Previously on Ripper Street: Our boys saved a prostitute from an early snuff film creator and Reid tried to move on from the Ripper case.
Close up of kids playing with toy soldiers in a toyshop while a woman plies them with sweets and a man in a workshop in the back perfects something new and talks to himself about how this one will be the big one. He finishes whatever it is (appears to be a gold box of some kind, and what kid doesn’t want that?), wraps it up, and hustles out.
As he moves down the street, he passes an urchin playing with a teddy bear, and then runs into someone who terrifies him. We don’t get to see who that person is, but it sends the guy scuttling off down an alleyway, where he tries to hide behind some crates. Just when he thinks it’s safe, though, he turns and finds someone standing on a crate behind him. A club starts to fall, repeatedly.
Reid arrives at the office, trailed by Drake and Jackson. He ushers Jackson into a rather nice coroner’s lab, where they’ve got our toymaker on a slab. Jackson’s suspicious about the nice digs and starts poking around while Reid points out the curved indentations on the victim’s cheek and forehead. Jackson immediately deduces they’re from a belt buckle and asks Reid what the deal is with the new lab. Reid reminds Jackson that it’s all been fitted out to his own specifications and Jackson agrees; it’s all perfect, except for the location. He’d been hoping to have a place like this in the States, not East London. Oh, well, take what you can get, right, Jackson? Reid reminds him that’s pretty unlikely, so Jackson resigns himself, removes his jacket, and takes a closer look at the victim, whose name, apparently, is Manby. Drake is sure to tell Jackson that, along with the fact that the man has served the good children of the area for many years. He hands Jackson a tool and Jackson dismisses him with a: ‘thank you, nurse.’ Heh. Jackson notices a wound caused by a rather small boot on the man’s face as well, but further examination will have to wait, because apparently the ‘Vigilance Committee’ has decided to pay a visit. That doesn’t sound good. Reid goes to talk to them, but Jackson stops to ask what the nice new lab pays. Reid declines to answer.
As the name implies, the Vigilance Committee is basically a group of vigilantes named by a man named Lusk. He and his fellow thugs have brought a boy named Thomas Gower to justice. Allegedly, he’s Manby’s killer. He’s also clearly terrified out of his wits and rather bloodied. Reid reminds Lusk that these emergency patrols were disbanded months ago but Lusk insists it’s not up to the police to tell men how they look out for their community. Well, yes it is, Lusk, when ‘looking out for the community’ leads to assault, wrongful arrest, and imprisonment, as could be the case here. Lusk says Reid should be thanking them, but Reid’s disgusted by these people and tells Lusk he’s looking into the case, but he’s not about to take Lusk’s word for it that this kid is the guilty party. Lusk produces the toymaker’s latest toy, which he found on the kid, as well as sworn statements from five witnesses that state Gower chased Manby down.
Reid has no choice but to put Gower in jail, if for no other reason than to protect him from Lusk and his men. Once inside, Reid asks for his story, but the boy remains silent, only spitting at Reid and getting a sock in the gut from Drake for his trouble.
Gower’s quickly put on trial, and Reid recognizes the boy’s lawyer as someone who goes to church with his wife. Small world, eh? Very small, on this show. Despite the lawyer, Gower’s found guilty. He refuses to speak in his own defense, so his lawyer takes it upon himself to remind them all that Gower’s still basically a child who’s clearly been brought under the influence of some evil ‘Fagin.’ The judge is a hardass, though, and wants to make an example of Gower, so he condemns him to death. Best smiles creepily at the news, and the middle class people in the gallery heartily approve. One middle-aged lady, however, is not so happy and calls shame on them all. As he goes to leave, Mamby’s wife thanks him and Lusk for their diligence in bringing her husband’s murderer to justice. Best pulls him aside as well to ask how he felt about the sentence, but Reid refuses to comment on it. Before he departs, Reid reminds the lawyer (rather unnecessarily, I think) that the boy is no stranger to violence. Perhaps not, but the lawyer doubts that this one boy is really capable of the savagery that brought down Manby. The lawyer says they can’t keep cutting off the Hydra’s heads, here, they need to strike at the beast itself.
