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Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (2013)

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Marple Julia McKenzie

Agatha Christie’s Marple: Season 6, episode 1. A Caribbean Mystery (2013) demonstrates an old truism about amateur sleuths who infest villages. At some point in their careers of solving crimes in these self-contained communities, the authors run out of people who have motives to kill people. Or, to put it another way, there’s no-one left alive. The desperate authors must therefore send their sleuths away on holiday. At this point, estate agents (or realtors for my American readers) become relevant because the substitute for a gripping plot is location, location, location. In this case, as the title suggests, Agatha Christie sends Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) off to the West Indies where, somewhat improbably, she meets up with Ian Fleming looking for inspiration for his first spy novel. If ever there was a clear signal Charlie Higson, the scriptwriter, thought he was in trouble, this is it. Trying to distract us with jokes about eccentric twitters who announce themselves to the world as Bond, James Bond is the ultimate act of desperation.

Anyway, throughout this ninety minute extravaganza, we’re treated to shots of palm trees in daylight, palm trees as the sun goes down in a dramatic sunset, and palm trees in contrived jungle conditions. And then there’s the beach, and two dramatic and big rocks overlooking a dangerous cliff top, and the shanty town replicating the West Indies of the 1950s. And all those marvellous old cars. . . As always with these productions, everything looks right. Even the clothing is almost entirely unsuitable for a hot climate and very much in fashion for middle class holiday getaways. So where are we? Tim (Robert Webb) and Molly Kendall (Charity Wakefield) run a quaint little hotel called the Golden Palms on the fictitious island of St. Honoré — and just to prove how fictitious the entire exercise, the locations for whole episode were apparently in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Not that there’s ever any obligation to use the real setting for “foreign” locations but it seems a long way to fly to get the result.

Nice looking beach

Nice looking beach

As is required for these Golden Age murder mysteries, a group of eccentric white guests huddle in their hotel oasis surrounded by all these foreigners. For the most part, they are afraid to leave and this creates the necessary ring fence more usually engineered by snow fall, bridges being washed away in sudden storms, and so on. Culture can trap people just as effectively as geography and extreme weather events. Leading the pack is a slightly over-the-top Antony Sher as Jason Rafiel who later triggers the events described in Nemesis. He’s accompanied by Warren Brown taking a rest from Luther, and avoiding Oliver Ford Davies as the delightfully boring Major Palgrave who has pictures of all his favorite murderers with which to regale the other guests. Then there’s the usual cast of “characters” from the slightly loopy clergyman to the loud American couple.

I suppose the virtue of plots like this is that, the more nonsensical they are, the more clever we’re supposed to think them. If only we were brighter, we could have picked up that “clue” earlier. Yes, well, pigs will fly one day. So for inspection by Miss Marple and Jason Rafiel, we have a group of people who, for one reason or another, all know each other. Imagine how this works. Here’s this hotel on an island and, having travelled the world, here comes Major Palgrave with his photographs. This is not his first visit, you understand. So it never occurred to him that he might have met one or more of these people “somewhere else”. He’s old. He only has one eye. And he’s old, so he has never noticed until sitting beside Miss Marple, that one of the people in his line of sight is that well-known murderer. . . Well, he’s old and so he gives a great start of surprise and alerts said murderer that the Major’s one eye and two little grey cells have finally identified the fiend. Naturally, said murderer cannot permit the Major to live another day. He might tell the same story again to someone who might actually believe him and that would never do. Now let’s switch the point of view. All the guests have had the chance to see the Major over their visits so, to avoid any embarrassment of the old guy suddenly pulling out his photographs and remembering, the killer simply needs to stay away, or leave early if it’s the first visit. Or if the fiend is one of the hotel owners or staff, it’s a simple matter to reject the Major’s request to stay — sadly the hotel is fully booked this year. The entire premise of this story makes even less sense than usual for a Christie.

