[Review] - Luther, Series 3 Episode 3

Courtesy of the BBC
Remember last week, when I said Luther doesn't get happy endings? I didn't feel that we needed such an expressive example of this principle so soon, and so... expressively. Episode 3 began with giddy promise, and ended in horrific chaos, all happiness turned to ash and only misery - for everyone, hero and villain alike - to comfort them in the coming, closing episode.

It was also, from start to finish, one of the tensest, best plotted, balanced and acted episodes in the run of the programme. And made me really interested in what Neil Cross' take on Batman would look like.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have spent their lives thinking they were the whirlwind.


One common complaint against Luther is the predictable, cliched aspects of the procedural side of the show. And yes, in that respect, the show is often at its weakest. Take for instance, the scheme to use the paedophile's former victim to plead on his behalf. Right from go, it was obvious what was going to happen, that it would all go pear-shaped on them. We all saw that coming. However, Luther isn't just a procedural. Like the better programmes, it uses that basic frame work, and crimes aside, doesn't focus so much on them, because the real purpose of the show is the characters. And I will argue to my last that a show that has weak plots but strong characters is a far better use of your time then a show with strong plot but weak characters.

So, picking up where we left off last week, every thing's coming up Milhouse for John. He's got the girl, his trust in Ripley has been vindicated, and Stark has been muzzled. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from a vigilant killing exactly those that deserve to be killed. And Stark deciding that the best way to go after Luther is sideways, so called poking his weak spot. In a matter of hours, Luther's entire life is once again thrown over, as Mary is poisoned against him and we have a complex baddie whose methods are extreme, but who is sympathetic all the same. But at least he's still got Ripley...

I have a hard time siding with Mary's indignation on this one. We didn't see what Stark showed her, so we have no idea if he lied and suggested Luther was a monster, or if he just showed her all the stuff that Luther has been a part of, which to an outsider wouldn't pain that much of a nonmonsterous image anyway. But she's known him for, what, a couple days? I doubt she would have been as receptive to his advances, or as blatant with her own, if on the first date, he had just come clean with "my best mate killed my wife, then the serial killer obsessed with me killed him, then the prossie I had staying with me gutted her pimp in my flat, and that's why I've moved into a run down looking place like this." I'm siding with Luther on this, that is an ocean of shit that is best waded into, not assaulted. Though, I did laugh at the sign in her shop window instruction patrons to "Push it real good."

Social media isn't really my thing, so again I fall into line with Luther and Schenk on not understanding how it works. Rather, I don't really care about it. But I do love that it's opened up a whole new subgenre of mayhem like that caused by Tom Marwood. People can be vicious when they believe themselves to be anonymous, but people can be terrifying when they believe, anonymity or no. Luther isn't the first series to use the "let the internet decide on the fate of the villain," but the flash mob that showed up to witness the execution at the end, then started not only cheering it on, but assaulting the police who were trying to prevent a lynching? The weak kneed decent glimpsed in Marwood's twitter feed? Schenk's belief that a successful trail-by-internet would lead to mass riots and vigilantism doesn't seem that much like hyperbole. There is no doubt in my mind that, if something happened like this in reality, and it were successful, it would happen pretty much along these lines. There would be descenting voices, but they would be ineffectual or drowned out by the mob that suddenly find their private beliefs vindicated, and the comfort of the many allowing them the chance to express those beliefs.

Ripley then. Right to the moment the trigger was pulled, I had no idea how it would go down. Remembering back to Zoe and Ian Reed in series one, I was fully aware that Luther is a show not above sacrificing anyone. So, it was equally surprising and reaffirming when his chest burst like a meat balloon (I know that sounds crass, but that's only because it is). Ripley, the one constant in Luther's life, the only person to successfully navigate the whirlwind of destruction Luther generates. The one person Luther could count on beyond all others. Dead, and not without warning. Rewatch the episode. The way the camera focused on Ripley while they were discussing the emotions involved in pointing a sawed-off shotgun at someone point blank, and pulling the trigger. The promise of a bright and successful future. The suggestion of a relationship with Grey. The reinstated affection Luther had for him. It was all designed to come crashing down.

And, surprisingly, his death is one of the few on this show that cannot be blamed on John Luther. John will blame himself, have no doubt or fear about that, but it wasn't a bad decision of Luther's that lead Ripley to that place. It wasn't his selfishness, or his mucking about in things that don't concern him. He didn't drag Ripley to that place. They were doing their jobs, same as they would have anyway. Luther was the logical choice to hold up the hanging man, due to his size, and Ripley was the logical choice to run after Marwood. It was all completely above board, which makes Ripley's death all the more poignant. This one, short of Ripley being a little slower, or Marwood being a better man, couldn't have been avoided, for all of John's efforts. And that is what will eat away at him the most.

As for Marwood, the show hasn't had such a understandable or relatable villain since... ever, actually. Alice and Reed were crazy in their ways. Marwood's motivations make him human, his actions are extreme and well calculated, but you can see his point. And he completely undercuts all of that by killing Ripley. What he was doing was illegal, yes, but as evidence by the mob outside his noose, the public was on his side. He was doing justice. Now, he's a cop killer, a mad man on the loose, driven no longer by grief and righteousness, but by what he preserves to be revenge on Luther, the man who robbed him of his goal. In an much as Luther is usually his own worst enemy, so has Marwood turned on himself. And if the previews of next week are any indication, he looks to have wandered down the path of crazy a little too far.

Next week though, as the long dark descends, and Luther is at the worst of all possible places, there will be Alice.

Yay!
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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