And after a slight interval, we’re back with episode 2 of Mr. Malahide as George Cornelius in “Luther”! You can read Admin’s recap of episode 1 here. To briefly summarize, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) already has a number of problems to contend with in this series: firstly, that George believes he might have information about the kidnapping of his (George’s) son Alistair (Andrew Mullan); secondly, that Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), Luther’s psychopathic paramour, has miraculously returned from the dead and landed right on Luther’s doorstep; and thirdly, that there’s a gruesome serial killer, Jeremy Lake (Enzo Cilenti), currently on the loose.
But First, Back to Belgium, Two Years Ago
But first, we start out with a little flashback to Antwerp, Belgium, two years ago. George has evidently enlisted Alice to sell some diamonds on his behalf. He gives her directions as to where she’s to go, pronouncing Belgian location names (“Spitsenstraat and Houtdok-Noordkai”) as only a Cockney crim can while a faithful lackey holds an umbrella over his head (not that George seems to mind the rain that much). Of course, we quickly find out that it’s all a double-cross; George plans on keeping the money and the diamonds (as he freely admits, he’s a thief, remember?). He’s arranged for some of his men to grab Alice as soon as the buy is made so they can take the merchandise. However, he doesn’t reckon with Alice’s complete ruthlessness and viciousness; she’s more than a match for the three goons and disposes of them in short order (as George described to Luther while handcuffed to a radiator in S04E02). Alice even gets to keep the diamonds, once she sorts them out from all the broken glass in the kidnappers’ car. As she tells Luther, she then faked her own death (even producing a convincing look-alike corpse) to escape George’s revenge.
Alice Returns From the Dead
Fast-forward to the present day, and Alice has turned up on Luther’s doorstep, very much alive and obviously injured in some fashion. She asks Luther for a place to hide “and maybe a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive” before pulling a gun on him. Luther pulls a gun in return and replies, “Nope,” but then Alice collapses in his doorway, so he pretty much has to take her in. Complicating matters, both Luther’s boss DSU Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) and new partner DS Catherine Halliday (Wunmi Mosaku) are already on their way over to see Luther with a new clue about the serial murderer… as is George himself with a carload of fresh thugs, having decided at the end of the last episode that Luther knows more about Alistair’s kidnapping than he’s letting on. And all this before the opening credits!
Luther quickly realizes Alice has been shot and tells her he wants her patched up and out of his house right away. He asks what happened and Alice replies, “A big boy did it and ran away.” Through another flashback, we see that the big boy in question is… George Cornelius, who was called to a deserted swimming pool to meet with his son’s kidnapper (as described by Admin in the previous recap). However, this time we get dialogue we didn’t get before. George knows full well who Alistair’s kidnapper is and why it was done. Alice demands the value of the diamonds in exchange for Alistair’s return plus 20% “for the inconvenience”- but George shocks her by saying, “I’m afraid I have to decline.” He won’t bargain, even for his son’s life. When Alice tries to goad him into it by threatening to kill Alistair, he pulls out a shotgun from under his coat (of course George showed up armed) and fires at her. Alice runs away, but George manages to hit her in the side – hence her turning up at Luther’s, wounded. And Luther now realizes he was beaten up and tased by George’s thugs due to Alice, which doesn’t make him very happy.
Meanwhile, George himself is pulling up outside Luther’s flat with a carload of henchmen in tow. However, the canny George spies Schenk and Halliday arriving at just about the same moment, so he decides to wait and bide his time. Luther quickly stashes Alice while Schenk and Halliday discuss the new clues Halliday has found about the serial killer, but Schenk notices Luther’s obvious distraction. Suspecting there’s something going on, Schenk goes upstairs on the pretext of using the bathroom and discovers signs that Luther has been doctoring someone with a gunshot wound. Schenk takes a bloodied cotton ball to be tested and has a nail-biting, near-fatal encounter with Alice when he pokes around upstairs, though he never actually sees her or realizes how close he is to being killed. He and Halliday leave, without Schenk revealing his suspicions to Luther.
