Luther has been in something of a slump over its past two episodes, and after episode four, I wondered if the last two episodes of this first season (I believe they’re doing a few 2-hour movie event things in the future) would be even close to as interesting as the first hour.
Well, after “Episode Five” I think I have my answer, even if it comes at the price of a few somewhat ridiculous plot developments. And honestly, I’m okay with. I’d rather have a somewhat ridiculous, but wholly entertaining Luther than a reality-based, methodical and boring one that we’d been getting over the middle episodes.
After spending the first four episodes doing very little but being the straight man to John Luther’s insanity, Ian completely loses control here and becomes Luther’s most deadly competition. In most respects, Ian’s turn is totally out of nowhere. He’s been mostly quiet, generally level-headed and basically innocuous for the first four episodes. However, I actually think thematically, this character turn makes more sense than it doesn’t narratively, if that makes sense.
It seems to me that the series is really interested in discussing what happens to people when they’re put in situations to deal with their personal feelings, whether that be love or hate and probably, how those two emotions combine. The whole conflict between Luther and Alice has been about his belief in love and good, while she’s all about the lack of those things.
By having Ian quickly find himself in over his head with his relationship to a money launderer/thief and then completely lose his mind when he thinks Luther doesn’t trust him, the change in the character at least ties into the series’ larger thematic concerns. Ian is already panicked and confused when he meets up with Luther near the end of this episode, but when he wrongly suspects the trust isn’t there anymore, he snaps. He tries to kill John in that moment and eventually makes his way to Zoe’s place and accidentally kills her, mostly because he realizes he can’t trust her either. Now, he’s framed Luther for the murder and is presumably going to go back into work in hopes of making that frame job become a reality.
In that sense, even some of the boring episodes are important to what happens here. Despite Alice’s meddling, Zoe decides that she doesn’t want to be with John anymore and from there, he realizes that Alice is actually right, there is no good in people, they’ll only disappoint you and make the wrong decision. While he’s wrong to agree with her, the last few days/weeks have pushed him to this point of view and now he and Ian feel similarly about one another. Luther sees Ian as yet another person who does the wrong thing and Ian can’t separate his confusion from the fact that he could have trusted John all along. Meanwhile, Alice is caught somewhere in the middle, seemingly ready to do whatever John wants her to do.
Again, sure, Ian’s decisions are mostly out of nowhere. But isn’t that how life works? When people trust one another so much and then have that trust screwed with, they can do awful things, even if they’re trying to do the right thing.
The best compliment I can give “Episode Five” is that it makes me want to watch the finale, just as the premiere episode made me want to watch the second episode, which is unlike how I felt after episodes two through four. I imagine that Luther is going to continue to feel overwhelmed and messed up as the events of the finale run their course, but thankfully, said events are much more personal instead of just a random weirdo case, which always makes for a better procedural.