|Warren Brown has a fine swan song as Justin Ripley in "Luther"|
So, yeah, Luther is a B-horror show. And like any crappy B-horror show it needlessly kills one of its most compelling characters for no particular reason.
Luther’s third episode is filled with classic horror tropes. There’s the couple getting frisky in their car at night on a dark street. There’s the killer bent on retribution for his loved one’s death. There’s the public display of the killer’s victims, and the relatively recent trend of letting the public decide whether his next victim will live or die. Thankfully, at least some of these tropes are turned on their heads: the two lovers are saved from their attackers by the vigilante. And here’s where everything goes sideways, before going sideways again.
You see, John Luther is a vigilante. Sure he has a badge and a title, but at his heart, he’s a vigilante. Or, at least, he’s a man who follows his own moral code rather than any social standard of conduct. This is a man, after all, who in the very opening scene of the entire series willingly stood by and allowed an admitted pedophile to fall several stories in a factory. He also offered to cover up his best friend’s crimes until that friend turned on him.
If anybody could understand a person playing outside of society’s rules, it’s John Luther. And yet, we’re expected to believe that he now has a problem with people working outside the law to bring down those criminals who have somehow escaped the claws of justice. The vigilante (Tom Marwood) is taking out killers, pedophiles, and other assorted miscreants. The John Luther of the first two seasons, hell the John Luther of the first episode of this season*, wouldn’t be terribly upset by the vigilante’s actions. And yet we get an entire scene with John trying to convince Tom that he “[doesn’t] have the right” to administer his own justice? Seriously? I don’t really expect Luther to just let Tom work, but to not address the enormous elephant in the room seems like an unwise decision.
* Remember the guy who hanged a suspect from the third floor balcony?
That glaring problem aside, there was some really good stuff in this episode. The Luther/Stark showdown continues as Stark tracks down Mary and gives her the file on Zoe, John’s dead ex-wife. This leads Mary to freak out, obviously, but most awesomely leads to another showdown between Idris Elba and David O’Hara. Watching these two work is just fantastic. And the fact that O’Hara can deliver somewhat cheesy lines like “You know what your problem is? You’ve spent your life thinking you’re the whirlwind. Well you’re not, John. I’m the whirlwind,” just goes to show how amazing he is.
I even enjoyed the episode’s climax, as Luther tries to save a hanging pedophile while a crowd of onlookers—drawn to the scene by the vigilante—attack him. But having Tom gun down Ripley was just a step too far. For starters, there was no real reason for it. He easily found an out in the fence after pulling the trigger so he wasn’t really trapped. And Tom never really extended his killing to innocent victims, so why start taking out cops? If either of the two villains this season was to commit a noble suicide it feels like it should have been Tom, not Paul Ellis, and yet here we are, stuck with Tom for another episode simply because it’s what the show’s format calls for. And it has cost us Justin Ripley as well. In a word: frustrating.
A few spare thoughts –
We still get plenty of extraneous villainy between the extended beating and threatening of the initial couple and Tom’s stalking of his latest prey. At least this time it wasn’t a pretty young thing ending up bound and gagged but a middle-aged man instead.
As I predicted, Mary ends up the target of a killer. It was pretty obviously coming, but we’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s finale to see how it plays out.
Speaking of the second “going sideways,” I’m not sure what Luther and Schenk thought was going to happen when they put the pedophile’s primary victim on national television to plead for his life, but that is what I expected.
“But what’s the point of knowing your weak spot if I don’t get a chance to poke it a bit?”
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