REVIEW: Luther (S5 E2/4)


So she’s back. It was possibly the worst kept secret of the year when the return of Luther was originally announced – Alice Morgan was back. She’s arguably the best character in the show (spin-off anybody?) and therefore the default fail-safe to bring back every time the plot looked like it is flagging, which is often. But this time around there was the not insurmountable task of unpicking the fact she was very dead the last time we heard about her. So where has Alice been all this time and why is she back?

An opening flashback to two years previous in Belgium sees Alice working for George Cornelius on a diamond smuggling job. Unfortunately for Alice, George has decided a double-cross is in order – taking the diamonds and the money before executing Alice. But more unfortunately for George, we all know Alice is no pushover – swiftly killing both his hired henchmen but leaving her permanently on the run. Fast forward to the present day and her arrival on Luther’s doorstep comes with an unfortunate case of a shrapnel blast to her abdomen, care of George’s pump-action shotgun as it transpires it was Alice that kidnapped his son Alistair in revenge for his father’s former actions.

Luther does a quick patch-up job on his modern-day Moriarty, but it’s not long before we have a comedy of errors emerge as first Schenk and Halliday turn up at his flat to expound on theories about Lake and her patient – Hauser wasn’t a suicide risk so why would he cut his own throat? Halliday promises to look into Lake’s private life whilst Schenk bags up a bloody tissue on the sly before leaving as secondly George and his hired goons step in to the place and make swiss cheese of Luther’s ceiling whilst he and Alice make their escape across the rooftops of London.

Meanwhile across the capital we properly meet couple of the month Vivien Lake and her hubby Jeremy, who we first saw in the boot of Vivien’s car last episode. Here he gets a cold bucket of water to the knackers and a firm telling off for going against Vivien’s carefully laid out plans, wasting the time and effort she had spent on constructing Hauser as their scapegoat in the process. But later on it’s all sweetness and light with Jeremy looking very smart in his work suit, a light compliment on his tie ringing in his ears and the pair warmly reminiscing over that time when Jeremy “kicked that Somalian rent boy half to death”. You certainly wouldn’t want to invite this pair to your dinner party (or at least you’d hide the cutlery).

In a neat twist it turns out Jeremy is a prominent heart surgeon, literally placing him in a position with the life of his patients in his hands. It’s clear Vivien worries Jeremy’s “impulse control” is slipping and she has a right to be concerned – if he’s not stalking a young mother in the park he’s unconsciously telling a patient she’s a “diseased whore” and he intends to kill her. This encroaching madness manifests itself later in a gruesome visual nightmare – being helpless on a hospital gurney whilst a surgeon violates your bodily privacy against your will. He stands transfixed by the appearance of his wife as he risks stabbing away casually at his patient’s exposed heart, something which she admonishes him later for attempting when so many people were present to witness his risk-taking.

Vivien is full of professional hubris, thinking she has clinical control over Jeremy’s animal desires – but it’s clear her grip is as tenuous as the placating words he uses to soothe her concerns, as later he lies about coming straight home from work  and instead pretends to be picking up a fridge from a young woman (using yet another app to access a victim, did Neil Cross get scammed on a second-hand microwave from eBay or something?) before stuffing her drugged body into a suitcase before her partner returns home. It’s another genuinely creepy scene that plays with our common fears around being paranoid of strangers and what we will accept as standard behaviour when it’s shrouded in the false normality of an everyday situation – something the show exploits time and again to unsettling effect.

Elsewhere Alice takes Luther back to where the whole show started – her family home and scene of her parents murders – seen here in a quick flashback. There she has George’s son Alistair tied up and drugged, presenting Luther with two options – her favourite being killing the boy and escaping with Luther to a new life in the sun. Luther takes the first option and drives Alistair back to George, but not before fantasising about what a life with Alice might actually look like. Luther plays out a fictional relationship with her in his head but it ends up that his desire to save imaginary victims (spurred on by footage of rolling news coverage that seems to come from an episode of Hard Sun about an equally stab-happy chap with a penchant for masks, how’s that for being meta) supersedes his desire for her. Likewise she does the same in parallel, eventually becoming turned off by the myopic nature of his impotent morality. Either way it’s clear to both no good can come from their desire for each other, regardless of how much the audience would will it to happen.

Schenk soon finds out the tissue he nabbed from Luther’s flat contains the blood of one Alice Morgan, deceased – and immediately calls Benny for answers. Unfortunately for Benny, he’s too busy having jump leads attached to his ears – something which his captor George is only too happy to ring Luther about. George has considered Luther’s offer to buy off the hunt for Alice, and rejected it – he wants her dead and will gladly electrocute poor Benny until Luther delivers the goods. One problem – Luther has no idea where Alice is since she absconded from her family home. Alice being Alice has other ideas however – taking the fight directly to George, she rustles up a quick disguise as a prostitute and literally walks into the Lion’s Den that is the gangster’s mobbed-up fortress home before sliding a hat pin forcefully into a sleeping Alistair’s ear canal – letting out a long and happy exhale as she does, satisfied in her work. She’s back alright.

Andy D