Cultural Relevance. Royal Timing. Heal. Elevate. Triumph.

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The year was 1997. (Insert laugh here). And I am cleaning the basement of my childhood home. My mom owned a daycare at the time and it was my turn to disinfect it, in its entirety. I was just about finished but I still had to mop. It was about two or three o’clock in the morning. That’s when the good, lyrical shit would play on the radio; at least in Detroit. Method Man’s “All I Need” just went off and the deejay said check out this new Jay-Z.

Full disclosure, I was originally a Nas fan. “The Message” off of “It Was Written” can still send me into a melodic, introspective trip. The line “a thug changes, and love changes and best friends become strangers” is always at the back of my mind when I interact with people. “It Was Written” taught me that change is inevitable; that it’s nature’s way. How “Street Dreams” drops next is supreme. I had seen the Reasonable Doubt videos, but I was the daughter of a middle class mother, whose father’s ambitions were a mystery; so I couldn’t relate.

Back to the basement, the beat dropped. I stopped mopping, long enough to listen—to feel it. The song was “A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More.” I became a fanatic instantly. I sat in one of the yellow toddler chairs. I was just impressed with the word play. The thing about rap for me is that it lets you know that the King’s English is bastardly. It reaffirms that the things that we create as people whose hue is darker is sweeter. Worth stealing is what they could argue. Then, the beat switched mid song. And that was it for me. I’ve purchased every album since.

That break is also why I love me some Kendrick, reference “DNA” and “The Heart Part IV.” Furthermore, this idea that DJ Premier is somehow not succinctly sonic is the most asinine thought I’ve ever heard.

I have been waiting for this album since then. Jay-Z has since created valid songs but I’ve always felt like he was holding back. It’s not easy being vulnerable or speaking freely politically once you reach a certain status. On Magna Carta Holy Grail, I could hear Shawn seeping through and I definitely heard it on Jay Electronica’s “We Made It.” It was a long journey for true fans. We had to endure through two best of both worlds. [Disclaimer: I did not buy these albums. I abhor the Pied Piper and individuals like him]. His crossover status meant not hearing B-side records at concerts. Honesty is probably the most lyrical way to approach any song. We ask for responsible, conscious artist; what is better than rapping about the importance of family, wealth and the necessity of maturity.

I won’t critique this album like I have others, because it’s much too precious. Each song has something to offer. Each song left my soul full. I will say this (insert laugh here too). I can appreciate that he didn’t just have Damian Marley on the chorus of the song.

Now, back to my all day listening party.

Azúcar Reina.

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No show has ever managed to get me that invested in its characters by the first episode. Maybe it’s because Dr. War, Glynn Turmon, was brilliantly chosen as the father of the three Bordelon siblings, played by Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Kofi Siriboe’s Ghanaian self. Either way, I was had. I cried Pacific Ocean tears. I’m not as robotic as I used to be since the birth of my daughter.

Every time I see the word sugar, it is imperative that I give an oral tribute to Celia Cruz and shout, Azucar! Hence, the title of this critique. The backdrop to this drama is an ailing sugarcane farm in Louisiana. DuVernay’s series directorial debut is an adaptation of Natalie Baszile’s “Queen Sugar.”

What I like most is Ava DuVernay’s ability to wheel you in to view all involved as humans, flaws especially and still love them. I felt immediate compassion for Ralph Angel. As he headed toward the store. Dads often struggle with their value and their inability to financially provide. Often having to sacrifice the most pertinent thing, themselves. I was connected to Charley’s fix everything attitude and recognized Nova’s take charge spirit. Head strong confidence can either collectively build great empires or destroy all that crosses their paths. Photographic excellence will be king in this series, visceral even.

Dondre Whitfield sealed the deal. It was refreshing to see him on the screen again. It is clear that casting was seriously considered. On the small screen, it seems as if it takes a cast seasoned or not at least 3 or 4 episodes to gel. There are seasoned actors with the right sprinkle of novice (not completely brand spanking new).

The black girl magic is so lit at OWN Network. DuVernay’s directorial team consist of all women. I’m noticing a trend in Black Hollywood, they’re showing the world the true definition of inclusion and equality through sheer access to opportunity.

