The fifth – and possibly last – series of Luther on BBC1 has terrified viewers into a state of near-insomnia over the past week, and it came to an end in dramatic and deadly fashion, appearing to kill off two of its major characters.
Here’s a recap of the bloodiest episode of the season, in which we also pose the question: Did the Alice Morgan storyline go too far?
***WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Luther series five episode four***
The Luther and Cornelius face-off
Luther episode four kicked off with the hitman hired by George Cornelius holding Alice and Mark captive. Luther gets fed up searching for them all over London so tracks down Cornelius at a London hotel and, with a gun to his head, demands that the gangster tells his hitman to stand down.
Cornelius obliges but the hitman is reluctant to stop until the job is complete. Luther then tries to shoot Cornelius but he can’t bring himself to do it, so ends up offering himself up in exchange for Cornelius’s dead son, an eye for an eye.
The gangster decides to return the favour and takes mercy on his rival, and together they go and take down the hired hitman who’s showing no signs of stopping his mission early. Cornelius agrees peace with Luther, but warns him he’s got incriminating evidence against the detective in case he ever crosses him again. Alice and Mark are rescued.
Schenk’s investigation into the death of Benny
Luther finally goes to work at the police station for what feels like the first time this series. He tells his boss Schenk that Benny – who was killed in episode three by the hitman – called in sick. Schenk isn’t convinced, and when he gets a call to say Benny’s body’s been found, he decides to investigate it secretly while grieving his beloved colleague.
Schenk discovers that Cornelius was involved with the murder of Benny and goes to his house to demand answers. As he arrives, Alice begins shooting at the gangster’s house with a machine gun, but runs off when she sees the police are there. Cornelius, who managed to dodge all the bullets, simply shows Schenk a photograph of Luther standing over the dead hitman with a gun in his hand. Schenk stares at the photo in shock for a few seconds, in disbelief that his colleague appears to be so corrupt, and goes about trying to track down Luther.
The hunt for killer Jeremy Lake
Meanwhile, serial killer Jeremy Lake is still on the loose and up to no good. He kills one man and hangs him upside down from a bridge by the Thames, the victim wearing a mask of Jeremy’s own face.
We then see Jeremy enquiring about the services of a prostitute and a plumber, and Vivien Lake tells the police, reluctantly, that one of her husband’s most “outré” fantasies is playing “happy families” – inviting people into a house, like lambs to the slaughter.
Sure enough, we then see Jeremy rock up on the doorstep of the schoolteacher from episode one with a bunch of flowers, before punching her in the face and taking over her home and using it as the setting for his next spate of killings. The prostitute and the plumber are among his victims as he welcomes them into his lair.
Alice’s killing spree – and possible death
Luther and DS Catherine Halliday go to the schoolteacher’s house to catch Jeremy. By the time they arrive everyone is already dead, apart from Jeremy who they manage to catch and cuff alive.
As Catherine confronts Luther about his corrupt antics out on the street and begins to cry, accusing Luther of using her as bait in the house to catch Jeremy, Alice appears out of nowhere and shoots Catherine in the head, killing her.
In a blind rage, Alice then turns the gun on Luther and demands that he think of another one of his lies and covers for them. This bizarre and completely unexpected turn of events confounds Luther and he chases after Alice, leaving the scene just in the nick of time before Schenk arrives.
Alice and Luther then engage in a major face-off in a nearby construction site where she continues to try shooting him dead, seemingly because she is in despair that she can’t make him love her the way she wants him to. Alice is about to shoot the final bullet at point-blank range, killing Luther once and for all, but he shoves her and she trips off the edge of the scaffolding.
Luther leans over clutching her hand, stopping her from falling, but she takes out a knife and cuts him so he has to let go. Alice falls to the floor to her apparent death. But is she really dead… again?
Before we can deliberate on this too much, Schenk and his men finally arrive and handcuff Luther, who can barely breathe and is bleeding out. Schenk helps his old colleague out of his iconic coat and supports his weight as he stumbles out onto the street. And we’re left wondering – how will Luther lie his way out of this one?
Did the Alice Morgan storyline go too far in series five?
Ruth Wilson’s psychopathic killer Alice Morgan has been a hugely compelling – and strangely likeable – character over the last four series of Luther. A murderous and erratic living nightmare from the off, Luther always loved her in spite of himself – and so did we. She was like Killing Eve’s Villanelle in a way, in that her actions were unnecessarily cruel and she was extremely manipulative and depraved, but somehow fans admired her and even fancied her.
But her actions throughout the fifth have wiped out any empathy we had left. Perhaps this was a purposeful move from writer Neil Cross. Perhaps in series five we are finally meant to understand and accept that, by definition, a psychopath is someone who is morally bankrupt, glib and has a callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
But I miss rooting for Alice and being on her side, something that was made impossible by the end. The murder of Cornelius’s son was excessive collateral damage, and there was no clear motive behind the shock shooting of Catherine. Jealousy, perhaps? Or was it just for fun? Just because she could?
Who knows if we’ll ever find out. But I’m mourning for the old Alice rather than the death of the new one.
This article was originally published on 4 January 2019