriage to his wife, Zoe. Luther and Zoe met and fell in love at university, but their relationship has been under pressure for a long time. Zoe said she still loves Luther in episode 1, but that he was too much of a workaholic saying "But you're never here with me. Not all of you". Luther has never been able to prevent himself from being consumed by the darkness of the crimes he deals with and this has pushed his wife away. With Luther, the job always comes first and his dedication is a curse and a blessing; an albatross around both their necks. In Episode 1, he has discovered Zoe (his wife) had a new boyfriend called Mark North. But she still had sex with Luther, suggesting she still loved him, something Mark North never knew about.
In this series, he threatens Alice Morgan on a bridge telling her to "stay away from Zoe", after Alice threatened Zoe. After Alice killed Henry Madsen to supposedley save his life, John is confused and tells her to 'stay the fuck away from his life' but is later reconciled with her. After being accused of the murder of Zoe- who was in reality killed by Ian Reed - Luther goes on the run determined to "live long enough to see [Ian Reed] dead". Interestingly, Luther gets a team together with Alice and Mark, corners Ian and Alice kills him with a double barrel shotgun to his chest. With Ian dead and police sirens being heard, Luther is the only one to speak. He simply says 'now what'?
DCI Luther is very tall, muscular and grizzly, with unkept stubble. He dresses plainly but smartly, wearing a grey checked overcoat and various shades of grey flannel jackets, along with navy trousers, grey-blue shirts and a dark blue or red tie, particularly the latter. In Series 3 Episode 2, DCU George Stark points toward Luther's rack of clothes - consisting of multiple grey shirts and jackets - and remarks, "Look at this. What does this say about a man?" Implying that Luther's choice of attire is telling and perhaps indicative of his personality.
While they were both in university, Zoe met, began sleeping with, and eventually married John. Their marriage began to crumble due to Luther's obsession with his job. It completely ended when Zoe began an affair with Mark North. Zoe was eventually shot by the rogue Ian Reed.
Although not dating, Alice and Luther have worked together ever since the death of Luther's wife. In Episode 2, Series 2, Alice asks Luther to come with her on holiday to see various places, but Luther declines on the basis that he has Ripley and the girl to sort out first. Although Luther was smiling to himself about the idea previously, he told Alice, "I know you understand". Luther and Alice seem to be in a constant competition to prove their own beliefs right. Luther phones Alice to say "Alice, you're wrong, there is still love in the world. So you lose". Luther wants to believe that people can be loving and decent, wheras Alice had given up on this concept altogether. Alice learns through Luther that they are loving and decent people in the world.
DCI John Luther is an incredibly talented detective, with the ability to analyse situations quickly and put himself in the shoes of the criminal to understand what they are thinking and how they can be caught. Luther's ability to do this may have resulted from extensive detective work, as Luther is a workaholic and uses work to mask over problems he has in his personal life. In Episode 1, Series 1 , Luther becomes heavily involved in the Alice Morgan case, despite having nothing to go on, correlating with issues with his wife Zoe. Luther's philosophy is that his job involves defending the dead who cannot defend themselves. Alice figures this out with the interview she has with Zoe. As an empathic individual working tirelessly to keep London safe, Luther's own home is very meagre. He possesses very little, despite working in his capacity for several years. The things which he does have, such as his car, are usually very old but are durable. Luther doesn't seem to mind living it rough and lives very humbly. Alice Morgan, an arch-enemy-turned-friend, was the opposite, living a wealthy and decadent life, with a love of luxury. In contrast to Luther's view of love as one of the most important things in the world, Alice lost faith in love early in life, claiming "all it does is make us corrupt". When she met Luther, her faith in love was revived and she comes to call Luther a "friend" for saving her from a meaningless life.
Luther is constantly burdened with the cares of his work and he seldom gets any time for himself. As a result, Luther deals with his stress with outbursts of anger, although only with inanimate objects. They go to show that Luther is a sensitive and loving person under a strong, hard and tough shell. He has a fierce sense of justice, despising corruption of any kind and will break the rules to get the job done. He hates violent criminals, particularly ones who kill children and often has to restrain himself from violently assaulting them. He let Henry Madsen fall from a near fatal height and warned Cameron Pell that if he hurt a child, he would kill him. Alice Morgan warns Luther that, just as what happened to her, "the people around you are vampires...they will suck you dry" in reference to sucking his soul dry of love and passion. Luther is independent and individualistic, possessing a do-it-myself attitude, mainly because the police take too long to arrive. It means, he is often in confrontation with the criminal. It also means that he has a hard time trying to keep his hands clean, because criminals may try to attack him, he has to use all means possible to bring them in to custody on his own. In Series 1, Episode 5 he even throws a Good News Bible at one of the crimials to catch them off guard, suggesting that he is an atheist.
Luther values weight training and even has weight training equipment in his office. He is also a big fan of the singer David Bowie. In Series One: Episode 4, he tells Ripley that he has been inspired by Bowie, and offers to make him a tape. Later in the episode, a picture of Bowie is seen in Luther's apartment, next to a record player.
- ""I have to believe there is still love in the world. Love, integrity and trust. Because in the end, that's all we've got, we've got each other" "