Previously on Ripper Street: Reid returned to work after his miraculous recovery from being shot in the head. Susan and Jackson briefly hooked up, but now he’s all suspicious because he’s got the gun that was used on Reid and it’s got some lovely fingerprints on it.
A young woman goes to a chemist who mixes up something that I’m sure is just a pleasant-tasting cough syrup or something. Right?! No. This apparently isn’t her first dose, and she tells the man the previous ones have made her really sick. He says that’s just to be expected. The girl drinks it, winces, and goes outside, where she starts staggering down the road. She stops and vomits what looks like orange juice, then collapses on the street in what looks like a seizure. Interestingly, nobody pays any mind when she’s throwing up, but the seizure draws a crowd.
She’s taken home, where she’s put to bed, still vomiting, by her father, who’s very distressed by this. She urges him to go to work as always so nobody knows what’s happening. It’s clear she’s trying to induce a miscarriage, but she won’t tell who the father is.
Her father goes to work, where the guy in charge lights into him for being late. Dad says that Mary’s sick and the manager blanches, then goes to Mary’s as soon as he gets the chance. She yells for him to go away before her father sees and wails about how she’s messed up and brought so much trouble on her father, who’s done so much for her. She talks a little crazy about her father being found out and the boyfriend’s understandably confused.
Jackson photographs the fingerprint on the gun in his dead room.
Drake examines an engagement ring, then tucks it into a box and puts it first in a drawer, then in the inside pocket of his coat.
He then goes to meet Reid at the latest murder scene: the chemist from earlier is dead. Reid’s a tiny bit unsteady on his feet and Drake tries to get him to sit, but Reid refuses the seat and gets on with the work at hand. He notices some cash stuffed in the chemist’s mouth. Sinister. Drake finds an unmarked bottle. They take both to Jackson, who says that the man was made to eat his own money, but a blow to the head was what actually did him in. He’s also checked the contents of the unmarked bottle and determined it was a potion meant to bring on miscarriage. It also had a lot of lead in it, which causes all sorts of problems, including possibly death. They figure the boyfriend or parent of some girl who suffered from this remedy did the deed.
Grace shows up with the chemist’s books and tells them there was an apprentice. Reid tells him to track this guy down, while Drake looks for the unfortunate girl in the morgue.
Reid goes to see Dr Frayn, who examines him as he asks her questions. He says they’re looking for the murderer of an abortionist and figures she may have seen some of the man’s clients. Frayn gets pretty upset and says that she does see these women, and the wreckage that’s been made of their bodies. Unfortunately, she can’t help them, really. She could give them abortions, because she has the medical knowledge to do so, but it’s illegal, so she has to send them away and then patch up the horrors later on. She can’t even tell them about contraception. I see someone on the writing staff’s been paying attention to the horrorshow of women’s rights happening in America these days. Reid asks if she’s seen women lately with lead poisoning. Indeed, she has. And the women she’s seen have not only been damaged by lead, but by actual internal procedures. Eeeek! Reid asks for the patients’ names, but they don’t give their real names, as you can imagine.
I see someone on the writing staff’s been paying attention to the horrorshow of women’s rights happening in America these days.
Later, Frayn goes outside and climbs into a carriage with a man—a fellow doctor, her mentor—who asks what her answer is to a previously asked question. Her answer is yes, but they’ll have to persuade Susan.
Apparently Rose has finally broken up with her fiancé and makes her way to Susan’s, where she finds the lady of the house ripping through her files looking for a construction agreement. She thinks the contractors on a building project she has going are taking advantage of her, so she needs to find some paperwork to bring them to heel. She’s determined to make her way in this man’s world, using whatever tools she has at her disposal.
Mary is in really, really bad shape, moaning in bed as her boyfriend continues to sit beside her. He finds a box with a family photograph in it, but then sees that Mary is absolutely gushing blood and declares that she needs a doctor stat.
The apprentice has been found. Drake and Reid go to speak to him, Drake reporting that they’ve got two unidentified bodies in the morgue dead of lead poisoning. Reid holds up the abortion potion and they get ready to feed it to the guy, who insists he knows nothing. All he knows is that the apothecary would send the women elsewhere for their procedures, but he doesn’t know where they went. They pour some of the potion into his mouth and he finally coughs up the address and spits the stuff out. Reid tells him it was just chalk dust and sugar. Got you!
Drake and Reid go to the address and find a really well kitted out surgical theatre, which throws them for a loop. This is clearly not an amateur concern, or some crude backally abortionist. A book full of patients’ names is found, along with a bag full of money, just shoved under a table. There’s also a strongbox. Odd that the money’s just shoved aside when there’s a safe.
Frayn introduces Susan to her mentor, Dr Rolle, the man she met with earlier, and they ask her for permission to perform abortions at the clinic and provide information on contraception. Susan is fairly outraged and flat-out refuses to consider such a thing, because it’s illegal, and she has enough of an uphill battle in this world without this on top of it.
