Recently, my sister has suggested that I leave my library job and join her in advertising considering that I am overqualified for my position and the next two higher positions. This must be a sign of something more, as recently I’ve been thinking about all the variations of Don Draper’s office and Don Draper’s ties. My favourite Don Draper office was his SCDP one and its great view.
I first read Robert Kanigel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biography of Srinivasa Ramanujan, one Halloween on an evening shuttle bus that ploughed through rush-hour traffic between York University, where I did my undergrad, and Glendon College, where I worked as a research assistant and copy-editor. The cultural and intellectual struggles of a man of great promise, who spent the majority of his life as an unknown in a backwater and who died young on the cusp of achievement and fame resonated with the romantic in me. I devoured that book and Ramanujan’s life story, like medicine for my then disappointments, on that bus and then at a bus stop on Bayview along with zombies and vampires, and later still that night as I had passed the 300 page mark in my bed. It was then that I keenly felt that the truth will out, that promises such as Ramanujan’s will go on to be fulfilled, despite the infinitesimal odds of success, as the cosmos willed it. The truth is true because it is true. 1 + 1 = 2.
For those unable to summon the energies to read the +400 pages of Kanigel’s biography, the recent biopic of the same name, with Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, is a pretty good primer.
Clearly superior to later American version.
There’s something interesting about a man plummeting down to earth. Will he survive? Where will his body land? What kind of person was he? Was he competent at his job? Who were his loved ones?
To be honest, I’m more accustomed to TV detectives who were methodical, unemotional, and high functioning sociopaths—Sherlock—than emotionally raw detectives for whom life unravels completely during every single episode. But that’s why Luther was so good for it wasn’t really a show about crime solving but a psychological profile about a man who is a breathing and moving target.
Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) John Luther, played well by Idris Elba, had just spent months in the psychiatric ward after he allowed a serial killer to plummet from a factory walkway. The guy didn’t die though and his possible recovery and testimony hung over Luther’s career like the Sword of Damocles. But, back from the shrinks, because he’s so good at his job, Luther again threw himself back into the fray with his questionable—end justify the means—methods, along with the people around him.
Now, would any of the loved ones in detective Luther’s life have come to harm if he wasn’t a cop, a man who throws himself into the sights of danger? No. In the real world, Spider-Man sans the super powers, technology, and secret identity would have just been Peter Parker and he probably would’ve been killed alongside Uncle Ben and Aunt May would’ve have died alone in grief. And for most of us, the greatest danger in our little lives is whether or not we will be punished for being late for work or school. However, dead man walking, Luther survived… Luther persisted and earned but a pyrrhic victory.
There are several other tropes to gleam from Luther that I don’t have the time to cover here: tall-poppy syndrome, the explosive time bomb that is Alice Morgan (Luther’s new best friend), psychological relapse, PTSD, police cover ups, police corruption, how low can you get, warrantless methods, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
There were two things that I didn’t like about Luther, one that I hope the subsequent seasons rectified.
- First, was its seemingly limited scope. London is a huge canvass to present a show and I felt like the first season didn’t do enough with it and its denizens.
- Second, somewhat dumb plot holes or failures of reasoning that led to Zoe and Mark being constantly victimized.
Watching season two, now.