George, who has been patiently(?) waiting, sees Halliday and Schenk leave and sends his thugs in with an “And you’re off.” But George is only able to wait for about a second or two before declaring, “Oh, sod this,” and leaving his Jag to go in with them. As we’ve noticed before, he seems to be a more hands-on crim. He even dons his fedora first so he can be properly attired for the occasion. Luther and Alice see George coming up the street and are able to hide in the attic before he finds them, but George, like Schenk, sees evidence of Luther treating someone for a shotgun wound. Now, who could that be? George also realizes the house has an attic, so he borrows a gun from a henchman and fires several silenced shots into the ceiling on spec before giving his henchmen the go-ahead to fire at will. Fortunately, Luther seems to know his house pretty well (even though it looks like it’s in a perpetually unfinished, raggedy state) so he and Alice escape the hail of bullets through a bolt hole into a neighbouring attic. But… George now has confirmation that Alice and Luther are together, even if Luther had nothing to do with Alistair’s kidnapping.
Luther and Alice On the Run
Alice steals and hotwires a car (Luther stands aside and lets her do it, which would be rather odd for any other DCI) and they go on the run. Schenk, who is beginning to realize that Luther might not be behaving reliably, if not criminally, calls Benny Silver (Michael Smiley) to come in. Benny is busy baby-sitting Errol Minty (Michael Obiora), who is also on the run from George’s wrath after wearing a wire (well, a cell phone taped to his stomach) at one of George’s meetings in episode 1. Alice and Luther take refuge at Alice’s parents’ house, which just happens to be where Alice gruesomely murdered them (and the family dog) a few years earlier. Luther knew she was responsible but could never prove it. Alice takes a rather creepily connoisseurish approach to their murders, telling Luther that his involvement is what made the entire thing “perfect” – because, as mentioned, she’s a psychopath, and obsessive, too. And it also turns out that this is where she’s been keeping Alistair, drugged up so that he doesn’t cause any difficulties.
Luther wants to return Alistair to George and hopefully resolve the entire matter quickly and relatively peacefully. But Alice believes George would never be able to accept that because he’d appear weak if he simply took Alistair back without exacting revenge. Alice prefers option 2: “We kill him and run.” By “him”, it’s not quite clear if she means Alistair or George, or… knowing her usual tendencies… both. However, Luther doesn’t want more killing; he tells Alice to uncuff Alistair so he can bring him back to George and surprisingly, she obeys. We also find out in flashback that Luther and Alice’s affair became physical before her disappearance, but that Luther ended the relationship when he just couldn’t leave the responsibilities of his job behind. And we’ve already gotten a few hints that Alice resented him for it. Not a good idea to annoy the murdering psychopath lady, Luther!
Returning Alistair to His Loving Father
Luther returns Alistair (who apparently takes much more after the late Mrs. Cornelius in looks) to George. After asking how Alistair is, George peers into the car at him and says, “Silly sod,” in a half-amused, affectionate tone. It’s a surprisingly gentle, dad-like reaction, as if Alistair had just gotten into a minor scrape rather than been kidnapped by a murderous psychopath. George also asks Luther, “Did you know about this [the kidnapping]? Honestly?” and Luther answers truthfully, “No.” George seems to believe him. Then George asks where Alice has been hiding out all the time she was supposedly dead and “More to the point, where is she now?” Alice was right; even though he’s got Alistair back, of course George can’t let his kidnapping go unanswered. “Give her to me, and you and me are all square,” says George, making it sound like an extremely simple and reasonable deal even as he adds, with a darker, harder edge to his voice, “This is about a lot more than getting my boy back.”
But Luther refuses to give up Alice, saying that he’ll make it right himself, somehow. He offers George money, which he’ll scrape together by selling (or mortgaging?) his house. “You’d really do that?” says George, incredulously. “Give up everything you’ve earned, everything you’ve worked for? […] For her?” Even if Luther can’t quite comprehend that being the main squeeze of a psychopathic killer is a bad thing, George certainly can. It’s also interesting to note that George knows more about Luther’s personal life than just about anyone else, including Luther’s co-workers. Oddly enough, Luther seems to feel more secure confiding to George than anyone else. Luther says nothing, but he does squirm uncomfortably at George’s question. George shrugs with his eyebrows in reply, saying, “Well, let me get my boy back home and I’ll give you a bell,” seeming to accept Luther’s offer. Could it really be that easy?
Luther phones Alice to tell her the whole thing is “done” and she can leave now. However, Alice still seems a bit stuck on Option 2, which is bad news for everyone; nor does she seem to like the fact that Luther is sacrificing something to get the whole thing settled quickly and cleanly – or so he thinks. Meanwhile, George has his henchmen carry Alistair upstairs (see, they are good for something!) and put him to bed while a doctor checks him over. George leans in the doorway watching intently, concern briefly crossing his face – before coming to a decision and leaving, donning his fedora as he does so.
