It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single detective, in possession of a baffling mystery, must be in want of a conveniently imprisoned psychopath. Thank you, Thomas Harris. When you gave the world Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon (1981), you created a monster. I mean that metaphorically. Ever since then, a convenient fictional trope, now bordering on cliche, has law-enforcers racking up the mileage claims traveling back and forth to maximum-security prisons and madhouses to consult with former nemeses who now provide free (if psychologically taxing) consultation services to help our hero catch the serial killer du jour.
(DIGRESSION: One wonders how detectives ever managed to capture the first serial killer, without having such a resource already in custody. Quite the chicken-egg conundrum there. EOD)
I watched "Luther" the other night, a BBC America offering, centering on Detective John Luther (Idris Elba)--
(DIGRESSION: To be accurate, they're not called something so prosaic as "detectives" in London; they're called "Her Serene Majesty's Chief Deputy Constabulary of Kent." Or something like that. EOD)
--a tortured soul who specializes in tracking down "serious and serial" killers. His latest nemesis, introduced in this week's season premiere, is a psychotic who wears a Punch mask (or "masque") as he runs around the City butchering women on camera. Don't worry, though: Luther has his very own on-call psychopath in the local lockup, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson).
In fairness, Luther has not yet asked Alice for help on his latest case, and the show seems to be playing more with the sexual tension between the two characters than with the police procedural aspects.
(DIGRESSION: It reminds me of the relationship between Detective Archie Sheridan and sexy serial killer Gretchen Lowell in Chelsea Cain's Heartbreak and Heartsick. Coincidence? Homage? Plagiarism? The jury's out. EOD)
I'm sure that Luther will get around to asking for advice some time soon.
None of this is meant to condemn the show, which is actually quite good. After all, one can hardly expect to find an entertainment--be it film, television, theater, novel, or puppet show--that doesn't rely on familiar tropes. The only current show that seems wholly original--and I'm sorry to say I missed the premiere--is "Terra Nova." I mean, PEOPLE?!? Running from DINOSAURS?!? Where the hell did executive producer Steven Spielberg come up with THAT?!?
On a related but unrelated topic, Idris Elba is apparently under serious consideration to be the next James Bond. That would be an interesting choice, but bear in mind: When Daniel Craig got the part, people were up in arms over the thought of a BLONDE Bond. I appreciate that the producers are considering a return to a brunette, but still.