Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – I Corinthians 13: 4-8a NKJV

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” – I Peter 4:8 NKJV

Idris Elba, Luther

The second episode of the third season/series of BBC’s Luther continues the series-arching crusade of DCI Gray’s and DSU Stark’s to bring John Luther down for the deaths of several people from his past. It also resolves the case opened in the previous episode, surrounding a possible copycat of a serial killer from years earlier—the Shoreditch Creeper (what a name!). The writers also introduce a burgeoning romance between Luther and a young lady named Mary. Mary represents the possibility of a fresh start for Luther, a do-over. Of course, the audience is well aware of how precarious their relationship is. For Luther, love is the summation of all that is good in life. He is a firm believer of ‘love in the ruins.’ And so to destroy Luther—to send him over the edge, as Gray and Stark seem intent on doing—one must destroy the ones that he loves.

What follows may include spoilers—not that it would ruin the brilliance of the show at all if some of the plot were spoiled—but if you are averse, then you should stop reading here and get caught up on the show before moving forward.

uktv-luther-s03-e02-4We come to understand that the copycat killer has been operating under the tutelage of the original killer (who is currently in hospice and quite ill), who sends his pupil to kill two of the women who had escaped his clutches during his spree, years ago. But the question remains, how did the original killer and copycat killer come to know each other? How was this devil’s knot tightened? It turns out that Paul Ellis, the copycat, is the son of one of the Shoreditch Creeper’s original victims, a prostitute. Paul as a child not only saw his mother with various clients, but, also, witnessed her grisly death through the open crack of a closet door. As he became an adult he sought out his mother’s killer, only to have that killer persuade him of the enjoyment to be had in murder; thus the devil tutoring his disciple in the ways of blood lust.

As I mentioned in the last post, at the start of this season, it appeared that John Luther’s allies were becoming fewer and fewer. Even DS Ripley, Luther’s devoted and trusted partner, had been persuaded to join the witch hunt against him. By the end of the second episode–in what is probably one of the most touching moments in the entire series–Luther confronts Gray, Stark and Ripley, who are meeting in an abandoned restaurant so that Ripley can testify against Luther, and takes the recorder that has Ripley’s testimony on it. As he drives away from the confrontation, he plays the recorder only to find that Ripley’s testimony is actually an admission of his admiration and trust in the seemingly morally ambiguous procedures of his partner. In an instant, Luther realizes that love really can persevere in the face of deceit and brokenness. Luther is not alone. Ripley has his back, even when Luther is convinced he doesn’t. This is grace.

I bring up the Mary storyline, the circumstances surrounding the meeting of the Shoreditch Creeper and his disciple, and the eventual redemption of Luther and Ripley’s friendship, because each of these storylines traces the fractured manifestations of love running through the third series.

LUTHER Series 3The Shoreditch Creeper’s reasons for killing women come out of a distorted sense of love, which always takes, but never gives. His past victims were nothing but objects to him and, much like objects, they are used and thrown away, or, in this case, murdered. His disciple, Paul Ellis, on the other hand, grew up in a situation where he saw broken love in broken situations and then saw the one woman that he probably did truly love, his mother, murdered. His tutor took this distorted understanding of love, and Paul’s anger and grief and shaped them into yet another object to be used. Together, they nurture a perverted love that revels in taking life, that finds its height of expression in the mask of death.

Mary and DS Ripley represent a completely different manifestation of love. Mary gives Luther a reason to love again after the death of his ex-wife. She gives him a reason to hope that affection really can form and survive in a world where evil and death rule. The innocence of the relationship—the upbeat conversations and sweet laughter and voicemails exchanged between them—draws a sharp contrast to the rest of Luther’s life, which is always shrouded in death and crime and suspicion. In the case of DS Ripley–and the revelation of Ripley’s refusal to cooperate with the witch-hunt–their friendship reveals that love is not limited to romance, that it can be made manifest in the bonds of loyalty and friendship.

At the beginning of the first series, in a dialogue between Luther’s ex-wife, Zoe, and Alice Morgan, a character we will dig into later on, we are given insight into what motivates Luther:

p01h4v9pAlice: I’ve been wondering, why do you think he does it? John, his job. It takes such a toll, why do you think he puts himself through it?

Zoe: I don’t see how this is relevant.

Alice: Well, it is right this second. You might actually be helping him. What do you think compels him to do it?

Zoe: He believes one life is all we have. Life…and love. Whoever takes life, steals everything.

Alice: And you agree?

Zoe: I don’t know. I think if he’d read a different book by a different writer at just the right time in his life, he’d have been a different man.  He’d have been happier as a priest than…

Alice: Than what?

Zoe: Than what he is.

For Luther, love is the one thing that lifts us up and gives purpose to life. It gives him–and us–hope that one day things will be made right and that all tears will be wiped away. Love serves as the engine of redemption and new creation and new beginnings. As grimy as it may appear at first glance, the picture this show paints of that “many-splintered thing”, especially in season 3, is all the more beautiful for its darker hues. Yes, love can be horrifically destructive in the hands of sinners, but that only testifies to its power as the only basis for grounded hope in that which is better than the majority of what we observe in the world, see in the news, or often experience, first-hand, in our own lives.

Despite so much evidence to the contrary, John Luther suffers because he can’t shake his faith in a real, tangible, and good love. He knows, somehow, in the bottom of his gut, that that kind of love than can redeem us, and the world, even when at our darkest.