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“Luther” is an excellent murder show — absolutely frightening, with a combination of sultry intrigue, genuine jolts and, of course, Elba as the gifted yet troubled detective.
This isn’t new territory exactly, but “Luther” gets it right, achieving the kind of intensity other cop shows can only dream of.
Despite the presence of modern technology — Watson has a blog now instead of a diary; Sherlock tracks killers using GPS — the most important crime-solving device is still the one whirring between the ears of our deductive hero.
Far more humorous than its source material would suggest, “Sherlock” is fast-paced, full of clever visualizations for Holmes’s brilliant deductions and loaded with charm to you like murder shows or Idris Elba.
But the show’s creator Sally Wainwright is just as interested in her heroine’s complicated home-life (where she lives with her emotionally unstable grandson and her ex-junkie sister), as well as the social conditions that fostered this series’ cast of drug-dealers, kidnappers, rapists and serial killers.
“Happy Valley” is mostly about this community, where beautiful landscapes are marred by pockets of extreme poverty, and where everybody seems to know everybody else’s you like dark British mysteries.
Marcella Backland (Anna Friel) is a crime-solver in TV’s “brilliant mess” tradition: She’s a gifted London detective who also slips into fits of unhinged fury and fugue states, during which she may or may not be violent — she can’t remember which.
The show contains subplots involving things like real-estate shenanigans and Marcella’s relationship troubles, and while the main whodunit murder case suffers from lapses in plausibility and too many convenient coincidences, “Marcella” makes up for it with complex and struggling characters (a trademark of creator Hans Rosenfeldt, who is also behind the original version of “The Bridge”)you like gorgeous, complex British crime dramas with distinctive characters.
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There’s a feminist angle inherent in this premise, and each multi-episode mystery plays it up without reducing the characters’ struggles to simplistic empowerment narratives.
Along with fighting the violence and corruption that often spring from misogyny, the women of Bletchley persist in their investigations despite constant condescension from men who always underestimate them.
(She later played Harry Potter’s mother.) Although the depth of Fitz's flaws set him apart from most TV detectives, "Cracker" is still a pleasingly old-fashioned mystery — he's like Columbo with multiple a groundbreaking crime drama whose troubled detective was ahead of her time. More personal than political, “Prime Suspect” remains a masterful portrait of a complicated woman fighting tooth and nail for both justice and the respect she the idea of a grown-up “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” appeals to you.
The two shows take similar approaches to supernatural story lines, pitting scrappy casts of crusaders against various forces plotting destruction on a global scale — and lightening the mood with lots of witty banter between friends.