Having killed off the second most interesting actor on display, we then get a story about people holidaying on an island and, every now and then, Miss Marple walks into shot. There’s an incredible amount of action and dialogue shown as filler to create atmosphere and suspicion until our sleuth can do her thing and overhear something or gossip to glean facts. I suppose the second murder is quite ingenious but, as is often the way with screen adaptations, the melodrama of the shooting at the end is laughable. And the screen romance which may be coming to fruition. . . Well let’s just say it’s one of these remarkably unlikely outcomes that Christie might have enjoyed. If there’s anything to like about this episode at all, it’s the performance of Antony Sher. It’s nicely judged and, for once, there’s real chemistry with Julia McKenzie. Put all this together and A Caribbean Mystery is nothing to mention in a postcard from a holiday destination that, at times, actually looks worth visiting — such great palm trees.

For reviews of other Agatha Christie stories and novels, see:

Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004) — the first three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2005) — the second set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006) — the third set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2007) — the final set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Blue Geranium (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Endless Night (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Greenshaw’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Murder is Easy (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye (2008)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Secret of Chimneys (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: They Do It with Mirrors (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Big Four (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Chocolate Box (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain. Poirot’s Last Case (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Mirror (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Elephants Can Remember (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Hallowe’en Party (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Three Act Tragedy (2011)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Underdog (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Yellow Iris (1993)

Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

It’s impossible to discuss this without detailed spoilers so do not read this unless you have seen the episode.

Well, DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), the loyal sergeant, gets his reward for being back on the stairway to heaven, police procedural style, by being kidnapped by Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby), the nutter. We shall pass calmly over the practicality of how the nutter gets into the police car without being detected, overpowers the big policeman, persuades him to leave the car, and then transports him away from the area (presumably thrown over the back of a llama or some other means with an artistic flourish). Anyway, now DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) is on the scene of the abduction, DCI Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) is already worried his man’s anger will get in the way of a cleanly run investigation. This set-up has all the hallmarks of another criminal ending up in a hospital in a coma and that’s not going to look good on anyone’s record. So having got the formalities out of the way, it’s on with the hunt. In the meantime, the loyal sergeant has problems. It’s all to do with a blowtorch, a hot iron and suspense as to what’s going to happen.

Jennie Jones (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is still handcuffed to a chair with Mark North (Paul McGann) acting as jailor with bathroom privileges a challenge. Heavies approach Caroline Jones (Kierston Wareing) (her mother) to get their prostitute back. Except when they explore options with the mother, it seems it may all be part of a plan to entrap Luther. This gives us a twin track narrative. The nutter telephones and Luther ignores him. Our hero has done his psychoanalysis 101 and decides the only way to beat this nutter is to treat him as if he does not exist. He’s to be an “absence”. As an idea, this is clever. I’ve no idea whether this form of provocation would work in the real world. Either way, it doesn’t stop the episode from having a pleasingly dynamic quality. Hey, Luther’s right. What a surprise. The nutter gets upset by being treated as if he has no importance and starts talking to the loyal sergeant instead of torturing him. No, wait. Spouting this rubbish is torturing the loyal sergeant. But at least they’re talking.

Luther and Alice Morgan in a moment of intimacy

Luther and Alice Morgan in a moment of intimacy

It seems the nutter inherited some money when his mother died so Luther has everyone searching for where it went. He also announces to the media that he’s scaling back the hunt for the missing policeman. Shenk and the DS Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird) interview and intimidate people they identify as having helped the nutter set up a new identity. It turns out he’s bought a bus and a large amount of sodium hydroxide. Leaving the loyal sergeant tied to a metal bracket bolted to a brick wall, the nutter is off to pick up children from a local school. While the cat’s away, the loyal mouse plays with the bracket and eventually breaks free (rusty brackets have no strength when the cat’s away). Shenk and Grey go off to find the bus. Luther picks up the sergeant, embracing him like a long-lost brother. They check the GPS on the nutter’s car conveniently left next to the hideout. This enables them to identify the probable place where the children will be taken.