Lusk and the VC patrol the streets, watched by Reid and Drake, who comment on how Lusk will use the gang violence in the area to justify the VC, which only brings down the respect for the police and encourages gang violence. Vicious circle, that. One of the little urchins taunts Drake, who catches him, at which point Reid notices a stamp on the boy’s hand similar to one Gower has. He asks if he knows Tom Gower and the kid says he does, before biting Drake’s hand and wriggling free. The two men discuss the stamp, Reid wondering if it’s a gang sign, but Drake doubts it, because most of the gangs don’t traffic in really young, practically feral children. Reid says they need to get Gower talking, but they need more information. He tells Drake to fetch Jackson so he can have a closer look at Manby.
That night, a man who basically came out of a central casting call for ‘creepy, suspicious type’ shows up at the jail claiming to have treats for a boy incarcerated there. The policeman in charge lets him in and the man looks around a little nervously for a moment before he’s conducted to Gower’s cell. There, he sits beside Tom and tells him he’ll have to be strong in his silence. Tom begins to weep.
The next morning, Jackson’s rudely awakened by a bucket of water, poured over his head by Rose, who tells him Drake made her do it. Drake appears over Jackson, who seems to be asleep in a hole or something somewhere, who says he’s been searching for Jackson all night. He asks where he’s been and Jackson glances down at this odd necklace he wears and notices that there’s a ring missing from it. He flashes back to what looks like a hell of a drinking and gambling evening, during which he apparently bet that ring, and tells Drake he doesn’t remember where he was.
In the dead room, a clearly hung over Jackson is examining the toymaker’s box while Reid mixes him up a hangover cure that hopefully does not contain formaldehyde. A dead room is not the best place for inventing recipes. According to Reid, it does contain cocaine, so someone’s going to have a happy morning and a pretty miserable afternoon. Now revived, Jackson ratchets open the dead man’s mouth and notices that the man’s tongue has been cut out but his gold dental work has been left untouched. Curious for a crime that was supposedly financially motivated. Reid goes off to do some policing and Jackson looks at his necklace (which seems to have a feather and a rabbit’s foot on it, for those who are curious).
Reid and Drake go to the toyshop, and Drake, who’s from these here parts, explains that it used to be owned by the recent widow’s father, and when she married the victim he took her last name and took over the shop. Drake also reveals he was a bit of a ruffian back in the day as well. They head into the shop, where they find Lusk and some of the VC. Lusk hassles them for continuing to investigate a closed case. Mrs M comes down and asks what they need and Reid respectfully explains that they’re looking for a connection between Gower and her husband. Lusk says the murder connected them, but Reid stops listening to him, because he’s looking over some patents he’s found in the shop. There are a lot of them, and those are expensive to file. Reid asks the woman where her husband found the money for such things, the implication being that he borrowed it from some very bad people.
Back at Susan’s whorehouse, Jackson’s in his mysterious office, examining his clothes and still trying to piece together his previous night. Was he on drugs or something? How much did he have to drink to forget everything this thoroughly? He finds…something. Some sort of plant or something, in the sleeve of his shirt and scrapes something off the bottom of his shoe. Ick. Susan comes in and asks him what the hell is going on. He says he’s ‘forensic-ing’ himself. She asks why, and he promises to tell her if she doesn’t freak out.
But freak out she does, because apparently that ring is somehow incriminating. So incriminating she once begged Jackson to throw it in the ocean, but he refused, and now, here we are.
Reid arrives at his wife’s church, where he finds her working at the soup kitchen. She jokingly observes that he’s alive, and he jokes back that she’s there so much he’s forgotten how she looks. He spots the lawyer, Mr Eagles, I believe, and explains that he needs to have a word with him. Eagles asks for two minutes, which is just long enough for Reid to tell Emily that churches remind him of her, but he longs for their lazy, happy Sundays together. She sadly tells him they live in different times now and she needs the church for comfort. It seems that she and Reid lost a daughter at some point, but Reid refuses to accept it.
Eagles finally comes over and Reid tells him he has a plan to loosen Gower’s tongue.
The two men go to the prison, where Reid fills Eagles in on the missing tongue, which Reid thinks was taken as proof the deed was done. Eagles tries to convince Reid to join him and Emily at church and Reid shortly tells him to steer clear of his wife. They meet up with Drake and Gower and steer the boy outside so he can watch a hanging in real time. It has the desired effect; Gower panics. He still doesn’t talk, though. Eagles reminds him he only has two more days to live, and he’ll remain with him every minute of it, but they can’t save him unless he talks to them.