Reid brings the strongbox to Jackson and asks him to open it. Jackson can’t crack it, but he can blow the door off. Reid insists the contents inside be preserved. He also hands over some bottles they found at the surgery with the labels blacked out. Jackson provides them with a little extra information on their dead body: his head wounds have been burnt at the edges. Whatever was used to kill him had a strong caustic alkali on it. Jackson thinks it’s cement, which suggests the weapon was a builder’s tool.
They go upstairs and confer with Grace, who says that there was a disturbance at Obsidian Developments involving a Mr Edwin Havelock (Mary’s boyfriend). It somehow involved a Mrs Mary Havelock. Before Reid can get into it, Matilda appears, having escaped from her governess. Reid scolds her for wandering the streets alone, which is understandable considering what happened the last time she did that. He then sends Drake to talk to Havelock and another policeman to fetch Cobden. Like Cobden doesn’t have anything else to do, ever, but drop her work and come running to act as surrogate mother to this girl she hardly knows?
Outside, Rose catches Drake and tells him she’s pitched up at Susan’s. He’s not happy to hear that and tells her she absolutely should not be staying with that woman. Rose is offended, because Susan’s her friend and has always been good to her. Drake insists she live elsewhere, then leaves to get his work done.
At the development, Drake asks for Edwin and says they’re worried about his wife, Mary. Mary’s Dad, George, speaks up and says Edwin’s unmarried and he has no idea where he is. Drake asks who this Mary is and George says he doesn’t know the man’s affairs.
Cobden arrives and Reid tells her that the girl escaped her governess and asks Cobden if she wouldn’t mind babysitting. She doesn’t, but she warns Reid that he really needs to consider why the girl keeps escaping. The girl needs her dad and Reid really needs to get them both out of the city. ‘Her needs are your only concern,’ she tells him. She smiles at the girl, who’s watching this from the parlour windows nearby, and then Cobden leaves.
George returns home and finds Mary gone and a puddle of blood on the floor.
Mary’s being tended by Frayn, who reassures the girl she won’t die, but unfortunately she’ll never have a child. Mary weeps. Frayn gently asks her who the men who hurt her were. Before she can say anything, George arrives, sees Edwin, and attacks him. Mary weeps weakly, begging him to stop.
Both Edwin and George are taken to the police station and Drake catches Reid up on what’s going on here.
Susan goes to the development site and demands to know why the contractor, Mr Glyn, has trebled his original terms. He basically tells her he just had a gentleman’s agreement with Capshaw, so sucks to be her. Basically, she’s now paying a Chick Tax. He sneers at her to find another Capshaw and stop dabbling in men’s work. She warns him that he’ll be begging for Capshaw back when she’s done with him.
Reid questions Edwin and accuses him of killing Currie, the chemist. Edwin claims (honestly) never to have killed anyway and says he wanted to do right by Mary, but George wouldn’t let them date. He tells Reid how Mary didn’t want a doctor because she was afraid of ‘all being found out’ and tells Reid to find out just what the hell’s going on in that house.
Rose happily tells Susan that she’s pretty sure Drake wants to marry her. Susan wonders if that’ll mean the end of Rose’s singing career. Rose wonders if she can be wife, mother, and singer. They talk a little bit about the old days, in the whorehouse and how gross those men were. Susan suddenly gets serious and asks if Rose remembers Glyn coming by. Rose does. He still goes to see the girl he liked best, Lily. Susan’s face says ‘gotcha, you bastard.’
Jackson manages to blow the door off the safe. Inside, they find medical paperwork and notes. Jackson’s briefly distracted by the soot from the explosion, which has gotten all over his hands.
Upstairs, Grace tells Reid that there’s no record of a Mary Tait ever having been born, to George or anyone else. George Tait has very little trail as well. Suspiciously little.
Reid and Drake go to speak with George and ask what’s up. He says that he’s been Mary’s protector since she was 15. Reid says it’s really odd that the man doesn’t seem to officially exist. Drake wonders if the man’s a convict or a runaway from the army. George says he’s never been a prison, though he has been a prisoner. He’s never been to sea or anything, but he’s seen plenty of things he hoped never to see. Reid accuses him of being the father of Mary’s child and George denies it, saying he only wanted to protect Mary. He also denies killing Currie.
Susan busts into a private gentleman’s club where Glyn is hanging out with some friends. She puts down a new contract and tells him to sign, or she’ll start spilling some of his secrets. She starts with one, telling his friends about some bogus land deal he made with them. She’s got proof of it and everything. Glyn’s friends don’t seem pleased. He tries to talk his way out of it, but Susan goes on to just threaten everyone there that she’ll happily start spreading their pillow talk far and wide if this guy doesn’t play ball. Glyn signs the new contract. I fist pump on Susan’s behalf.
