#TypesTuesday – Luther: Power of Reason or Power of Will?
By Guest Contributor Oscar Harding
Idris Elba’s detective John Luther, the eponymous character of the hit BBC crime series is far from an ordinary detective. He is morally dubious and his methods are always questionable. He is not as concerned with justice as defined by law but rather what is practical and efficient.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if he does what he does for himself, as opposed to for the good of the public, or just to solve a mysterious puzzle. It’s challenging to determine whether he is a Power of Reason character or Power of Will character- Here are the differences.
Power of Will characters believe it’s a “Dog Eat Dog” world, where the strong are hunters and the weak become the hunted. They use violence and intimidation to expand their domain– whether that be a physical territory or control over a business or a group of people- Characters from Michael Corleone to Gordon Gekko to Andy Sipowitz on the iconic NYPD Blue are great male examples. On the female side, we have Marquise de Merteuil, Patty Hews, and Monica Rawling- all played by Glenn Close.
Luther breaks the rules and threatens his suspects or criminal lowlifes. He, more often than not appears to be on the other side of the law. Luther is every bit the ladies’ man, but he turns the charisma on and off like a switch. It’s fair to say Luther has a bit of the sociopath in him, as, it can be argued, do most Power of Reason characters (to varying degrees).
Power of Reason characters see the world as a series of puzzles and conundrums to be solved. For all his reliance on brute force, Luther is a genius detective and the best at what he does. Most of the time he appears to be coolly detached and is an excellent problem-solver.
Power of Reason characters can often be scientists or serial killers- and considering his troubling relationship with murderer Alive (Ruth Wilson) is attracted to that ultimate dispassion. The intellectual cat and mouse game with her is infinitely sexy to him and he seems to be forever dancing on the very edge of that step too far with her.
He may dominate in the same way as a Power of Will characters, but he is far more intellectual. Crucially, he understands the minds of the psychopaths that he hunts. He knows how they think. Power Will character don’t care how anyone else thinks. They are more of the “smash and grab” persuasion. John Luther’s complex relationship with Alice Morgan is a perfect example of something a Power of Will character would not have time for or tolerate.
Power of Reason characters are occupied solely with the challenge or puzzle at hand, looking for the next step in the solution. Luther is a loner who isolates himself. Power of Will characters like to be surrounded by others and prefer to have minions to carry out their dirty work. Power of Reason characters are strategists, Power of Will characters hire strategists because careful reasoned thinking is NOT their forte.
Luther anger and aggression burns cold, not hot. It doesn’t negate his dispassion. He is often willing to die in order to solve the case and prove that he is right. No Power of Will character would do such a thing. Both approaches are selfish, but Luther puts his life on the line not for reward, but for the satisfaction of solving the puzzle and proving that he is right.
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