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DCI John Luther is a character in the BBC One's Psychological Crime drama, Luther. The character is played by Idris Elba.



Luther is a 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 unparalleled 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 pedophile named Henry Madsen into an abandoned warehouse. Desperately 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."


Series One[]

After allowing the pedophile Henry Madsen to fall from a great height it is implied that Detective Luther suffered a nervous breakdown and was suspended either due to this or misconduct. During this time his wife Zoe insists a break in their relationship. On his first day back, Luther solves a double homicide by unravelling the bizarre behaviour of the murdered couple's daughter, Alice Morgan. It is later found that Alice is the murderer. Despite pursuing her relentlessly, he is unable to prove her guilt initiating a philosophical and intellectual game between the two characters. During this first episode Luther is also under the illusion that if he were to put his life back together his wife would return to him but Zoe had already moved on due to always being second to her husbands fixation on work. At the the end of the episode Luther and Mark; Zoe's new boyfriend end up in a physical altercation with Luther being Physically restrained by police officers. He then has a brief conversation with his wife and calls Alice telling her that love does exist.

In the second episode a sniper begins targeting police officers all over London, and Luther must track him down. The sniper, traumatised by his experiences in war, is being driven to his brutal crimes by his father, who – despite being in prison – has complete control over his son's actions. Luther stages a television interview, insulting the sniper and drawing him out at great personal risk. Meanwhile, Alice continues to stalk Luther, becoming increasingly obsessive and threatening towards him and Zoe.

In the third Luther pursues a serial killer and occult writer named Lucien Burgess, who kidnaps mothers every decade and drains them of their blood. Things become complicated when Burgess accuses Luther of having attacked him, making it difficult for Luther to continue the case through legal means. Luther continues to communicate with Alice, and forms an unusual friendship with her; she proceeds to hire a group of girls to beat up Mark in an attempt to emasculate him and drive Zoe back to Luther. Meanwhile, Henry Madsen awakens from his coma; though he is not yet able to testify, when he does so he will be able to destroy Luther's career.

During the fourth, a serial killer continues targeting women who are alone at night. He takes a piece of jewelry from each of them, and gives one of their lockets to his unknowing wife, as a birthday gift. He escalates rapidly, and Luther's team is forced to enlist the help of the killer's wife, in order to track him down. He is successfully taken alive, but his wife assaults him in a fit of rage, striking him with a hammer in the back of the head. In an attempt to win Luther's friendship, Alice impersonates a doctor and lights a fire in the hospital, taking advantage of the distraction to fatally smother Henry Madsen.

In five an art dealer's wife is taken hostage, and the kidnappers demand a set of valuable diamonds in exchange for her life. The husband goes to the police for help, because his wife has swallowed the diamonds, and he fears that if this is revealed, the kidnappers will kill her to get them. Events spin rapidly out of control when it is revealed that Luther's colleague DCI Ian Reed had knowledge of the robbery and allowed it to go ahead in exchange for a portion of the profits. Reed kills his criminal contact to cover his trail and then the kidnapper himself. He flees, finally killing Zoe in an attempt to draw Luther out, and frames Luther for the crime.

Luther, framed for Zoe's murder, chooses to run from the police until he can prove his innocence. His boss, Det Supt Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves), has strong regrets for having taken Luther back from suspension, despite having received advice not to. Luther is almost shot by a Special Branch sniper at a meeting with Ian Reed. Teller believes in Reed, but her colleague, Det Supt Martin Schenk, initially does not. However, thanks to Schenk's interview with Mark, he soon realises that Reed may be the culprit rather than Luther. Luther plots to take revenge on Reed with the assistance of Alice and Mark. Luther disagrees with the means by which Alice and Mark vote to handle Reed.


DCI Luther is a large figure, with an unkempt 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. He is a striking character, mainly due to the absence of regard he seems to have for people. He is blank, and formal character. His clothes represent the lack of emotion he expresses, as they are simple and formal. 

Luther - "I've seen you"


Zoe Luther[]

While they were both in university, Zoe met Luther , 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.

Alice Morgan[]

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 to eachother. 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, whereas Alice has no true comprehension of it or any form of sentiment. They begin dating after the series 3 finale, but break up sometime before series 4. In series 5, when Alice return, we see glimpses of their relationship. Alice, although not displaying emotions is capable of observing it in others and therefore seeing it through Detective Luther. Alice Morgan is a cautious and yet a striking woman. Her presence is that of a sharp, tense tone, whom acts in a sly motion. Her lack of empathy and incredible intelligence make her one of the most formidable criminals of the show but through working with John; Alice can also be viewed as an anti-hero.

Mary Day[]

They had a brief relationship.


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 empathetic individual working tirelessly to keep London safe, Luther's own home is very meager. 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. This is a materialistic detachment DCI Luther has with the world around him, we see this not only through his home but through the people he interacts with and the people he has come to care for. Luther has a penchant for looking over large heights, this can be viewed as symbolic of how he views himself as a guardian or a scope to a more deeper personal foil i.e. "Gazing into the abyss", this seems to be a driving conflict of his own morality as he may rationalize a position that becomes valid to him, but simply is morally corrupted. Luthers conflict with this tangently expresses itself through his relationship with Alice Morgan who has perfectly correlated herself and the evil John works to rid the world of as Black Holes.


Thinking like a criminal.

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 criminals 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.

Luther says:

""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" "