Jackson wanders the streets, collecting bits of grit off walls, trying to use them to retrace his steps of that forgotten night. Once a Pinkerton always a Pinkerton, I guess. That’s seriously forensic for the time, though. Just when he seems to have narrowed down the choices, Rose comes in and asks about the ring he lost. He tells her it belonged to a friend of his. A brother, in fact, who’s dead now.
Eagles sits outside Gower’s cell, reading. At last, Gower calls him over and hisses that he can’t talk at the prison, because it isn’t safe. He tells him to fetch Reid to take him out of there. Eagles takes off, apparently unaware this has all been overheard by a nearby policeman.
So, the ring that Jackson lost? Apparently it’s now in the possession of that creepy guy who visited Gower in prison. It’s a really, really small world. Look, I can buy a certain amount of path crossing on a show, but the way they’re so tightly pulling the A and B plots together is a bit ridiculous. What are the chances that Jackson would just so happen to gamble away this precious ring at the establishment of a man who’s also deeply involved in the very murder Reid is investigating? There must have been more than one gang leader and more than one gambling den in Whitechapel. I can suspend disbelief for a while, but at a certain point, it’s going to really start to ruin the show because it’s going to be come laughable. I want to like you, show. Don’t let me down on something so stupid.
Eagles sends Reid a telegraph message, which is received by that young copper we saw a bit of last week. And he gets a name! It’s Hobbs. Reid sends him off to fetch Gower and Eagles, warning him not to tell anyone what he’s doing.
As Jackson arrives at the gambling den, he observes a crew of urchins emerge from the place, followed by Creepy, who scratches his face with the ring and goes on his way.
Hobbs, Gower, and Eagles are all packed up in a police caravan when they run into a roadblock. Like idiots, they don’t turn and flee, and like a huge idiot, Gower gets out of the van, despite both Hobbs and Eagles telling him to sit tight. Creepy ascends his barricade, backed up by his band of rather scary looking Dodgers. Creepy accuses Gower of squealing and letting them all down. Eagles tells Creepy he won’t take Gower and says he’ll have to pass through Eagles first. He warns Gower to run, even as Gower tears up and begs Eagles not to get himself killed like this. Eagles won’t listen and finds some serious balls as he turns to Creepy and demands a name before he cracks Creepy’s skull. He even gets the first punch in, when Creepy doesn’t respond fast enough, and implies Creepy screws animals. Damn, where’d this guy’s spine come from? He’s seriously badass. Of course, it doesn’t save his life. He’s beaten to death while Hobbs hides in fear.
The next day, Eagles’s body is brought back to the station by Reid, who also finds something of a riot out there, courtesy of the VC. Best, of course, is in attendance, shouting questions, and Lusk is stupid enough to antagonize Reid, who pushes him against the wall and accuses him of whipping up the crowd instead of keeping the peace.
Inside, Reid and Jackson check out the body and note the belt buckle injuries, as well as some new ones that Jackson is able to identify as belonging to a ring.
Reid next goes to talk to Hobbs, kindly telling the poor, terrified young man that it’s fine he didn’t intervene, because it was hopeless and he’d rather have Hobbs alive and talking to them than brave and dead. He asks if Hobbs had ever seen these men before and Hobbs had not, but he did happen to see that Creepy’s hands were covered in tattoos of playing cards, similar to those seen on Gower’s hands. Reid is pissed off that some usurer (which, it bears saying, at the time was code for Jew) should come to his streets and kill people viciously and fit young boys for his terrible ends. He and Drake agree they need to find this kid quickly and send Hobbs off to search birth records to try and piece together Gower’s life and figure out where he might consider a safe place.
Creepy has his kids gathered together and is disappointed to hear that they haven’t found Gower yet. He tells them to get back out there and not to return until they’ve found something of value to him.
Drake returns to the prison and finds that one policeman that overheard Gower and Eagles talking (should we ask how he figured out that cop was there, when it didn’t even look like Eagles noticed him?) and roughs him up until he admits that he talked to another man who threatened violence, but the guy never gave a name. Didn’t even introduce himself? Manners! Drake releases him and the man, now a bit bolder, says he can’t figure out why they’re all so worked up over one ‘Christ killer’. Yes, that’s another term they used to use for Jew. Turns out the boy’s circumcised. Drake takes the tidbit back to the file room where Hobbs and the others are poring over records from the 1870s and tells them to toss all the gentiles. Well, that should narrow things down considerably.
