Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched episode 3 of Luther’s third season, stop reading now. Creator Neil Cross and star Idris Elba weigh in on the tragic turn.
Odds are, you were worried that something was going to happen to DS Justin Ripley (Warren Brown) the moment Luther (Elba) invited him into his home for the first time and told his new lady friend Mary (Sienna Guillory) that he loved Justin. That was the point. To build that dread. So later we, like Luther, would want to lay down beside Justin’s lifeless body after he’d been shot by vigilante killer Tom Marwood (Da Vinci’s Demons’ Elliot Cowan) – who wouldn’t have fired if Justin agreed to let him go. “Justin is the uncorrupted moral heart of the show, and I think in the fictional world of Luther – in Luther land – ultimately there is no place for an uncorrupted heart,” Cross tells EW. “In Luther land, you’re punished for love and loyalty. And essentially, Justin is punished for being good, which is kind of bleak but quite moving, I think.”
That heartbreaking image of Luther on the ground was scripted, Cross says: “One of the great pleasures of working on this show is that there’s a peculiar and, I think, non-replaceable meeting of the minds between Idris and me, in that I’m able to project myself into his performance and he’s able to anticipate what I’m gonna write. I’ve often described it in such ways that we have joint custody of this character. We equally love and equally own this character. I think he trusts that if I believe something is right for the character then it probably is. And I trust that if he thinks something is right for the character then it certainly is. So that was in the script, but it was in the script because I knew Idris would absolutely kill it. And he does.” Cross also knows from Twitter reaction after the episode aired in the U.K. how difficult the scene was to watch for fans of Warren Brown’s Justin, as well. “Teenage girls the length of Britain declared a kind of fatwa on me. It was a good job in that moment that I was living half the world away, or they would have tracked me down and burned me.”
The scene was, obviously, emotional for Elba and Brown to film. “Warren Brown and I are very close friends, and I guess we kind of fell into this sort of state of shock even while shooting and prior to shooting,” Elba told reporters during a recent conference call. “Because [Justin] feels like a pillar along with the Alice character and along with the Schenk character – one of the cornerstones of what makes Luther what it is. And so it was a really weird atmosphere for us.” Elba could relate to Brown: “Having played Stringer Bell [on The Wire] and been shot in the third season, there were some similarities there. Taking one to the chest as well. We laughed about that a little bit,” he said. “But the point is, I remember telling him how [that] was a tough moment for me having to know this is going to be my last scene in a show that I was part of.”
Justin got separated from Luther after they arrived in time to save a pedophile from being hanged – a fate Marwood had let social media decide. “I think that this year has seen the beginnings of a change in our relationship with the Internet,” Cross tells EW. “What was seen as the untrammeled Wild West, as this great place of anonymity and freedom and commerce, is in many ways much more sinister both as a tool of the state and as a tool of the mob. And as ever, there’s the rule of the state and the rule of the mob, and there’s the rest of us kind of blinking in both directions wondering what the hell to do. That interests me greatly.” As we’ve already reported, Cross sees Marwood – who’s named after the famed 19th century British executioner William Marwood – as a kind of mirror image of Luther. “They have similar motivations and, in many ways, they have kind of similar methods,” he says. “There’s that great scene between Indiana Jones and Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Belloq says, ‘I am a shadowy reflection of you,’ and Indy says, ‘Now you’re getting nasty.’ Luther and Marwood have a very similar relationship, I think. It would take just a nudge to push either into the other’s psychological space. So that means in the end, Luther has to finally, finally make a choice about what kind of person he actually is.”
That leads us to the season’s final hour, which airs Friday night at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America and brings the return of fan favorite Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). Come back to EW.com Friday afternoon to see an exclusive sneak peek of her entrance.