Anyway, in the second narrative strand, the bad people led by Baba (Pam Ferris) take Caroline Jones hostage, drive a nail through Luther’s hand to show they mean business, and tell him to find out where the police are holding a man who will implicate her grandson, Toby Kent (David Dawson) in people-tracking activities. These bad guys act all psychopathic to frighten Luther, but he’s just angry he has this nail in his hand when he should be out catching the nutter. Except he can’t ignore the threats to Caroloine and Jennie so, with Benny Silver (Michael Smiley) doing the research, our hero breaks into the safe house with Mark’s help and he instructs the witness to withdraw his statement implicating Toby Kent.

Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) proving competent in an interview

Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) proving competent in an interview

In the main narrative thread, we have the silly situation of Luther and his loyal sergeant getting to the factory unit before every other police officer in London. They reduce the nutter to a snivelling wreck by refusing to treat him as a serious threat to the children he has locked up in his van. With everything happily resolved on this front, Luther returns to his seedy flat where he finds Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) waiting for him. She’s escaped from the secure mental hospital and asks him to run away with her to distant lands featuring places beginning with M. He refuses. Disappointed she gives him a kiss and leaves. He goes to get Jennie and brings her back to his place. Not having read the script, he assures her she’ll be safe there.

Although elements of the episode are idiotic, e.g. cars crashing into each other or through iron railings and still being driveable, the overall effect is as gripping as television episodes ever can be. Luther continues to be restrained, which is a major improvement, and Shenk proves interestingly competent. The loyal sergeant gets to show a heroic quality while the others in the team remain ciphers. In a one-hour episode, there’s no time for everyone to get their moment in the spotlight. This leaves me a chance to offer a word of praise for the villains in these first two episodes who have managed to come across as rather more credible than the more melodramatic criminals from the first season. This has provided Luther with direct antagonists and given the episodes a better balance.

For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.

Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)
Luther: Season 1 episode 6 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)

Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011) starts as we know it must. Deathwish DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) survives his morning ritual of Russian roulette and sets off to work as all happy adults must go to their own personal coal face to continue mining. There’s just the one problem with this opening sequence. At the end of the first season, we were left with something of a messy cliffhanger. I had hopes this might signal a shift into a better level of credibility. Rashly, I dared dream this season would deal with the aftermath of the shooting. There we were with three people standing over one body, police sirens wailing in the background. Glossing over this problematic situation would be unacceptable, I thought. So, of course, that’s what Neil Cross does. By his standards, it would be boring to deal with the messy details of whether Alice shooting DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) was self-defence or an execution by majority vote, Mark North (Paul McGann) supplying the second vote for death. All we see is DCI Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) interviewing Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) who’s intent on taking all the blame for killing Ian Reed. The things we do for whatever passes for love in a sociopath’s mind. When Luther meets up with Mark North, there’s no obvious consequence for either of them. No suspension for Luther whose knife wound seems to have healed nicely. No prosecution for Alice for pulling the trigger. Not even an interview shown for Mark North. It’s just life moving forward as if nothing seriously unlawful has occurred.

Alice Morgan saying, "I did it. It's a fair cop."

Alice Morgan saying, “I did it. It’s a fair cop.”

I know I should not be hankering after a season of what might have been, but just pause for a moment. Alice Morgan is clearly guilty of murder and Mark North incited the shooting, making it their common purpose to kill. Running self-defence would fail because neither Alice Morgan herself nor the others were in immediate physical danger. She’s also not provoked by the words being used so another possible defence falls by the wayside. At an early stage, Ian Reed’s excessive criminal activities over the years will be revealed. Vast numbers of criminals currently residing in HM Prisons now allege they were framed by this crooked policeman. All his files have to be reviewed and DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves) would probably be fired for failing to notice. Now we come to the interesting part. From the early days, Luther was aware of Ian Reed’s criminal connections and actions but he did not blow the whistle. In its own right that’s a criminal offence. Shenk would have a field day (or week) bringing multiple charges against Luther and seeing him locked up. This is four episodes of tense drama as we build up to Luther, Alice Morgan and Mark North going on trial for murder. Will the jury convict once they understand exactly what happened?