At last, something’s found: Gower grew up in a Jewish orphanage nearby. He and Drake go to pay a visit and find that it’s run by the woman who made such a fuss at the trial. She claims not to have seen the boy since the trial. Reid asks her to promise to send him word if the boy turns up. She does, but we all know she’s lying, right? Reid sure does. He tells Drake they’ll wait in a condemned building nearby and keep an eye out.
Jackson’s enlisted Susan in Operation: Return of the Ring. Before Susan goes in to fetch it, Jackson warns her to be careful, because this guy seems to enjoy beating people to death. She tells him he needs to remember who they are and what they’ve done. I guess they’re fairly dangerous too.
Inside, men gamble while kids serve drinks. Susan knocks on the door and is admitted, reducing the place to silence as she parades through. She goes right to Creepy’s office and pretends to have a business proposition for him: combine gambling with prostitution, so whatever he loses on one he’ll make up on the other. Sound enough, and Creepy seems to be going along with it, but when she finally manages to get the ring off his finger, somehow, and tries to make her escape, he notices what’s happened and calls for his men to stop her. They do, though she puts up one hell of a fight, and Creepy threatens to cut her nose off with a huge knife. At that point, it’s Jackson to the rescue, brandishing his pistol and telling Creepy that both Susan and the ring are his. He even offers to pay Creepy back but Creepy says it’s not enough. One of his men whacks Jackson on the back of the head, and once he’s disarmed Jackson plays his trump card: offering up Gower’s whereabouts. Oh, Jackson, you dog, you.
From their hiding place, Reid and Drake observe Orphanage Lady (should we just call her Nancy and have done with it?) bring some food to Gower’s hideaway. They surprise her there, and Drake catches the kid while Reid pushes him for information on the man he’s hiding from. Gower says his name’s Carmichael. Before he can say much more, they hear someone whistling outside, and they look out the window and see Creepy (now known as Carmichael, I guess) and his pack of little hounds approaching, with torches and everything. Carmichael shouts that Gower has nowhere to go, so Reid goes out and asks Carmichael what he wants. Carmichael says he just wants Gower, but Reid’s not about to hand him over, so Carmichael threatens to kill every last person in the orphanage. I’m kind of curious what his hold is over these kids. What makes them so slack jawed and glassy eyed and ready to do whatever horrible atrocities he tells them to? Is it just fear? Why aren’t they all just crying and panicking like Gower? Reid refuses to hand Gower over and steps back inside, sliding all the locks on the door while Carmichael rants and raves about how he’s going to have everyone there killed.
Reid goes into the dining room and finds Nancy with the other children. He tells her that they’re safe, and she puts on a smile for the kids and says the nice Mr Reid’s going to help put them to bed. One especially cute little girl lifts her arms towards him, and he visibly swallows hard before picking her up and gently settling her in her bed,
Drake and Gower are holed up in a laundry room or something. Drake tells Gower not to mope, because it’ll do no good, and sits beside him.
Lusk and the VC are trolling the streets, pulling aside every kid they meet, trying to find Gower. It doesn’t take Jackson long to find them and tell Lusk that he knows where Gower is. Clever, Jackson. Stupid to put your friend at risk like that, but a clever response to it.
Nancy snuffs the candles and Reid asks her if she knows where all the kids come from. She says she doesn’t. He asks, hypothetically, if a little girl was brought to her with no memory of her home or family, would Nancy take her in? Of course she would. Hmm, I suppose Reid’s dealing with a missing child situation, not a dead one. I’m not quite sure what’s worse. On the one hand, there’s the hope the child could return someday, but on the other, years and years of uncertainty. Tragic all around. He asks why he takes on this burden of care and she says that, if she can save at least one life, she feels like she’s doing something right.
