Luther series 3 episode 2 review

Review Tom French 9 Jul 2013 - 22:00

Luther's third series builds on its strong opener with a well-paced episode from which Warren Brown emerges as the star...

This review contains spoilers.

With Luther returning to our screens so confidently last week, it could have been easy for the second episode to fail to build on the successes of the first. It's great then, to see that the promise of the series opener was really developed in this week’s episode. 

The episode opens with Schenk and the S&S Unit at the house of Dani Lane, the victim of the fetish killer in the climactic scenes of the series opener. At the same time, Luther is on a rather successful first date with the quirky Mary. Sienna Guillory’s appearances bookend the episode nicely, and the blossoming romance between Luther and Mary does not encroach on the main plotlines of the criminal investigations at play. Her quirkiness is toned down here, and it works nicely. 

The story behind the fetish killings turns out to be eerily fascinating. Ned Dennehy proves genuinely unsettling as William Carney, an elderly murderer living out his days in a care home. The scenes with Idris Elba and Dennehy in the interrogation room are gripping, and reminiscent of many others in the first two series. Carney proves an adversary that makes your skin crawl. Kevin Fuller is also effective as Paul Ellis, the mute depraved killer continuing Carney’s legacy of sexually motivated murders. The ritual of shoving the toothbrushes of his victims in his mouth is memorably deranged, and the brawl between Ellis and Luther provides a tight action set-piece. 

The horror elements that came to the fore in episode one are back at play here. The shocks are less visceral though, instead relying on more slow-building psychological chills to frighten the audience. Director Sam Miller is incredibly patient with the scenes where the fetish killer is waiting for his prey in their wardrobe. It plays on the same ‘Peeping Tom’ chills as before, and Miller’s patience really provides some genuinely unsettling moments. 

More patience is also given to building tension between Ripley and Luther. In the opener, the degradation of their relationship felt rushed. Here, they plough different paths as Luther focuses on capturing the fetish killer, while Ripley ties up the Jared Cass murder investigation. The tension between them in the few scenes they share is kept bubbling under the surface, rather than exploding in a rage-filled confrontation. The decision to play it this way is far more gratifying. 

The pacing throughout the episode is excellent. Events are allowed to play out methodically, and there is no point where it feels like the production team is dragging its feet. Both episodes have been handled confidently in this way. Long may it continue. 

Warren Brown is on top form this week as Ripley. Ripley's actions - arresting Ken Barnaby, and playing along with Grey's investigation into Luther - are evidently tinged with regret. He goes about arresting Barnaby with integrity and diligence, but the mixed emotions in play are handled well by Brown. He plays it straight and true to the character. Being allowed to step out of Idris Elba's enormous shadow, Brown is the star performer in the episode. Lucian Msamati, so terrific in the series opener, is again on great form here. Swaying between anger and despair, it's a wonderfully written part handled excellently by Msamati. For a minor role, it has a great impact. 

David O'Hara's George Stark continues to be compelling and mysterious. Yet again, he is not given a great deal of screen time, but is absorbing to watch nevertheless. The confrontation between Stark and Luther promises a tantalising escalation of that relationship in the remaining episodes to come. 

The reveal towards the end of the episode that Ripley has stayed loyal to Luther after all is a satisfying one. With the rapidity of their relationship falling apart, it is important to see that Ripley still views Luther as he always has, and does not trust Grey or Stark. The scene is handled well, with Luther listening to Ripley's interview alone in his car. He is willing Ripley to support him, and when he gets the validation he craves, the relief is tangible. 

So all in all, another strong showing from Luther. A well-paced, exciting episode that had steady character development, and some great acting. It may be cliche-ridden, and slightly ludicrous, but it is definitely fantastic entertainment. Some viewers may be frustrated at the lack of an appearance by Alice Morgan, but it just means we have more joys to come... 

Read Tom's review of the previous episode, here.

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