I am going to enjoy watching a predominately black cast weave in and out of drama, pose solutions without the dreaded narrow minded scope that is normally portrayed. I now understand Tyler Perry’s recent Instagram post. I’m antsy like a mug for episode three.

Other cast members include Bianca Lawson, Greg Vaughan, Omar Dorsey, Tina Lifford, Timon Kyle and Nicholas L. Ashe. Tune in tomorrow night at 10 p.m. and every Wednesday to see if these siblings can set aside their differences to save their family farm and help each other cope with life’s challenges.

 

ATLANTA. IS.

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Courtesy of Google Images

I’ve always wanted to live tweet/facebook about a show except I also don’t want to be one of those people you threaten to delete from your life because they ruined a show for you by giving you a play for play for every climatic scene. Shock and awe value can be completely obliterated if you dare to tune into social media whilst you can’t catch your show because you’re too busy adulting.

So I wrote my fleeting thoughts down about ATLANTA. So this verbiage ain’t about being grammatically correct. And I think I manage to not drop any serious spoilage.

FOR WHATEVER REASON YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET, GETCHO LIFE:

Episode 1

Yo bf’s weird ass dream but its always about some chick, this ain’t titanic my dude

(this aint a spoiler because this so real life)

Black parents are the worst and the best, the mama is too trill for dat

When yo cuz got that one friend that don’t make sense but they both stay high so its kool

Downsouf beats bang!

All it takes is two seconds

I feel like I’m watching an Outkast album, like in the dungeon and when i walked upstairs I ended up in the “international playas anthem” outtakes

damn! 22 mins went fast as hell

Ep 2

Is it worth it keeping somebody else above water?

Sometimes its best to laugh until you can’t and savor that shit

A stranger ever start a conversation with you and tell you they whole life

And then that one friend say some real shit

He aint neva lied about 90s music

That lemon pepper shit be having MSG in it better known as meat crack

so…instant, loyal clientele

Fame be so fast seem like

Fans always love the song you hate

Lol lmao lol hhahaahahahahhahahahahahhaha (jail scene)

WTF!!?! (because it ended)

I love this song. Hooked!

I was gonna love this show regardless because of Donald Glover. Because Donald Glover is the shit. And hot (because nerds are..)! Plus he had me at biblioteca. Thanks to Outkast, I will forever think that ATL is a separate universe that’s just as black as Detroit used to be and free as George Clinton. This show ain’t contrived. It isn’t using outdated slang. The shit just is. I wonder if that’s because the writer’s room is black, blackedy black, black. I see u Donald. I believe!

Tune in Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

 

 

Don’t Take Her Choice Away

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Painting by Annie Lee

*Disclaimer: This critique was written before the domestic TERRORIST attack on a Colorado Spring’s Planned Parenthood. This critique is a direct response to the “Scandal” episode, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” that aired November 19, 2015. May justice be served. 

Abstain and there is no need for abortions. The world loves to think that us women aint sexual beings, just ripe enough for their picking. Olivia got an abortion and Fitz once again spoke about his sacrifices. He doesn’t know about it. He didn’t know about Mellie’s rape either. Yet, he’s maintained his sacrificial superiority for five seasons. How many men refuse to look in the mirror only to repeat the same mistakes with a new woman?

This critique is not about religion. It’s not about if it’s wrong or right. It’s not even about conspiracy. It is about women, women having to sacrifice silently. It’s about how the world thinks that those chosen to bring forth life are ill-equipped to have an ounce of authority over their uteruses. Let’s talk about the mommy whisperers of child birth. How it’s so beautiful (up until the moment you’re screaming because you’re pissed at God) and its what makes us women. How about people knowing what God prefers. What exactly has Fitz sacrificed again? This critique is about those shoe boxes we bury in backyards. It’s about rape culture. It’s about a one minute long scene about abortion and women everywhere unanimously shaking our heads in understanding, holding that last sips of wine—letting it burn a little.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to rack my brain, weigh the pros and cons about having to make a decision about an actual life, having to make deals with the universe—but I know women who have, and it ain’t no crystal stare—often times it hunts you. Hell, I’ve probably even said some insensitive shit because of my young, idealistic naiveté. I know women who’ve lost children before they’ve had fingers and the pain that lingers. I’ve gotten drunken phone calls of despair at 4 o’clock in the morning. I know women who’ve had painful pregnancies and weathered through. I know women that has given birth prematurely. Marissa Alexander was wrongfully incarcerated and separated from her premature baby that was still accustomed to breast milk. Those bouts of unsympathetic cogitation women receive for frequenting the hospital when something seems wrong with their unborn child. I know women who can’t move during menstruation. I know women who can’t have children that are supreme nurturers. I know women who have seven 7 children and 20 grandchildren. I know politicians who don’t give a shit. There are countless women who risk their lives despite the perils that may ensue in the event of full term pregnancy.

