Luther series 3 episode 3 review

Review Tom French 16 Jul 2013 - 22:00

The last twenty minutes of this series three Luther episode are going to be all anyone's talking about. Here's Tom's review...

This review contains spoilers.

Shows with a devoted fanbase like Luther often create the clichéd ‘water-cooler talk’ at work the next day, prompting feverish discussion. People might talk about how sinister the villain was, or the resolution of a tense face-off between criminal and copper. After this episode, I imagine discussion will be entirely focused on the murder of DS Justin Ripley. With the episode suffering an uneven opening forty minutes, the final third really kicks through the gears, racing toward an exhilarating and heart-breaking close.

It is a brave move by writer Neil Cross to kill off a beloved character like Ripley. He dies valiantly, shot dead at close range having cornered vigilante killer Tom Marwood, who is reaping his own form of justice on paedophiles, killers and other deviants released from prison. Much like last week, Warren Brown is great in his final appearance. In the dramatic face-off between Ripley and Marwood, Ripley stays brave and resolute in the face of impending danger. He stands by his morals in a move totally in keeping with the character. The scene is tense, but never overplayed. The outcome is inevitable, but as with the entire series so far, the escalation of tension is handled really well. The build-up to this scene, with Ripley and Luther battling their way through a frenzied mob to save a paedophile from public execution is wonderfully chaotic.

Deliberate or not, Ripley’s tragic death shares many parallels with that of Luther’s ex-wife Zoe back in series one. Luther runs to catch up with Ripley much in the way he did as he ran to Zoe’s aid. Upon seeing Ripley, Luther drops to the ground and lies next to his body, much as he does with Zoe. These structural beats have the same effect as before, wringing every drop of emotion out of Ripley’s murder, as do Idris Elba’s performance. It will be interesting to see how Ripley’s death affects Luther in his pursuit of Marwood in the series finale. The two had an intense encounter themselves, with Marwood holding Luther at gunpoint as they discuss the morals of Marwood’s actions. As with any one-on-one exchange involving Elba, this scene is gripping and hopefully we will see another similar encounter next week.

Marwood is a far more complex criminal than many presented on Luther. Elliot Cowan’s performance does not provide the same blood-curdling chills as Kevin Fuller’s sex killer from the opening two episodes. Instead, he is genuinely unsettling as a normal man driven to the brink by the murder of his wife. That idea might be cliché (as are many in Luther) but it is handled exceptionally well. Marwood’s plight makes viewers question the legal system, but I also found myself questioning my personal views on justice itself. What punishment fits the crime of murder, or paedophilia?

Asking these questions and attempting to make the viewer empathise with a vigilante killer is another brave move on the part of the production team. I would not be surprised to see a knee-jerk article in the Daily Mail in the coming days about the show. Good drama makes us ask questions, be it about ourselves, or the world being presented to the audience. At one moment there is a wonderfully apt shot of London shrouded in morning mist, the perfect image for the murky themes being tackled. Provoking discussion on such uncomfortable topics should be commended.

While the climactic minutes and villain are to be commended, the episode certainly has its flaws too. Stark and Grey’s investigation into Luther feels somewhat undercooked. After a promising start in the series opener, Stark has become a pretty uninteresting caricature rather than a fully fleshed-out character. The fact that DSI Grey is only just beginning to question Stark’s methods also completely undermines her character. She is supposed to want to root out dirty coppers, and then aligns herself with the overtly corrupt Stark to achieve her goals? It just seems a little... well, at best extremely misguided, at worst very stupid.

Their harassment of Luther’s love interest Mary also leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Mary knows neither of these people, and yet she invites them into Luther’s house, and sits with them to discuss his past. This felt like a contrived, rushed way to drive a wedge between Luther and Mary. With little-to-no character development for Stark along the way, this plotline is proving a hindrance to the main crime-solving elements of the show.

There is no doubt that this episode will be best remembered for Ripley’s murder, and the final twenty minutes did a fantastic job of setting us up well for what could well be an excellent finale. This episode has its problems, but I can’t wait to see how Neil Cross and his team decide to conclude this generally excellent series.

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

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.

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In my opinion that's the best episode of TV that BBC One has put out since Sherlock's A Scandal in Belgravia. Still in shock about what just happened.

I'm snapping up shares in 'Net Searcher'. Google who?

Astonishing episode. Like Den of Geek, I also thought it was a wonderful parallel bit of writing with Ripley's death and Zoe's in the penultimate episode of series one. All the more harrowing considering Luther's pep talk with him earlier that got interrupted by Schenk.

The two coppers investigating Luther distract from the main action. Every time they're on screen, I just think. "Oh, bloody get on with it!"

And poor Ripley :(

I got the impression that the pep talk was going to be the point at which Luther quit and gave Ripley his job. Luther has always said he'd leave after he'd nurtured Ripley and I think he'd finally decided he was ready

Because that's exactly how police promotion works...

I agree, during the confrontation I fully expected the killer to get away and couldn't believe it when it happened.

Why didn;t he just shoot Ripley in the leg though? As a 'good-guy' killer that would of made more sense no?

When will superman be introduced?

Must Confess , did not see Ripley's death coming as I thought Luther would leave once he resolved the case giving him the reins. However after hearing that Alice Morgan was returning I was also wondering how they would write her in. And I think Ripley's death solved that angle.

See that's the thing: He's not a good guy. The end of the episode showcases his psychosis.

Hard to wing someone with a shotgun, and even if he did, if he took out the femoral artery Ripley'd be just as dead. This was pretty shocking, but I'm looking forward to Alice (from the previews in teh credits)..

as soon as luther told Ripley that he loved him, in conjunction with his previous reaction to being invited into luther's residence... I knew he was going to get wacked. And then they added the bit with Luther telling Justin to have a life... at that point it was painfully obvious. Luther has always stolen from the other great influential shows/ movies of the genre while trying to be original but I felt I have seen this just as predictable so many times before on lesser programming... shame.

I really like this show. Much better than the drivel that gets produced here in the states. (except for maybe The Wire and Breaking Bad) That said, some of the victims in this show are just ubelievably stupid. irl when someone hears a strange noise coming from upstairs repeatedly that they aren't expecting to hear do they really go off to investigate it or do they get the hell out of house and call the cops? It just annoys me a bit when the plot is driven by character stupidity.

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