Previously on Luther: Episode 3.
What is it about John Luther and the people he loves?
Justin is gone, Alice is back. Friendly warning: This is gonna hurt.
This episode opens where the last one left off: John lying next to Justin’s dead body, his blood on his hands and on the collar of his shirt. How long he’s been lying there, waiting for back-up, is anyone’s guess, and perhaps it’s best that we don’t know. Schenk arrives and there is pain etched in his face that shows us how far we’ve come knowing him, from the D&C officer investigating John to a loyal friend who’s just lost a colleague dear to him as well.
Thing what I learnt today: I cannot handle the raw pain of John Luther crying.
To plunge us from grief straight into horror, Marwood is going after Mary, who manages to get away, just. Stark and Erin turn up to save the day — and to arrest John for conspiracy, accusing him of telling Marwood to kill first Justin, and then Mary for him, the two people who knew what he’s been up to. You can see how torn Erin is about this, faced with the relentlessness with which Stark pursues this. She’s grieving for Justin as they all are, and she’s torn between her conviction that Luther is dirty and the fact that she’s worked with them for months, has seen how close they were. And Luther knows this.
After they take him away, during the interrogation, all Luther can do is turn away from the photo of Justin Stark slides across the desk towards him, and then turn to stare at it as if hypnotised. When the questions don’t stop, he turns on Erin, and he can’t even speak.
I loved him!
He turns away again and refuses to say anything else, and at that point I lost it completely. All of them, from Dermot Crowley to David O’Hara, from Sienna Guillory and Nikki Amuka-Bird to Idris Elba have carried these three sequences so well. John’s devastation is visceral, it’s brought right to your door along with his feelings for Justin. What could have been a terribly embarrassing case of hero-worship turned into a strong, reciprocated friendship built on respect and mutual trust. When Ripley was kidnapped in Series 2, Luther trusted that his strategy would work because he trusted that Ripley would know how Luther’s mind worked, that Ripley was just as smart as him. He pushed his own fears aside and demanded respect for Ripley’s abilities from the others on the team.
And now, Marwood has taken Ripley from him, and Luther’s got no way out.
Or does he?
Because Alice is back. Has been back in London for weeks, has come back for John, to get him out. She was biding her time, it seems, but she’s seen the news. She knows that John needs someone to keep him steady, and that someone had always been Ripley. Now he’s gone, and John’s in trouble, so Alice doesn’t waste a moment. Along with Benny, Schenk helps her help John. Benny’s always been on Luther’s side, but Schenk’s willingness to do this in the face of what he knows Alice has done and how that implicates Luther surprised even me. Ripley’s death has brought a determination to the fore that allows Benny to go along with the bit of “confusion” about who was who.
The sequence where Alice and John find Marwood and film what he’s doing is chilling. News reports about Marwood shooting Justin are all over the news, endangering his standing with the public, even with the mob. He tries to push the guilt onto John, but that won’t work. So, hey, he just shoots Luther in the knee. (Who just keeps walking and isn’t bleeding out because he’s using his tie as a tourniquet. Right.) So, while Alice works to get Mary out of danger, things go sideways, because Marwood has cloned Luther’s phone. He knows where to find them, all of them, and then there’s gunfire in the stairwell. Stark’s dead and Erin tries to keep Mary safe, even now, which just tells you how magnificent and brave she is — I’m glad she seems to pull through at the end of it.
And then, the choice. The impossible choice.
The thing is, I couldn’t figure out why Mary sent John after Alice at the end, and why it seemed like a definite goodbye, not just a see you later. But then, I understood. John chose Alice. You can see the hope blooming on Alice’s face (how utterly wonderful is Ruth Wilson in this role, by the way?!) until Luther says, “Shoot Alice.” But Alice’s expression doesn’t turn to hate. Sure, she doesn’t want to die, she wants to be with John, but it’s a sacrifice she’s prepared to make. She accepts it and closes her eyes, and it’s fine. And that’s why Luther chose her, because he knew that she’d understand, that he’d be forgiven, even though he’d never forgive himself for not saving both of them. But it’s the principle, John’s moral code: do not let innocent people suffer for your mistakes and others’ cruelty. It wouldn’t have mattered much who had been standing next to Alice in that moment. He adhered to his principle rather than to his feelings for Mary, because he knew that he and Alice shared this principle. The only other person who’d have allowed him to do this would have been Ripley. One might argue that he chose Alice because, well, she’s a killer, she’s a walking pathology, she’s expendable. But she’s not expendable to John, otherwise he wouldn’t have helped her escape in Series 2. Perhaps they’re mirror images of each other, perhaps they’re drifting towards a black hole that will annihilate them both.
That’s why Mary saved Alice, that’s why she jumped Marwood, risking her own life, because she knew that what was happening between John and Alice in that scene signified a kind of love and understanding that she couldn’t bear to see lost and, perhaps, that she knew she couldn’t compete with. Alice saved her life even though she made it very clear that she loathed Mary and the way she’d betrayed Luther; she did it for John. And this, Mary did this for John as well.
The final scene is a work of art, it really is. It’s the same bridge from Series 1, and it mirrors the events from Episode 1 so clearly. But this time, instead of an urn, Luther chucks his lucky coat (John, really?!) over the railing, and this time it definitely looks as though he’s closer to kissing Alice than killing her. Again, the series ends with the infamous words, “Now what..?”
We just don’t know.
Next: looks like we’re getting a prequel movie!