This episode had plenty of character quirks worth mentioning, this stood out because let’s face it ABC is not cable. The opening scene of scotch and decisions set the stage. I loved that “Silent Night” played during the abortion scene. That song has always been morbid and sonically unpleasant. Olivia realized her elation with Fitz was that she didn’t have to be his everything.

This episode on the surface was about Planned Parenthood. But below the deck it was about a women’s choice and power. Exquisitely, shading the guilt bestowed upon us by men with God complexes; despite our ability to bring forth life and nurture it. Choice and courage is why I think she left.

My critique is no uterus is the same, thus no woman is identical either. And in less than five minutes Shonda Rhimes and her team of writers on “Scandal” manage to display what many women have chosen to do, for a number of reasons that don’t deserve your opinion.

We’re all still waiting for Liv to be satisfied.

Glory: it will be ours.

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There’s something unnerving and all too familiar about the way Ava DuVernay manages to capture the supposed intimate moments between Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, in “Selma.” Who of us have not had those sad yet all too real, gut-wrenching conversations with said black man as a black woman? Not necessarily one’s prompted by the FBI attempting to assassinate your character long before they leave you for dead; but the conversations when nervous laughter brought on by the comfort of humor when discussing the inevitability of death in the African American community.

One’s death is not necessarily always honorable, of martyrdom or “taken by hatred.” Unfortunately, survival is not always obtained through righteous means. These are my initial thoughts, within the first 26 minutes of the film. We’re so acquainted with death regardless of its non-discriminatory nature—us darker in hue. There’s an uneasiness the black women have as her man/husband/lover walks out of the door. No different than the anxiety she feels as her sons, her uncles, father or any other male relative or friend does the same. These days such angst is heightened because of the all telling, immediate nature of social media. I’ve always questioned, how did Coretta do it with such grace? DuVernay has profoundly illustrated not only the fear that taunts but also the strength of the black woman. Her part in the civil rights movement, her full body, mind, and spirit on the front lines by highlighting the roles of Diane Nash (Tessa Thompson) and Amelia Boyton (Lorraine Toussaint). The conversation between Amelia and Coretta before Coretta is to speak with Malcolm X spoke best to those that are tired of such movies about slavery, about the Civil Rights era. It is important to know that, to teach that we survived our story, our lives because of whence we came. Boyton explains to Coretta that she’s ready because of our heritage, our lineage. “[We] are already prepared.”

DuVernay did a very good job of showing how often the young’uns clashed with the old folk and the old folks bumped heads with the youths. The conversations between SNCC member’s, John Lewis (Stephan James) and James Forman (Trai Bryer) showed a difference in thought much like that of King and X. However, after Bloody Sunday it was clear that all ideologies led to the same river. DuVernay had a keen eye at authenticating the joint efforts of the Civil Rights era, as well the march in Selma. It is often overshadowed by King’s notoriety. There are key scenes with Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray, André Holland as Andrew Young. Other noteworthy and instrumental individuals are James Bevel (Common), Ralph Abernathy (Colman Domingo), Cager Lee (Henry G. Sanders), Jimmie Lee Jackson (Keith Stanfield), Bayard Rustin (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), Richie Jean Jackson (Niecy Nash), James Orange (Omar J. Dorsey), Viola Liuzzo and Annie Lee Cooper. Cooper played by none other than Oprah Winfrey. Historically, she is known as for standing up to Sheriff Jim Clark by punching him after Clark billy clubbed her in the neck. Aisha Coley brilliantly selected Nigel Thatcher as the movie’s Malcolm X. David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo are seamless to the spirits of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King.

