Luther, “Episode Two”

Without Mad Men and Rubicon, Luther has become my only real appointment television for Sunday nights and thankfully, the second episode delivered a number of good procedural moments and a some nice developments in the ongoing stories with John and Alice.

What’s interesting about the episode is that after a pilot that spends all its time with John and Alice, this effort sees John start a completely new case, one that’s somewhat intriguing in its own right, but only serves to remind us how compelling things are when Alice is around.

Here, Luther is tracking down an ex-solider who’s intelligently planning the executions of multiple cops as a way to avenge his controlling father. A number of the kills are well-shot and exert a wonderful ominous and cold feeling that goes along with the solider’s steely demeanor and Luther’s interrogation of the father is chillingly creepy. However, somewhere near the middle of the case, things do drag just a bit, particularly in comparison to how the pace felt suffocating in the first episode.

Thankfully, just because he’s not tracking her anymore, Alice is still around and digging into Luther’s life. She calls to harass and toy with him just a bit and eventually makes her way into Zoe’s loft for a little interrogation and truth detection of her own. Just like in the first episode, these scenes are fairly boil-plate “hunter becomes the hunted” thriller tropes, but because Ruth Wilson straddles the line between genius and sociopath so well, it’s all enthralling. The scenes with Alice and Luther talking on the phone interrupt his current case and serve almost as a distraction, but they’re still the best of the episode.

I also enjoyed how the episode continued to push the polarities between the two of them — or I guess I should say, the supposed polarities. Alice’s intent in interviewing Zoe is part of her attempts to prove that Luther isn’t really as caring or controlled as he’s pretending to be because she wants to make sure he realizes that they’re actually cut from the same cloth. They’re both brilliant, they’re both teetering that line of genius-sociopath (albeit in different ways) and they like the game.

That’s why, by episode’s end, Luther’s ready to have a cup of coffee with Alice and they have an almost friendly relationship. She’s making an effort to pose as his friend, but it’s obvious they’re both still sizing one another up and digging for more because they can. Sure, I think there’s a little sexual tension and mutual respect there, but they’re both putting on performances. And yet again, this all standard in this kind of text, but these two actors are clearly tuned-in to one another’s psyches that it’s both draining and exciting to watch them go back and forth.

Getting away from Alice while letting her plot in the background is actually a smart idea when plotting out the six episodes because even with the actors’ chemistry, I’m not sure how they’d put it together if all six episodes saw them circling each other for 75 minutes, especially without her killing more people (which would totally make her more villainous than they need to). And although the other story isn’t as compelling in Episode Two, Luther still remains worth our time, particularly with a lighter Sunday schedule.

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