Having presented us with a ‘killer of the week’ formula so far, the fourth instalment of BBC One’s Luther introduces us to this episode’s rouge, a middle-aged serial killer with a fetish for sniffing women’s handbags. I’m being serious.
Apparently, the act of sniffing a dead woman’s handbag acts as an aphrodisiac of sorts for the otherwise incontinent chap.
As the episode begins we see him bent over his latest victim in the park, laying the contents of her handbag all around her whilst stealing her necklace, a keepsake of his crime, as if you needed any more convincing that it is one sick puppy we are dealing with here.
When Luther is handed the case to work on, we learn that the killer is responsible for the deaths of four women, four deaths which until now have left the police stumped trying to find a connection between the murders. However, rather implausibly, within about twenty minutes in, he has solved the case by using David Bowie’s method of randomisation, and now all he has to do is track down the killer responsible.
Fine, we all know he is a crime fighting genius, right up there with Sherlock Holmes or Quincy, but it would have been nice to see more made out of the actual investigation itself, and not just figuring out who the killer is by scattering random photographs of the victims around his chair.
Why has it taken the rest of the police so long to solve, yet Luther manages it so quickly?
Having given his wife the victim’s necklace, we find out that the murderer’s marriage isn’t quite the happy partnership it should be. His wife, it turns out, is having an affair with a family friend, and not only that, but it is the worst kept secret.
Meanwhile, whilst all this is going on, Henry Madsen, the kidnapper Luther almost killed way back in episode 1, finally wakes up from his coma, with the first word he screams being “Luuuther!”
Alerted to this, the police send in their internal investigation team to keep an eye on Luther, and this results in Luther telling Alice Morgan they cannot see each other anymore.
Furious at his decision, Alice disguises herself as a doctor and heads to the hospital where Henry is being kept. Starting a fire in one of the side rooms to aid as a distraction, she convinces the police guard to leave his post and suffocates Henry Madsen in his bed. As Henry dies, so does the secret that Luther effectively let him fall almost to his death, and the internal police investigation is called off.
When he finds out that Alice is responsible for the killing, Luther refuses to ever speak to her again, which prompts an emotional Alice to hit back that she was only doing it for him. It is obvious there is more to this relationship than simply just friends, and whilst the character of Alice is a fascinating one, as each episode continues, she becomes less callous, cold-hearted murderess and more human.
In the first episode she was fascinating, now she appears to be less so, as her relationship with Luther develops.
Having tracked down the serial killer’s wife, Luther manages to identify the necklace she is wearing that belongs to one of his previous victims. Shocked and horrified that she is wearing the same jewellery as one of his victims, she confesses all about her husband, having long suspected something wasn’t quite right with him.
Knowing that his time is up, the killer then goes after his wife’s lover, murdering him in cold blood at his house. He then decides that one death isn’t enough for the night, and calls a prostitute to come over to the house.
What follows is a fairly tense scene where the prostitute receives a call from Luther whilst she is in the killer’s house, warning her that she is in danger. As he starts to sniff her handbag, she manages to run into the bathroom, where the killer has hidden the body of his wife’s lover. Screaming at her discovery, the killer then proceeds to knock Shining-style through the door with a hammer.
Just in the nick of time, his wife makes an appearance, followed by the police, and he is forced to surrender. Walking upstairs to make sure he has not murdered again, she discovers the body of her lover in the bathroom. Walking downstairs, and picking up the hammer he dropped, she then calmly walks behind her husband as he is being led away in cuffs, and strikes him on the back of the head, instantly killing him.
As endings go, this was about as dramatic as you could have hoped for. However, I felt that this was probably the weakest episode so far.
The entire relationship between Luther and Alice now seems to be quite forced. They now appear to be friends, which is a staggering turn of events when you consider how much they hated each other a few episodes ago.
Don’t forget too, that this is an evil woman, and Luther is supposedly a figure of the law. It just doesn’t add up.
Then again, maybe I am just being picky. Luther still stands as a very watchable and entertaining television program. The main actors are all excellent, and whilst the script can seem a little corny and farfetched at times, surely this is what escapist TV dramas are all about?
Luther is a fun show to watch, just don’t take it too seriously or read into it too much.
Read our review of episode 3 here.
Luther airs on BBC 1 and BBC HD on Tuesdays at 9pm.