It has now been over a week since Detective Chief Inspector John Luther (Idris Elba) graced our television screens for the last time and yes, I'm getting withdrawal symptoms. The finale saw Luther down a partner after Ripley (Warren Brown) was gunned down by the vigilante killer Tom Marwood (Elliot Cowan) and possibly a girlfriend after Marwood goes after Mary Day (Sienna Guillory). He's also still the subject of a rather ham-fisted investigation into his activity by DCU Stark (David O'Hara) and the now rather conflicted DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird). However, as these threads begin to unravel and tie him up in knots, an old friend in the form of psychotic Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) shows up to help out.
I'm still in two minds about this finale because it felt like an episode of two halves. On the one hand, you had the culmination of the Marwood plotline which followed directly on from the previous episode and featured some of the tensest scenes Luther has been involved in. On the other, there was the desire to wrap up Luther's story in a satisfying way to ensure that the fans got the ending that the character deserved. We also had this ongoing investigation into his methods, which by this point was weaving between the two narratives, but is very much a leaden weight to both. It's an odd mix and Neil Cross managed to largely succeed in making both plotlines work, but not necessarily together.
First of all, the Marwood narrative is one of the more interesting ones tackled by Cross; the idea of a vigilante killer in Luther's messed up world poses some intriguing questions for both the audience and Luther, as discussed in last week's review. Yet in his brutal killing of Ripley, an innocent, Marwood crosses a line and in this episode, he crosses that line and then sprints some way into the distance. Thus ensuring that we know he's completely unhinged by kidnapping an innocent woman to persuade her husband into killing the imprisoned murderer of Marwood's wife. Elliot Cowan's performance has been excellent throughout; Marwood's a broken man trying desperately to get some recognition for what he's done.
It's that desperation that Luther latches on to and there is an absolutely brilliant scene in which he and Alice wear Marwood down, filming him with his own camera in order to puncture his vigilante hero reputation. Any scene between Cowan and Elba was a delight, but the extra spark of the excellent Ruth Wilson elevated it above the rest. It was one of two key scenes in Marwood's plot that stood out from the episode, the other being the confrontation on the top of Paragon Tower safe house in which he tried to force Luther to choose between Mary and Alice. The tensions was ramped up the right amount but came more from the fact I didn't really care about Mary but was desperate that Alice survived. Luther's clever decision picking Alice (who would've let Mary die) ensuring that Mary saved her was a good twist and provided a most satisfying ending for Marwood.
And then there was the other plot thread in which Stark's demented investigation continued, but managed to suck any tension out of the proceedings once the odd couple of him and Gray appeared onscreen. Arresting Luther for the murder of Ripley and attempted murder of Mary was just a bit ridiculous on both level of plot and in terms of the characters' decision. Plotwise, it seemed to be there just to continue the parallels to Zoe's death in the first series and to put Luther in an adverse position, which he sort of was already. Granted, it did introduce Alice back into the mix (and what an entrance), but it didn't feel necessary to the proceeding hour.
In fact, the investigation plot didn't feel necessary in these last two episodes full stop. O'Hara's performance became a grizzly one note that wasn't menacing, but irritating and I was curiously indifferent to the moment in which Stark got blasted away. Gray's sudden change of heart just felt like a last minute attempt to redeem the character. It was a plot that was wrapped up in the second episode with the declaration from Ripley in which it provided an interesting dynamic to the fetish killer narrative. Here, however, it was just a dead weight. I would have much rather have spent more time with Marwood's plot and allowed that to breathe more; it was the much more compelling storyline.
The performances in this episode were largely excellent, particularly Cowan as I have mentioned. Yet it is to the two starring roles that we must turn because, when all is said and done, Alice came back. A fascinating character in her own right, Wilson's Alice is so gleefully demented that she provides a great balance to Elba's darker introspection. The actors' chemistry is electric and this episode proved that the third series really missed the banter that passed between them. With rumours of a movie and an Alice spin-off, Luther's ending left it suitably open-ended, but one thing was absolutely clear; Luther and Alice were going off together.
And let's face it, that was the ending we always wanted. He could've kept the coat though...
You can read Becky's review of the previous episode here.
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