Ah well, you can’t always have what you want. Indeed, we’re back to normal in the big city as we watch one lone woman attacked by hooded and masked weirdo who then uses her cellphone to call all her friends (and the vet) to announce the news of her passing. I suppose that crime shows some degree of originality. The only one to have suffered any loss from events is DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) who’s working in uniform as a custody sergeant. Luther sweeps into the station and recruits him into a new serious (this time it’s to be really serious) crime. Amazingly, Shenk is in charge of the unit. He’s no longer investigating fellow police officers. He wants to get back to the real world and locking up serious criminals. Not surprisingly, he’s had to call in favours and twist arms to get the role. Saving Luther meant spending a lot of his goodwill with the “management”. Now he’s under pressure to ensure his star performer doesn’t go off the rails (again) (sorry, was he ever really on the rails?). There’s a new DS Erin Grey (Nikki Amuka-Bird) who’s worried her own career may be wrecked by working with Luther. Since these series are naturally perverse, this means she’s destined for greatness.

Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby) appealing to the world for recognition

Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby) appealing to the world for recognition

A new face, Caroline Jones (Kierston Wareing), comes into the police station to see Luther who arrested her husband for murder some years in the past. Jennie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), her daughter, was all messed up by seeing her daddy humiliated and arrested. Now grown up, she’s run away into a life as a more extreme prostitute. For her next paying gig, she’s arranged to go through a form of consensual rape which is to be filmed. Reluctantly, Luther agrees to talk with her. IT whizkid, Benny Silver (Michael Smiley), tracks down where the filming “might” be taking place. Luther goes there, finds much activity, and talks with Jennie who claims to need the money. There’s rent to pay. So he arrests her and leaves her in handcuffs with Mark North. They talk. Two damaged people forced to externalise their losses.

After a second murder, Luther scans the crowd at the murder scene, sees a likely suspect, and runs off after him. Minutes later, we’re back into darkness. This time it’s cellar territory. With the unerring accuracy of the bloodhound, he tracks the man down. They fight and the man escapes — needs must when there’s an hour to fill. Fortunately Luther has bitten the man and has a DNA sample. Now they have a name and a background. It’s Cameron Pell (Lee Ingleby), a failed artist who has an obsession with Springheeled Jack and is out to make himself into a legend. He kills a third time, taunting the police with a live video feed of the dirty deed.

In an idle moment, Luther visits Alice. She may have avoided prison but is now in a secure hospital — apparently she tried to kill herself (several times). She advises him to give up the police force and live for himself and not for others. Those others are all just vampires. He thinks back to his suicidal tendencies and agrees he’s not going to hang around for long. This just leaves me a final word. If we put aside personal issues and treat this episode as a standalone, it proves to be quite an effective atmosphere piece. There’s not a lot of detecting going on but it does build up into quite a pleasingly tense sequence at the end. Although the cliffhanger is woefully contrived — the rear doors on police cars are not kept locked and open silently — it does keep the interest going.

For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.

Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)
Luther: Season 1 episode 6 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011).

Luther: Season 1 episode 6 (2010)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

Since we’re going to be heavily into spoilers, you should not read this unless you’ve seen both episodes 5 and 6.

So as Luther: Season 1 episode 6 starts, Zoe Luther (Indira Varna) is dead and DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) has run off. DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) can’t get himself into the right place to influence the investigation. That role falls to DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) because he has no long-term track record of loyalty to Luther. Mark North (Paul McGann) comes into the police station and is interviewed by DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves). He passes on the news that Luther and Zoe had resumed sleeping together. If Zoe told Luther that she was going to prefer Mark, it would give him a motive to kill her. Of course the police are into damage limitation mode. Instead of thinking about the situation, Rose uncritically believes she’s going to be blamed for taking Luther back into the unit. That means she’s going to throw Luther under the bus to protect herself. DCI Martin Shenk (Dermot Crowley) is nominally in charge with DCSU Russell Cornish (Matthew Marsh) taking overall responsibility. Whether he ultimately proves guilty, they want Luther under arrest before the press get hold of the story.