I can’t help but think of how the marchers felt when the troopers withdrew on the second day out, the day before the white clergymen and others joined the march in solidarity. DuVernay answered my questions with the next scene. I love directors that are in tuned with the simplicity of human nature and the complexity of the human mind. She clearly studies the human condition and offers an honest assessment. What I have learned from Ava DuVernay’s visualization of yesterday is that steadfast knows no age or generation. If you want freedom, one cannot allow fear or danger to keep you hidden in atrophy—and then, call that life. They assassinated Malcolm X because he empowered us. He was for the betterment of black folks. But it is clear now (to me) that they assassinated Dr. King because he had the power to persuade others that we too, are humans. “Our society has distorted who we are.”

It can be argued that Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) was chosen as President Kennedy’s running mate, solely to pacify the South. Before July 14, 1960, Kennedy and Johnson were rivals. Johnson was from Texas. Johnson became President after the untimely and tragic death of the president. Johnson didn’t have Robert F. Kennedy, a forward thinker, as a brother or campaign manager. “Prejudice exists and probably will continue to … but we have tried to make progress and we are making progress. We are not going to accept the status quo,” Bobby said in 1968. Thus, Johnson’s sluggish haste toward inaction is understandable. It also forced his hand and gave those in the trenches renewed diligence. Progress must be taken because it is not guaranteed.  This movie is relevant because those marches are still happening, confronting many ills. Sadly, much hasn’t changed. That’s what Ava sees, at least I think so.

Do they ever wonder what it must feel like to have to prove you are human too?

Empire.

You know what Fifty don’t got, Taraji P. Henson. And she’s worth more than a dollar.

Spice is an aromatic or pungent substance used to add flavor. Taraji is a spice. I don’t know what to call the spice. I know that it’s black and goes good with everything. Empire is a tale of a modern family, minus the suburbs a la musical drug kingdoms.

Or was it a queendom?

Cookie (Henson) and Lucious, played by Terrence Howard has three sons; who all will seek claim to their families musical dynasty. Each son has his own unique talent and/or business acumen as well as estranged relationship with their parents.

I haven’t watched a pilot episode in a long time that was this engaging. In less than 30 minutes, I was persuaded into watching episode two. Most times it takes three episodes, to hook me.

It has the finesse and trimmings of black culture, but not completely as we expect. It has themes fit for Shakespeare and new age drama with material that will become viewer’s guilty, juicy obsession. I can see critics already speaking on lack of originality and how Hip Hop doesn’t sell—better known as there’s no market for blackness. But they’ll watch it.

Fox’s “Empire” is co-created by Lee Daniels (“Precious” and “The Butler”) and Danny Strong (“The Butler” and “Hunger Games: Mockingjay”). Malik Yoba is back on the small screen. Timbaland is the shows songwriter and song producer. The cast has its share of up and coming actors such as Trai Bryers, Bryshere Gray and Jussie Smollett.

Brilliantly, we get to pick sides. Do you want Cookie to prevail or Lucious?

My money is on Taraji.

Comet.

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Why? Because of “Shameless.” It’s starring Emmy Rossum and Justin Long. And he’s likable, dare I say boyish; similar to Adam Brody and Topher Grace. It’s quirky. It’s all shot in this lovey dovey filter. It’s comfortable like a blanket. Sometimes love seems like you’re a deep slumber.

You watch it and think I know how this ends. A romantic dramedy, there’s ebbs and flows, awkwardness and balance. It is a visualization of conversations that only lovers sometimes have. You get invested because if you didn’t know, you now know that you’re a hopeless romantic and doomed. Love requires faith; lust can surely make you question it all.

It gets cheesy of course. Love is corny or it makes us that. You must love dialogue to stomach this. Which I do! The lack chronology rings true to love, long since lost.

Comet is the random pertinent moments of everything when you‘re losing love and to pensive to fight for it, until it’s possibly too late.

Wanksta.

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Omari Hardwick got a new gig.

Power. He got the money, now he wants the respect. Was that corny? I can’t help it. Certain words triggers my mental radio and blast vintage rap lyrics.