Drake’s now bonding with Gower over the tattoos, showing off his own—a prayer a holy man in Egypt gave him to help him banish nightmares. He asks Gower about his own tats and Gower says that each of the cards mean something different: a king is a mugging, queen a rape (lovely). Reid comes in and asks what Manby was. Gower hesitantly points to an ace on his left hand. Reid produces Manby’s box and the kid sets about opening it, saying they’re not supposed to take any of their belongings, but I guess this one appealed to him. Once he opens it, he reveals a rather neat little train, with tracks that fold out. Cool puzzle box. Reid looks at it and suddenly the pieces fall into place: Manby was wasting his wife’s money on all these patents, running her father’s business into the ground. He wasn’t in debt to Carmichael, he had a hit put out on him by his own wife. The kid admits that’s how it went.
There’s a ruckus in the hallway and Reid rushes out to find one of the urchins, having burst through a skylight, sliding open the bolts of the door and letting in Carmichael and his kids.
Nancy rushes into the dorm and pulls all the kids out of bed so they can huddle together in a mass of fear and watch two policemen get the shit beaten out of them by swarm of fellow children. It’s brutal, but Reid and Drake give as good as they get until Carmichael takes off his belt and offers to go mano a mano with Reid. It takes about five seconds for him to get Reid down on the ground, wrapped and choking in Carmichael’s belt. Carmichael pulls out his Crocodile Dundee knife, ready to deliver the killing blow, but Nancy manages to get her hands on a cudgel and slams him over the head. It barely fazes Carmichael, who turns and punches her to the floor while her poor orphan kids scream. I really hope they know of a good child psychiatrist, because these kids are going to be scarred all to hell. Thankfully, in come Lusk and the VC, overwhelming the urchins and shouting for Gower, who’s cowering behind Drake. As Carmichael bears down on Gower, Jackson finally bursts in and dispatches him with a single shot. Carmichael makes sure to spray a nice fountain of blood before dying, for maximum emotional distress for the nearby children.
There’s a long pause, and the urchins scramble to get out of there. Gower, of course, remains behind, weeping in Drake’s arms. Lusk demands him as recompense for his work there. Jesus, Lusk, he’s a person, not payment! Reid once again states that Gower is his prisoner and he’s not handing him over to anybody. Furthermore, if Lusk wants to keep thinking he’s above the law, he needs to start acting like it. I think he is acting like it, Reid, by doling out violence whenever he feels like it and demanding vigilante justice on a 14-year-old. Lusk sniffs and, defeated, leaves. Reid tells Drake to get Gower away from there, very far, and tells Gower they’ll make it known he was Carmichael’s creature in all this.
Drake’s plan is the same he had for himself: sign Gower up for the army and get him out of the country. He tells the sergeant the boy’s 18 and tells Gower his ship leaves Gravesend in the morning. Instead of being cowed by once again being made into a killing machine by yet another controlling man, Gower’s grateful. Drake tells him this is going to be rough, so at least he’s honest, and he hands over Manby’s puzzle box and takes off.
At the Bear, Reid hands Jackson the ring and says this ring reminded him of a case he heard about two years previous. The Pinkertons put out a wire, telling everyone to keep on the lookout for a man named Matthew Judge, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s the very same name that’s engraved on the inside of the ring! Jackson tries to play dumb, claiming not to have heard the name before, but we know how annoyed Reid gets when he’s being lied to. He tells Jackson he’ll receive a sergeant’s wage to work with the police, and furthermore, not to jerk him around ever again. Also, he knows Jackson was mixed up heavily in what went on that night. Jackson agrees and asks if Reid ever returned the wire from the Pinkertons. He did, saying the ring was recovered from a murderous kinsman and that Mathew Judge was dead. The two men drink a toast to that.
Mrs Manby is dragged off to prison, kicking and screaming and spitting. Reid tells Drake to go home and goes to see his own wife in church, where she sits praying. He takes a seat beside her and asks if she’s praying for Eagles. She says his death was a terrible waste and Reid counters that it wasn’t, because Gower is alive, as Eagles wanted, and he repeats Nancy’s line about saving the world by saving one life. He takes her hand and tells her she really shouldn’t have told Eagles about their missing daughter. She asks him what she was supposed to do. She mourns her child, and her husband won’t because he won’t admit she’s dead, which leaves her very much alone. Eagles was kind to her and speaking of the child helped her. Reid says he would take her pain if he could, but he can’t admit that their child is dead. And there, we leave them.
Next week: epidemic!