The stress must have gotten to her, because outside she throws up (also orange juice-y. Has she had lead poisoning too?) Best comes strolling over, hands her a hankie, and informs her that her father has liquidated his assets and disappeared. She insists she knows nothing of it and insists she has nothing to do with her father, whom she hates.
Drake brings Matilda an ice cream and poses the riddle that George stated earlier. She takes the ‘I’m not a convict, but a prisoner’ line to mean that Drake’s talking about a woman, because women are locked up in rooms all the time. Drake gets an ‘ah ha!’ look and goes to look at George’s personal effects. He finds a photograph of a woman and young girl there.
Susan goes home, looks at her calendar, and realizes she’s pregnant. Right on cue, Frayn comes in to make her argument once again. Susan’s changed her tune entirely and tells Frayn she can go ahead and offer the services these women need. Susan confesses that she’s in the same boat as these women, so she can’t really judge, right?
Jackson tells Reid that the papers from the safe are case studies from medical research. Jackson figures that this man is experimenting on these women, without them realizing. Amongst the papers is an invoice made to a Dutch company, so they can use that to track the buyer.
Drake and Reid go to see George and tell him about the strange case of a man named Harry Stokes who, upon dying, was found to be a woman named Harriet Stokes. Drake figures George has pulled the same trick, passing himself as a man so she could get by in the world. And though he tried to protect Mary, she fell into Currie’s clutches, and George killed him. Drake produces the photograph, which he correctly guesses is George and a young Mary, who is, in fact, his daughter. George weeps and says that he saw his poor mother destroyed by birth after birth. He wanted to find Mary the best husband, but George saw his father in Edwin and sent him on his way. He says that Mary hoped to take care of it herself, but at the end she confessed. He wishes he could have helped her, but all he could do was try to make it right afterwards. George confesses to killing Currie, saying he’s only sorry he didn’t kill Edwin as well. Edwin, listening from the adjoining cell, seems ashamed. Drake gently asks for George’s true name and he gives it as Sarah Elizabeth James. Drake charges her with Currie’s murder.
Back downstairs, Reid asks if the answer to the question of who’s been experimenting on these women may lie with Mary. Jackson tells them the contents of the unmarked bottles were forms of birth control, but birth control meant to have pretty permanent results.
Grace bursts in with word of where the invoiced delivery is going: to Doctor Frayn.
Frayn is meeting with Rolle, who shows her his notes and tells her he’s pretty sure he’s perfected this procedure. She reads through it and realizes that what he’s doing is sterilizing these women. He readily admits that’s true, because these damn poor people just can’t be trusted not to get knocked up and keep expanding the miserable population. She’s horrified by all this, and he just keeps digging himself deeper, telling her that these incontinent people just can’t help themselves, and this increased population of poor people will eventually mean some sort of revolution. She’s still not cool with neutering living human beings without their knowledge and won’t do any such thing in her clinic.
Frayn is not cool with neutering living human beings without their knowledge and won’t do any such thing in her clinic.
Reid and Drake come in and Frayn hands Rolle right over and accuses him of being a madman. Reid arrests the man.
Mary, now as recovered as she’ll ever be, waits outside the station. Edwin comes out tells her he’s not as bad as George thinks he is and would have done right by her. She cries and says she never could have left George.
George is brought out, now wearing a white shift, and Mary cries even harder, calling that cruel and wondering why he should be robbed of his dignity now, as he ends his days. George apologises for having smothered her, but Mary rushes to him, calling him her father. He asks her to promise to live a wonderful life for herself. She says she hoped for a home, a husband, and a child. He urges her to find her joy elsewhere and live a good, free, true life. Mary promises. George is taken away and Mary collapses in the street, sobbing, in Edwin’s arms.
Inside, Reid finds Matilda asleep in the parlour and gently wakes her. She asks if he’s finished. He says he is, for today. She begs him to take her to the sea now, and he promises to take her, someday, but not quite yet. She insists that she wants to go now and he gently repeats that it won’t be long now. He just needs to do a couple of last things, so they may both be free.
Drake goes and apologises to Rose for having been snappish and acting like he could boss her around earlier. He doesn’t want to be that guy, or that husband. The ‘h’ word makes her light up, and he starts to cry, talking about how he never thought he’d find real happiness. They’re so adorably joyful right now. He proposes right there, in the street outside the station and she loves the ring. They both cry and kiss.
Jackson goes to see Susan, sparing her the trouble of having to summon him and inform him they’re about to become rather dysfunctional parents. She tries to think of a way to tell him, but he immediately guesses she’s just playing a game and takes her hand, rubbing each fingertip in turn, then handing her an old photograph of the two of them,presumably from the earliest days of their marriage. She hands the photo back, leaving a lovely thumbprint on it, and scolds him for getting gunk all over her hand. While she’s yelling at him, a maid comes in, accompanied by Susan’s father, Theodore Swift.