Luther started immensely strong and then unfortunately toiled away in solid, but not tremendously so procedural fare for a few episodes before then flipping the switch on the crazy last week. In the finale to this series’ six-part first run, that sense of crazy continued a nice pace without going too far off the deep end. For the most part, episode six is a satisfying conclusion to the story that began in episode five. I’m not sure I could say it’s a satisfying conclusion to the season as a whole, but based on the cliffhanger, I’m assuming it wasn’t supposed to be.
There isn’t a whole in episode six of Luther that we haven’t seen before. The narrative follows all the beats we expect it to: Ian frames Luther for killing Zoe, the department starts pulling all its resources together in hopes of covering their own asses for even letting him come back to work in the first place and Luther works in the shadows to figure out how in the heck to both protect himself and take Ian out for killing his wife. However, because the episode is willing to let the characters continue to act like crazy people, a number of the familiar beats work.
Meaning, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense why Luther, with the help of the very willing Alice, would hold up his superior with a gun so that he can steal the murder weapon and then dump it in the river. That’s not really the sign of an innocent man, or even a man trying to prove his own innocence. Moreover, it doesn’t really seem realistic that Zoe’s new boyfriend Mark would quickly turn off his hatred for Luther, believe that he didn’t kill Zoe and then be part of this elaborate plan to prove that Ian actually did the killing.
However, the actors are so strong in their roles and the series is so entrenched in this “people do crazy things when teetering that line between love/hate!” position that it all comes together, particularly in the last 10-15 minutes, in a successful package. The last sequence ramps up those themes of love/hate and compassion/nothingness again when Luther gets Ian to admit his crimes on a voice recorder and Ian then turns to (presumably) lies about how he had lots of sex with Zoe in the past. Ian wants Luther to hate him, to feel no compassion, but apparently Luther’s learned his lesson from a few episodes ago when he told Alice that there was no point in loving anyone, because he doesn’t buy Ian’s stories and just wants to arrest him.
Of course, Alice has other plans. She has this weird loyalty to Luther and decides that it’s in her interest to just blow Ian away, leaving the totally out-of-place Mark as the swing vote. As the most normal person throughout the first five episodes, I guess it makes sense to have Mark break down in hatred after seeing the person he loved go away, and thus, he votes to kill Ian. Alice pulls the trigger and the three of them are left waiting for the cops to show up, cops who though have an idea that Ian is the criminal, won’t really understand why Mark is there or particularly why Alice Morgan, former suspect is now helping Luther.
Thus, the series seems satisfied with how it handled its thematic concerns in this final episode, and for the most part, I am too. Luther found a way to control his hate and have compassion, Mark could not. Alice? Well, she’s like the enabler to any bad situation, and that’s fine and fun. The cliffhanger is partially frustrating and it’s generally frustrating that Alice had much less to do after the first episode — she’s fairly secondary here as well, despite the shooting — but Luther was a worthwhile six-week investment and I’ll be happy for it to return, whenever that is.