Friday, September 6, 2013

Luther Review: "Episode 4" - Bangs and Whimpers

Ruth Wilson is awesome and not just in "Luther".  Respect.

“This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang but a whimper.”  - TS Eliot

The world isn’t ending, but Luther appears to be, at least as a series.  When this third season was commissioned about 18 months ago, creator Neil Cross indicated that it would be the last, though rumors have swirled recently about a possible prequel film and, this being British television with such a small episode commitment, it’s entirely possible that Cross and Idris Elba could find their paths crossing again.  But for now, anyway, this is the end of Luther and even a wonderfully whimsical appearance by Ruth Wilson, reprising her role as slightly deranged killer Alice Morgan, couldn’t send the series off with a bang.

The vigilante storyline goes completely off the rails with Marwood having gunned down Ripley.  Throughout the third episode, he consistently portrays himself as the victim and just a member of the masses, trying to right past wrongs and make sure criminals are punished for their crimes.  Now he’s shooting cops (including putting a blunt, unsatisfying exclamation point on George Stark – more on that later), kidnapping pregnant women (yep, another woman bound and gagged), and targeting Mary not once, but twice.  If any show could handle a vigilante storyline well, I would think it would be this one.  After all, as I wrote last night, John Luther is, at least in part, a vigilante.  And yet everything after the first scene of last night’s episode has just been a mess with Marwood’s motivation and methods getting all messed up and everything leading to a confrontation at a police safe house that just makes no narrative sense.

I get that Luther messes up Marwood’s plans (though the whole capital punishment thing comes out of left field), but as Schenk points out, and as I mentioned last week, if any criminal is going to be the “suicide by cop” type, it’s Marwood.  And he even asks John to let him die at the end.  There’s no reason for him to go after Mary the way he does unless he’s just plain crazy, and “just plain crazy” isn’t a real character trait, especially when you’ve gone to such great lengths to establish his backstory and rationale to inform the audience that he is decidedly NOT crazy. 

Ultimately, it feels like Cross just didn’t know how to tell a vigilante story (or at least a vigilante story that didn’t also implicate his hero) and so it just devolved into a bit straight out of Halloween or Friday the 13th, with the insane killer stalking his pretty young victim and taking out everything in his way.

Unfortunately, that tonal shift also ruined the Stark/Luther storyline, though it wasn’t without its own problems already.  This whole episode, in fact, was just a disaster for George Stark.  First he arrests John for conspiring with Marwood in Ripley’s death and the attack on Mary, which is a pretty big, baseless jump.  Then Marwood guns him down in a stairwell bringing a ridiculously anticlimactic end to everything.  We never figured out why Stark was going after Luther.  We never got any recognition of the fact that Luther was innocent.  After all, Stark was keeping Mary in the safe house in order to lure John back in.  The fact that Luther is allowed to just walk away from the safe house rooftop itself is ludicrous given that he was still a fugitive from justice, having been freed from arrest by Alice.   At no point was any indication ever given that Luther was innocent.  Hell, at gunpoint Erin asked Marwood if John had sent him to kill Mary.  That John Luther is allowed to walk off into the sunset with no further explanation is utterly ridiculous.

My numerous problems with the plotting aside, the performances here were, as always, incredible.  Elba and David O’Hara get one last great scene together.  And what an entrance by Ruth Wilson.  I would watch the hell out of a show with Elba and Wilson traveling the world as itinerant problem solvers.  They just have crazy chemistry.  I’m not sure I entirely buy her description of Mary or that it’s these two walking off into the sunset at the end, but I will never complain when they’re gracing my television screen.

So that’s it for Luther.  Ultimately, its legacy is likely to be that of a show that was incapable of keeping up with its lead actor.  It was never a bad show, but there was never any doubt that Idris Elba was in a league of  his own.

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your reviews! Definitely the best analysis I've found for this series of Luther.

    FWIW, I got ticked off with the smaller details that just didn't make sense. Why would no-one have thought to try and get a fingerprint from the blended hand until it was seconds from being destroyed? Why would Luther be accused of throwing the guy out the window when the nurse could attest that it was suicide? Why go through all the rigamarole at the pub, when Marwood just goes and announces the hanging location anyway? Why did they accuse Luther of letting Marwood escape from the junkyard/canal, when they knew Marwood had been armed with a shotgun? Why would Marwood be reluctant to shoot Luther while being video recorded by Alice? It's not like it was being broadcast - he could have just shot her too and erased the video! And how on earth did Luther get to the safehouse rooftop so quickly when he'd been shot in the leg!?

    How great to see Alice again, and what a shame she couldn't have played a larger role in this series.