Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 107

edge of a high rise and pondering taking a leap. In the first episode of series two, after Alice Morgan executes detective Ian Reed for murdering Luther’s wife, the viewer finds Luther sitting alone, on the sofa of his apartment, putting one bullet into the chamber of his gun, spinning the chamber, putting the weapon to his head, and pulling the trigger. Luther’s thoughts of suicide reveal an intense self-loathing that likely springs from his fear that he may be very much like the sociopathic killers that he must track down. Indeed, Luther shares with Manfred a terrible darkness that suggests the presence of the demonic.    In his on-going battle with his own terrible darkness, John Luther feels compelled to repeat a behavior—tracking down yet another sociopathic killer—that has become almost pathological. In a psychological thriller that contains element of Gothic horror, Luther’s motivation to stop yet another killer from taking yet another life surely springs from a lingering obsession that is fueled, quite possibly, by his guilt over a past failure; by the terrible darkness that often verges on consuming him; and by a seemingly unending supply of sociopathic killers that arise to terrify the average citizen.  Indeed, Luther’s almost obsessive reenactment of this behavior is clearly in accord with traditions that link Gothic literature to horror cinema and suggests the existence of buried memories that have become Luther’s own personal demons.  As Steven Bruhm has observed, “What becomes most marked in contemporary Gothic—and what distinguishes it from its ancestors—is the [protagonist’s] and the viewers’ compulsive return to certain fixations, obsessions and blockages” (260). Thus, caught in what Freud termed “a repetition compulsion” (Bruhm 272), Luther tracks down the killer again and again, purging society of yet another homicidal sociopath but bringing only a temporary restoration of order not only to the world around him but to his own troubled psyche. Not surprisingly, the obsession exacts a tremendous price by the end of the yet-to-be-finished series: Following the murders of his wife, his partner Justin Ripley and his girlfriend Alice, John Luther verges on becoming a monstrous creature himself whose only thought is to avenge the death of Alice Morgan, a brilliant but sociopathic killer with whom Luther develops a powerful romantic bond. The Shadow Self, the Monstrous Feminine and Alice Morgan   To the viewer, Luther’s confrontations with some the most monstrous elements of humanity certainly suggest a heightening of cultural and social anxieties that have a basis in the oft-terrifying world beyond the script.  This is a level of anxiety evoked by a series that, at first glance, seems to lack unity.  But closer examination reveals that what holds this series together 107