TV REVIEW: Luther - Episode Three

Just as he finds a little romance and bromance in his life, Luther is faced with a vigilante, a man determined to exact his own justice as publicly as possible and the stakes get personal extremely quickly.


The episode begins in a typically Lutherian brutal fashion; two young people have been out with friends and romantically get together in the car on the way home. The happiness won't last though as the pair are attacked by a gang of hoodies, but a figure appears out of the dark with a sawn-off shotgun and blasts the ringleader away. Said figure is Tom Marwood (Elliot Cowan), a self-proclaimed vigilante killer out to make the criminal world pay for the horrific rape and murder of his wife. Luther (Idris Elba) gets on the case and, now reunited with Ripley (Warren Brown), must track down the killer before he strikes again.

The vigilante aspect of the killer makes for an intriguing change of pace from the previous two episodes in which the fetish killer was all about silence and taking his time in killing and arranging the bodies. In contrast, Marwood is loud, violent and most of all, in the public eye. It produces a different level of discomfort for the audience because the build-up this time isn't about where the killer is, but who he is going after and why. And in a canny use of the internet, Marwood captures his own audience and goes after the most public hate figures he can. It's viral violence, a vigilantism that garners support almost instantly.

Unlike previous killers, in which we automatically know they're completely in the wrong for murdering young women in their beds, the morality surrounding Marwood is immediately a nasty shade of grey. As Luther observes when the pair confront each other, it's not his motive that is wrong, it's his means. But this is also a sympathetic figure; the man lost his wife and was failed by the criminal justice system. He is also a man that will publicly hang people and therefore not to be approved of. The scene between Elba and Cowan was wonderfully constructed, facing each other across the canal bank, forming two sides of the argument with only the disparity of the gun between them.

The episode also takes a big step in the development of Luther as a character; he begins with Mary (Sienna Guillory) in his flat, he introduces Ripley is his friend and everything seems to be going swimmingly. But a happy Luther is not an interesting Luther and it's not long before it all goes to pot. From the minute that they decided it was a good idea to get the victim of a paedophile to plead for her tormentor's life in a live press conference, it was apparent it was all going to go completely wrong and poor, brave Ripley paid for it with his life.

Brown's performance in his final scene was just excellent, calmly refusing to let Cowan go and the moment packed an emotional, though not wholly unexpected punch. Structurally, the moment bore remarkable similarities to the death of Zoe Luther (Indira Varma) in the first series with Luther arriving too late and huddling over the body. It's clear it's going to have a massive impact on the character, losing his only friend to a vigilante who had previously only targeted criminals. It marks a massive shift for Luther over the course of the episode and psychologically speaking, he's never been the most stable. With the promised return of Alice (Ruth Wilson) next week (YAY), I'm hoping for a finale with the same amount of impact and drama as the one from the first series.

The only duff note in an otherwise strong episode is the continuation of the internal investigation into Luther's methods by the impossibly gruff-voiced Stark and the now morally conflicted Erin Gray. Quite why she thought this was a good idea to begin with when Stark is clearly deranged is never broached by the show, nor does it feel as if their inclusion is necessary now Ripley has confirmed that Luther hasn't done anything illegal. Their pursuit of Mary lacked any sort of impact because we don't know the character well enough - my criticism of this stands for the end of the episode too. I was still distraught about Ripley to worry about someone I met a couple of weeks ago. The 'whirlwind' speech was an excellent moment however.

What it does do, albeit in a rather oblique and unsuccessful way, is ask the question of what is going to happen to Luther now Ripley, his moral compass of sorts, is out of the picture. Will he go off the rails? Probably. Will he run off into the night with Alice before returning for the next series? Let's hope so.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of Episode Two here.

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