Steve Mackintosh in a more predatory mood

Steve Mackintosh in a more predatory mood

As we might expect from the first five episodes, Luther goes to see Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) and tells her what has happened. He wants her to be his accomplice and she’s delighted to agree. This is proving to be a fascinating relationship. All the evidence to date suggests full-blown sociopathic tendencies, yet she seems quite naturally to pass beyond the bounds of a normal friendship. This is not to say the relationship is anything other than platonic. So far, there’s been nothing more than a slight touch and each straying into the other’s personal space. Yet, at an emotional level, they have a strong bond. When the gun is found, Jason tips off Luther and together, Luther and Alice arm themselves and intercept the car taking the gun to the police lab for testing. They steal the gun. Having carefully wiped it down, Luther throws it into the river which has an air of redundancy about it, but makes him feel better. Ian now decides he has to get proactive and calls Luther to arrange a meet. Luther gives him a time and place. Ian now plays on Rose’s insecurity and arranges for a sniper to be watching, ready to shoot. He hopes to make the problem go away by provoking Luther into violence which will mandate a shot.

Luther and Alice persuade Mark to go into the police station. When everyone’s out shooting to kill, he’s to use the code to the padlock guarding Ian’s locker and take the diamonds (interestingly prescient of Luther to “know” where the diamonds would be hidden). Shenk distrusts Jason but has no evidence on which to deny Jason the right to go out with the armed team. As anticipated, the meet goes ahead. The coded exchange between Luther and Ian is excellent but Luther putting his hand in his pocket as if to pull out a weapon is misjudged. He wouldn’t do that. Justin’s warning Luther when the sniper is about to shoot and subsequent arrest is unnecessarily melodramatic.

Warren Brown being quite bright and increasingly loyal

Warren Brown being quite bright and increasingly loyal

The ending of the episode deserves special praise. To understand why, we have to go back to the first four episodes which, to my mind, played the wrong game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a police procedural investigating wholly unusual crimes with exceptional criminals. Once in a while, blending in a little horror helps to show a different side to our police officers who must suddenly confront something wholly extraordinary. But this series has been one aberrant criminal after another, so all we’ve seen have been officers working in abnormal circumstances. It would have been far more interesting to see this tinderbox team investigate the theft of a handbag from a local store. Indeed, the idea of John Luther combusting while trying to persuade a reluctant witness to give up a car thief is very appealing because it gives us a scale of values. This is what he’s like when nominally at rest. This is what he’s like when it actually matters. But because the series has never dialed down the intensity, we’ve been left with the worst kind of melodrama. The settings and camera angles have been chosen to create a dark atmosphere with the lighting team particularly hard at work to generate shadows. Backed up by the music score, it’s all been over-the-top. But this last pair of episodes suddenly remembered that the greatest horror is in the capacity everyone has to self-destruct.

Paul McGann worn down by the situation

Paul McGann worn down by the situation

Steve Mackintosh’s performance has been terrific. There’s been little sign of overacting as the situation has slowly slipped out of his control. The change of pace at the end when he tries to provoke Luther and Mark is beautifully judged and gives the three others in the scene a steadiness to react against. Set against this has been John Luther finding a route to redemption. He could have found something to smash, whether animate or inanimate, but he’s largely kept his temper in check and plotted out a way to achieve salvation. The episode is also nicely judged by not resolving matters. It would have been too neat an ending to be even remotely credible if Luther had been hailed a hero for unmasking Ian. The real world is messy and this outcome feels absolutely right.