A white man and a black man got the juice; the best of both worlds type of thing. But the black guy wants out: retirement, 401K, white sand on beaches. The white boy worships the shit like heaven.

I’m intrigued but not wholly persuaded.

I’ve watched every season of “Boardwalk Empire.” My television and I have had deep conversations on perfect revenge plots. No doubt, I have issues with the UNIA discrepancies as Jeffrey Wright joined the cast as Valentin Narcisse. It’s critically acclaimed. Each actor is effortlessly committed.

Hell, even after watching “The Wire,” certain drama just ain’t gangsta. Maybe the key is Michael K. Williams, our very own Chalky White and Omar Little.

The show is very “The Coldest Winter Ever” meets “True to the Game” a la watered down Studio 54. In no way am I comparing Sister Souljah to Teri Woods or diminishing the infinite influence of 54 on NY’s night life.

But I’m not in high school. So, I can bet on who’s going to die and which chick (possibly Mrs. Patrick played by Naturi Naughton) is going to place a flashy fur coat on an otherwise inconspicuous drug dealer and have him gone for a couple of Novembers.

What I do like, which is odd, is Curtis Jackson. 50 Cent not only executive produced the joint but also has a role to play. The theme music is crack. It comes in like ice cream, yes ice cream. Joe’s voice is so smooth on “Big Rich Town,” that you recall exactly why he ruled the ’90s. As you bob your head in acceptance, you realize Joe needs to drop a new hit. Usher can’t do it all!

What I truly love about “Power” is that it’s bilingual. As a displaced African, I am enamored with language. Its texture, the complexities and how familial it is to those that are so privileged to speak it.

Many ignorantly suggest that language is not imperative to freedom but I strongly infer differently. “Gang Related” also has the precious presence of two languages, three if you include the bits of Russian and Korean. “Power” shares a cast member with “Related,” Lela Loren.

Lastly, maybe I’ve had enough infidelity from the tube that I cringed as I watched “I Gotta Go.” Just know my lip turned up at the dinner table scene and later when Ghost romantically recalls a nostalgic melody. The fifth episode ends with 50 Cent’s tune, “Twisted.”

Omari is adequate eye candy. However, what made “Luther” worth my time other than Idris Elba is that the show was insanely unpredictable and poignantly written.

Watch if you must. I have thus far.

Scandalous Ain’t Even The Word

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Every Thursday if I’m lucky or Friday afternoon, I tune in for my weekly dose of Shonda.  That’s right, Shonda not specifically Olivia or McDreamy.  As the screen connoisseur that I think am, big or small—Shonda has managed to satisfy my addiction of a well written storyline matched with superbly developed characters.

Despite James Wolcott’s truthful claims of the small screen outshining the big screen, there has been a serious onslaught of controversy directed towards Rhimes’ primetime show, “Scandal.”  The unanimous concern seems to be with Olivia, a powerful black woman, having an on & off steamy affair with Fitz, the white president.  It conjures historical dynamics between female slaves and their masters.  It makes Olivia look like a slut.  It has magically awakened the dutiful powers of “clean up women” everywhere.

I tried not to write about this.  I really tried not to write about this.  I endlessly conversed with a friend to rid myself of this urge to respond to those that are appalled by the affair that does not encapsulate the entire scope of the show.  It was therapeutic, but clearly it did not work.  Those in contempt are so infuriated that they have begun to judge my fellow gladiators all because they watch the show.

Funny thing is, I used to watch General Hospital religiously up until last year.  Soap operas are as dramatic as it all, can get.  People judged me.  It didn’t match me: my locks, my demeanor, my school of thought, or my character.  Nonetheless, most didn’t know that I was a valedictorian in high school; graduated from Howard University, or that I am currently embarking on a Masters in Computer Science.  Their judgments were baseless.

To be honest I have more dreams about being more like “Mr. White” than Olivia Pope.  I daydream more about perfectly positioning a Strela-3 to explode a helicopter because of my intimate relationship with “Call of Duty” but not sitting on my couch drinking endless glasses of wine waiting for Olivia to pick up the phone call from Fitz.

