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Gloomy, gripping 'Luther' returns for third and final season

Modern television is no stranger to the idea of an antihero, with several of this generation’s most celebrated series boasting seriously flawed yet beloved central figures. Current pop culture staples and ethically corrupt icons Walter White, Dexter Morgan and Don Draper are all facing imminent swan songs, but another conflicted character across the pond is preparing for his curtain call a little farther under the radar.

Idris Elba returns as conflicted copper John Luther
Idris Elba returns as conflicted copper John Luther
Robert Viglasky/BBC

Idris Elba has only portrayed brooding British DCI John Luther in BBC’s eponymous thriller since 2010, but his Golden Globe-winning performance within the show’s gritty and morally complex framework has generated a devoted legion of fans. Despite the comparatively discreet attention surrounding Luther, the series has always drawn notable critical remarks and now casts a discernibly wider net thanks to Elba’s awards circuit success and the show’s availability for instant streaming. As Luther presents its third and final season with four nightly episodes airing this week on BBC America, the enigmatic detective will potentially close his last case right alongside anxious stateside viewers.

The police thriller focuses on the brilliant but emotionally volatile Luther as he investigates London’s grisly criminal underbelly while battling equally distressing personal demons off-duty. His unconventional working relationship and psychological connection with calculating sociopath Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) helps provide the show’s signature morbid quirk, but the presence of more traditional “good guys” like fellow DCI Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) brings a needed balance to the brimming dramatic tension.

Devotees will be pleased to discover Luther picks up right where it left off, but impatient newcomers needn’t worry about catching up. Although the show remains loyal to several extended storylines, the sturdy narrative structure allows for flexible starting points. He may not be a meth-cooking chemistry teacher, vigilante serial killer or adulterous 1960s ad tycoon, but John Luther has already proven himself more than worthy to join the ranks of such seminal contemporaries. His spotlight is arguably dimmer than his cohorts', but fans know better: both Luther and its steely star work better in the shadows anyway.

Don’t miss the final four episodes of Luther, airing Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 10/9c and Wednesday at 9/8c on BBC America.