So having started on a weak basis, the series finishes strongly and I can understand why it won awards. It also leaves me interested to watch the start of the second season to see how it plays out. I confess to being surprised at myself but I’ve been forced to change my opinion of the merits of the series. In real terms, this is a triumph for Neil Cross. I decided to do a retrospective on the television series because I enjoyed the book, but didn’t think Idris Elba was right for the role. Fortunately the script changed enough to give Idris Elba the chance to calm down. Then I found his performance in the narrative arc more convincing. The addition of Ruth Wilson as Alice was inspired. She’s been watchable from the outset. The relationship between this pair has been the glue to hold everything together. Even Paul McGann as Mark North has a chance to shine at the end, making this a very even-handed ensemble piece.

For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.

Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)
Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011).

Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

Luther: Season 1, episode 5 opens with the mundane task of moving house. This can be such a strain so James Carrodus (Thomas Lockyer) and his wife Jessica (Donatienne Dupont) were prepared for bad things but perhaps not this. There they are, standing in an empty flat, when a truck from the same removal company that took their furniture away, pulls up outside. Sadly this is bad people who seem to think this art dealer has converted ill-gotten gains into diamonds through a money launderer. Having taken the trouble to come, they are not going to take no for an answer. Leave no stone unturned, they say in the idiom. So with his wife kidnapped, the husband comes into the police station asking for DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh). With the man he knows out of the office, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) and the increasingly reliable DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) step forward and hear an edited story of his wife’s kidnapping. Luther persuades DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves) to borrow diamonds from the evidence safe. This breaks the chain of evidence and will kill a current case dead if the loss is discovered. But they can surely keep hold of these diamonds, right?

Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) and John Luther (Idris Elba)

Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) and John Luther (Idris Elba)

Once alerted to the scale of the impending disaster, Reed goes to see Bill Winingham (Alexander Morton), the money launderer with whom he has a corrupt relationship and who set up the robbery through Tom Meyer (Danny Lee Wynter), his nephew. Meyer called in the American specialists, Daniel Sugarman (Ross McCall) and Evangeline Nixon (Ania Sowinski), to collect the diamonds. Reed tells the nephew that if he doesn’t rescue the woman, he will personally kill everyone in sight. This is the type of behaviour for which the British police is well known. Meanwhile the ransom drop with the borrowed diamonds goes wrong as the husband gives up the wife and runs off the the borrowed diamonds. Worse the nephew is intercepted as he rescues the kidnapped wife and both are killed by Daniel Sugarman. It’s a bad day for everyone when Reed is instructed to arrest the money launderer for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and several murders. Reed has been at the heart of the unfolding disaster. If he had trusted Luther to rescue the woman, she and the nephew would still be alive. He now has a problem. While Luther knows of his dodgy past and might be prepared to help, there are too many loose ends lying around which might lead back to him in any event. The episode now becomes almost entirely centred on Reed as he tries to decide what to do for the best.

Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh)

Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh)

On the romantic front, Mark North (Paul McGann) is taking a few days away from Zoe Luther (Indira Varna) so she can decide what she wants. She comes into the police station to tell John he’s surplus to requirements. This is just what he needs to hear at the height of this kidnapping. Distressed he calls on Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) and finally agrees with her that there is no love. As a natural contrarian, she confesses she killed Madson for unselfish reasons — because she couldn’t stand to see Luther hurt. At last we have a clear understanding between them.

So no more discussion of the plot. For the first time in this series, Neil Cross managed to get everything right through the simple expedient of focusing on the characters and letting the situation unfold at a natural pace. There’s real tension in the attempts to capture the kidnappers as they pick up the ransom. Similarly, the slow disintegration of Reed is beautifully handled. This character as played by Steve Mackintosh has been rather in the background up to this point but, as the threats of exposure grow more real, this turns into a very well constructed performance. Unlike others who have rather overacted when coming into the limelight, Mackintosh shows the slow decline into despair, toying with the possibility of suicide. But then he pulls himself back from the edge. His performance gives the episode a solid base from which Idris Elba can launch his more extravagant style. They make a good pair. The upshot of this episode leaves everything poised for the last episode in this season. For once, I’m actually looking forward to watching it.

For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.

Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 6 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)
Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011).

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