This review contains spoilers.
As finales go, that was pretty damn good wasn’t it? We got the return of Alice, a fraught cat-and-mouse chase with a compelling villain, and a fitting bittersweet ending. Last week’s episode of Luther was an uneven thrill ride with an emotional crescendo that really delivered. This was a high-octane blast from start to finish. There was no let-up, and no padding. It also provided a highly satisfying end to the Luther story.
The wonderful Ruth Wilson finally makes her return as the obsessive killer Alice. She makes an explosive entrance – literally – rescuing Luther from the grip of Stark and Gray, and the theatricality of it suits the character down to the ground. Wilson slips back into the role as if she had never been away, bringing the same weird allure as before. If anything, Alice is even more psychotic than ever. Alice’s intellectual sparring with Luther has been an element sadly lacking from this third series, so it is nice to have it back again. I had somehow forgotten how darkly funny Alice can be. Her quips about Mary being a fairy, and her bravado in walking into Luther’s office add comedic touches through an otherwise tense episode. It was also nice to have Alice point out to Luther what he knew all along – he may yearn for normality but his love affair with Mary was always doomed to fail.
There is no happy ending for Mary here. Her romance with Luther ends, and she is left alone, traumatised, locked up in a police van. Luther tore through her life, devastating it as he went. I really felt for the character. This is largely down to Sienna Guillory, who has been impressive throughout the series. Alice’s description of her as a fairy is apt, with her daffiness offset by an ethereal, unworldly quality. If Guillory turned up in more shows as a result of this role, I certainly would not object.
There is no happy ending for Stark either, with vigilante killer Marwood shooting him en route to taking Mary and Alice hostage. Stark has been the one major disappointment throughout this third run of Luther. In the opening episode, an intense performance from David O’Hara promised much. In the end, his character never felt fully developed, and the subplot of Stark and Gray trying to bring Luther down felt like an unnecessary distraction. This was proven to me when Stark was shot dead and I felt nothing. No sadness, no anger, no happiness, nothing. O’Hara did the best with what he was given, but ultimately the series would have been better served using his screen time to build Luther’s relationship with Mary, or delve deeper into the ongoing criminal investigations.
Stark’s killer Marwood goes completely off the rails in this finale. In the previous episode, he plays himself as a martyr, targeting deviants and criminals following the rape and murder of his wife. The murder of Ripley has derailed that plan, as does Luther’s intervention. In last week’s review I yearned for more scenes between Idris Elba and Elliot Cowan, and we were lucky enough to be given two major confrontations between the two. The scene with Luther, Alice, Marwood and the camcorder provided great tension. That great scene was trumped by the confrontation between Luther and Marwood on the Paragon Tower roof, the deranged killer offering Luther a Sophie’s Choice style scenario – save Alice, or save Mary. Mirroring the internal battle in Luther’s mind, the scene was heart-racing. The rooftop setting and tragic choice may have been clichés wheeled out by Neil Cross, but the scene is just exhilarating.
We get the ending we all secretly were pulling for. Luther leaves the scene of the crime having bid farewell to Mary, and meets Alice on the same bridge where he nearly choked her to death in series one. The two walk off together, presumably never to be seen again on BBC television.
So was it worth bringing Luther back? Most definitely. The Stark and Gray storyline may have been left wanting, but ultimately this third series has provided more than enough thrills, chills and great acting to merit its return. This final episode provided plenty of excitement and great character moments to cap off a wonderful series. I wonder when the Luther movie is coming out…
Read Tom’s review of the previous episode, here.
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