And Then Things Get Complicated
Back at the police station, Schenk receives the DNA results on the bloody swab and discovers that it was none other than Alice Morgan – whom everyone presumed to be dead – at Luther’s flat that night. Stunned by the realization that Luther is seriously compromised, he calls Benny Silver, but Benny doesn’t answer; we see his van abandoned, with its windows shattered. We soon find out where poor Benny is – George has taken him for leverage on Luther. As it turns out, George isn’t prepared to be simply satisfied with Luther’s money. “Do I look like a tart to you, John?” he says, in yet another phone call. “Why would you think you could buy me? Honestly, it’s baffling.” Luther attempts to placate George by telling him to “pump his brakes” and “take his tax” before things get out of control, but George isn’t having any of it. “Whose control? Not mine! Now, you bring her to me, John, then we can call it square.” Aha, so it was too easy!
Luther protests that he can’t bring Alice to George because she’s already gone, but George thought of that possibility and shows Luther his leverage; namely, poor Benny, who was only doing Luther a favour with Errol Minty in the first place. No wonder George is such an enthusiastic mobile user; it allows him to send blackmail material instantly. Making matters worse, George’s men hook up Benny to a battery and begin torturing him by electrocution while Luther listens helplessly. Then George emphasizes his demand in deadly serious tones: “That woman is a debt you owe me, John. I want her.” When Luther protests again that he doesn’t know where Alice is, poor Benny gets another jolt. 🙁 Finally, Luther reluctantly agrees to bring Alice to George. “No messing,” warns George. “No amusing chit-chat. No prevari-fucking-cation, you get this done.” “It’s done,” replies Luther, heavily. “I’ll bring her to you.”
Alice Chooses Option 2
Unfortunately for Luther, Alice has other ideas. By the time he gets back to her parents’ house, she’s already left. She has, however, left a message for him written in lipstick on a mirror: “I choose Option 2! Toodle pip!” with the double o’s rendered into cheery happy faces. She really loves her hobby! And like George, she has also decided she doesn’t like the situation “under control”. Of course, Luther’s difficulties have just increased exponentially.
Back at Chez Cornelius (which is filled with milling henchmen who are no doubt eating George out of house and home, ruining his rugs, and playing on his Xbox), the doorbell rings. It’s Alice, disguised as a Russian hooker. She tells the majordomo who answers the door that George sent her as a “welcome home present” for Alistair. The majordomo doesn’t suspect anything amiss and shows her to Alistair’s room without checking with George first. Alice walks past an entire houseful of George’s men without turning a hair. She even flirts with the majordomo before letting herself into Alistair’s room. Uh oh. 🙁 She runs her fingers through a still-sleeping Alistair’s hair, and then stabs him through the ear (eeeeek!) with what looks like a very long meat thermometer, holding him down until his struggles subside. It’s quick, efficient, and horrible. In the preview for the next episode, we see that George is NOT HAPPY when he finds out. Things are already spiralling well out of Luther’s control.
Well, as usual with “Luther”, all the characters are up a tree and the tree is on fire. George has gone from being playful but deadly in episode 1 to just outright deadly and ruthless. I mean, we always knew he was ruthless, but he’s really ruthless. And both he and Alice know how to play Luther’s weaknesses against him. Nevertheless, George and Luther have an almost avuncular relationship; Admin has noticed that they address each other by their first names when no one else appears to have that privilege and as mentioned, Luther seems more willing to reveal personal details to George than anyone else – maybe because he knows George won’t censure him, even if he judges him. However, it does seem that Luther being romantically involved with Alice is one thing that’s beyond the pale for George.
As usual, Mr. Malahide’s performance was tremendous. He goes from deceptive cheeriness to businesslike ruthlessness with ease. And I really liked that he was too impatient to sit back and wait in his Jag while his henchmen did the dirty work of searching Luther’s flat; he wanted to be in on it himself. He’s very old school that way. It’s funny that such an effective crim can also be so charming, but Mr. Malahide somehow manages to pull it off. You end up rooting for him to succeed, even though he’s a baddie. Mind you, I’d still be happier if poor Benny somehow escaped his clutches.