When last we saw DCI John Luther (Idris Elba), he had tossed his signature tweed coat into the Thames and walked off with sociopathic sweetheart Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). For fans of the BBC America crime drama, it was a satisfying end to three seasons of murder, mayhem, and melancholy. So why revisit the world of London’s most haunted gumshoe for a new two-hour special? It’s a question we posed to Luther creator and writer Neil Cross (who, it must be said, is one of the most jovial interviewees I’ve ever encountered — a stark contrast to the dark and depraved world he’s crafted.)
And to his credit, Cross is honest about the multiple hurdles that needed to be cleared in order to bring his hardboiled detective back to the small screen.
“At that state we essentially thought the show was over,” Cross says. “Not because we don’t all love it but the timing — Idris is a star of some considerable stature and it just began to look impractical that we would ever be able to make any more.”
But when Elba told a reporter that he’d be interested in doing more Luther, well, that was the only encouragement Cross needed.
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“We started to put the band back together for no other reason than we all just wanted to do it,” he says, adding that he had to reconcile with the idea of a new Luther story and the fact that the series had already wrapped in what felt like a permanent fashion. “I began to think about it from a novelist’s perspective, which I’ll say is really hard looking at these things. And what we’d done was end the previous series, [that] was the end of Luther part one, and with this special we’re beginning a whole new chapter in the story of Luther.”
And with a whole new chapter comes a whole slew of new faces. Gone is Wilson’s Alice (all Cross will say to that is, “She’ll always be important in the world of Luther“) and in is Rose Leslie’s DS Emma Jones. And — unsurprisingly — there’s a new big bad who may just be one of the series’ most terrifying yet. “It’s not a spoiler that he’s a cannibal because people get eaten very quickly in this show,” Cross says. The manner in which this killer selects his victims is also particularly chilling. “I think that the idea that your home is not indeed a safe place is pretty much the most terrifying thing there is,” Cross hints of the murderer’s MO.
But does the special — which picks up roughly a year after the events of the season 3 finale — mark a full-scale return for Luther? “I hope the people you meet in this new special will go on to be recurring characters,” Cross says. “I would keep writing Luther until Idris can only walk with some kind of assistance and is a stooped, grey-haired old man. As long as we can find the space and the time to do it, I will do it.”
The two-hour Luther special airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.