Luther series 5 episode 2 review: super dark and super daft

The plot thickens in the second instalment of Luther series 5. Spoilers ahead in our review...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

As a ridiculous man once said, who the fuck is Alice? And it’s a good question as far as Luther is concerned. Largely, because the series never seems too sure itself. Being super smart, super rich and a total empathy vacuum, she’s part Moriarty, part Elon Musk.

Except she’s often the light relief too. As well as a variation on the theme of the significant other who moans about how much time our hero spends at work. Which in John Luther’s defence, is definitely not something he needs moaning at about.

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This second episode seems to have the best stab yet (no pun intended) at answering the question of who Alice is. At least since she was first introduced, way back in series one as a former child prodigy who didn’t yawn when other people did. And the whole ‘massacring the parents’ thing, which is really driven home in this episode. Suggesting the series thinks we need a reminder of who Alice really is. Suggesting she might be heading towards doing something else truly dreadful this series.

After turning up on her nemesis-boyfriend’s doorstep, we’re thrown back in time to when Alice was selling diamonds in Europe like a master criminal (which, I suppose, was the only career option open to someone with such as massive brain. At least until one of the Chasers retires.)

After being double-crossed and in a car crash, Alice is unable to differentiate between broken glass and priceless diamonds. Which as problems go, must be a nice one to have. She fakes her own death, harbours a massive grudge and has come back to kidnap one of George the gangster’s sons until he gives her the money he owes her + VAT. Everybody clear? Maybe not, actually. Are these the same diamonds that Luther bought his “freedom” from George with back at the end of the last series? In which case, has Alice got a leg to stand on?

But let’s not think too deeply about that, or indeed George’s later claim that he can’t be bought off with money. Let’s just focus on the fact that Alice is back and she’s bleeding from a hole in her side that George gave her when she didn’t even bring a knife to a gunfight.

And because Luther’s life has more people in it who ‘mean business’ than Next on Boxing Day, she’s not his only visitor. Halliday (already the most likeable character to ever grace Luther) and Schenk have come to share the knowledge that the guy on the slab is not the killer. And Luther’s boss sniffs out Alice quicker than you can say ‘I really hope that’s the result of minor surgery not some super weird sex play, given some of the stuff I see at work’.

Then no sooner had the colleagues left, when in come the gangsters to spray bullets with the accuracy of the A-Team, while Luther and Alice escape through a secret hatch in the attic. Which has more furniture in it than the rest of the flat. Natch.

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It’s all super daft, but I’m not complaining because we get to see some great hands-in-pocket walking from Idris Elba, which is my third favourite thing he does in this series after saying “Alice” and hands-in-pocket running.

The series’ experimentation with the time frame, including two separate flashbacks and Alice’s vision of the corpses in her parents’ house, isn’t terribly successful. Not least because the jump between Luther seemingly leaving George’s son tied up in a room with Alice to him being back is the car jarred enough without it being followed by a flashback that reveals that John Luther and Alice attempted to “make a go of it” somewhere between series three and four (I think).

If I’m honest, I don’t really know how I feel about this plot development. Yes, will-they-won’t-they relationships start to drag in drama if they are stretched over as many series as this particular nemesis/girlfriend/boyfriend thing has been playing out. But how it works here: John being drawn back to the city that needs him, like that multi-coloured flying guy in The Avengers, rather than Alice having got what she wants  and getting immediately bored of it, like a cat standing in front of a door they got you out of bed to open, doesn’t really ring true.

But enough about that, there’s a killer still on the loose, but it’s very much been relegated to B-Plot status and Catherine’s now working the case pretty much single-handed. Because Luther be Luthering and Benny’s been kidnapped by George, the old-school gangster with the kind of enthusiasm for new technology that you know you’d instantly regret joining a WhatsApp group with him.

It’s nice to see the brilliant Michael Smiley being given something else to do, even if it is being convulsed with shocks. Almost as strong as the shock I got when we discovered Benny lives in a flat as opposed to his mum’s back bedroom.

But then we’re back to Alice, who continues to hog the limelight by stabbing George’s son in the brain. Because Alice be Aliceing.

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Until tomorrow.