Huck is my favorite character.  Harrison is perfect for Olivia.  I actually root for Mellie because, hello, she’s the wife.  After last week’s episode I’m sure Mellie’s back story struck a cord with many women.  Sacrifices are made but not always readily available for appreciation or oftentimes go unreciprocated.  Let’s just say, Mellie is stronger than battery acid. No matter how intricate the other characters storylines are what the world sees is a black woman laying down for a powerful white man.  As painful and haunting as this country’s past is; interracial relationships of many kinds are prevalent and growing in wedded numbers—without sexist, demeaning power structures, unrealistic gender roles or racial overtones.

I’m not a big fan of hypocrisy or double standards.  No one screams and shouts about Blair Underwood’s on screen white lovers.  At least not to this degree, that is if the argument is about a misrepresentation of cultural love and solidarity.  Hell, there are fewer articles about Will Smith and Denzel Washington not having sistas as their mates in their million dollar flicks.  “Independence Day,” is the last movie Will had a black lover (Vivica A. Fox), if I’m not mistaken.  It’s because we already know whose coming to dinner.  Maybe we’re just selectively possessive, in a sort of do as I say not as I do kind of way.  We bestow certain freedoms to men that are not offered to women, especially not to black women.  It is naive to think that this show has spearheaded an emergence of black women sexually expressing themselves how they want. Women like sex too, contrary to society’s belief.  Black women like sex too.  We women can’t get excited as we read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but men can watch as much porn as their appetites require.  Have you notice, no one really talks about Fitz’s part in this ménage?

Strangely, enough the argument is rarely about infidelity.  I suppose that’s because many have stepped out while in exclusive relationships.  Still, it can’t just be that Olivia is black and Fitz is white.  It is too self-righteous to sit and argue about a fictitious character that mirrors your very mistakes and/or regrets.  I knowww, it’s different—it’s your mate’s fault.  Most importantly, if you are a black man or woman for that matter and you are currently mistreating your loved one in the same way Fitz has mistreated Mellie and has swooned Ms. Olivia—GTFOH.  “The tempted bares as much guilt as the temptor.”

What I resent is how the black community engages in believing what one black woman does, all black women do (and vice versa).  There’s nothing I abhor more than generalizations.  Never mind that Olivia Pope is portrayed by Kerry Washington, an actress.  Moreover, I do not desire an interracial relationship extramarital or otherwise nor have I developed such a craving.  African men are my only preference.

As stated before, I am a fan of Shonda Rhimes’ creativity. This show or no show for that matter does not have the power to dictate what I do or brainwash my character into something that it is not. If you’ve done it, you were going to do it—it was already within you, to do so.  Don’t express your complete disdain for “Scandal” but you watch “Basketball Wives,” “Love and Hip Hop,” or “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” If you can watch reality TV, most certainly you can give “Scandal” a break.

Side note: The objectification of any woman, by any group of people is still just that, objectivity.

“What Am I Missing?”

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Photo Courtesy Esquire, Imdb, Indiewire, Twitter, TheNerdFiles and FanPop

Initially, I was drawn to BBC’s “Luther” because of Idris Elba.  I watch the Toyota Avalon commercials with the sagacity of an obscure surveillance crew.  I am jealous of the photo, my best friend managed to take with him at a NYC nightclub.  Elba is arguably our guiltiest pleasure.  Besides my obvious slight fixation, the supreme eye candy on the small screen for a short, 58 minutes; Luther is definitely a contending crime drama.

On July 2, 2013, Detective Chief Inspector John Luther graced our televisions screens once more.  From intro to finish, nothing else exist.  Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus,” slithers through appropriately ushering in each episode.  Luther is a tormented but precocious English detective and member of the Series Crime Unit (SCU). “Luther” leads viewers on a trail, like a fly on the wall, of the unraveling of the human psyche, more often depraved minds.  As a reflex to his own demons and the demented nature of London’s most sadistic criminals. The show’s authentic gruesomeness, is not for the faint of heart.

Alice Morgan is my favorite character.  She’s a research scientist, the only character more adept than Luther but none the more, she’s a psychopath.  Other characters include Superintendent Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley), Detective Sergeant (DS) Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), Benny “Deadhead” Silver (Michael Smiley), and DS Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird).

The script is organically eloquent.  The acting is indubitable, theatrical dexterity.

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