Our cold open is a series of scenes we cut between: Drake standing in the rain with the jeweler’s body slung over his shoulders, Shine beating the tar out of someone in the boxing ring, and Best looking over his potential headlines. He chooses to replace Lost Sergeant Recovers Slain Silversmith with Councillor Cobden and Detective Inspector Reid in Midnight Tryst, which is completely ridiculous. No editor, unless they were running the Mirror or something, would make that switch. For one thing, how many readers of his paper know who the hell either of those people even are? Why would they care that they were sleeping together? And how much of a story does he even have, just based on what he overheard? I’m guessing he made most of it up. Best, a bit of advice: if it bleeds, it leads.
Arthurton and some of the other Leman men are watching the boxing match and wincing, because it really isn’t a fair fight at all. Shine’s just pummeling his opponent.
Best finds Cobden checking out St Paul’s Wharfside, which she’s hoping to renovate into decent housing, remember, and asks her for a comment on her affair with Reid. Behind her, some men pull boards off of a condemned building. Best tries baiting her, but she doesn’t take it, and then the man at the building calls her over, because inside are three skeletons. That’ll hold up your building permits a bit, I think.
Jackson’s got Hinchcliffe in his dead room and determines that the man was strangled with a wire, like a piano wire or cheesecutter (Micheletto would approve). It took a lot of force and was done by someone who relishes his work. They also have the three skeletons from the building site in there. Drake stays just long enough to hear this, then heads outside, where Arthurton’s coaching their boxing hopeful. Reid joins him and says the kid’s got skill, but Drake says he needs more than skill. Drake informs him that Hinchcliffe’s murderer is currently sitting in one of their cells, and he could really use Drakes specialist brutalist skills in getting some info out of him.
Drake accompanies him to the cell, where Werner still isn’t talking, because he knows Reid can’t handle torture. Reid introduces Drake, and the name clearly registers. But Drake’s got no stomach for this work anymore, either, and he turns and leaves. Out in the hallway, Reid tries asserting his authority, but Drake reminds him he doesn’t work for the police force anymore. Reid admits he can’t force the info from the man and Drake tells him he just can’t be that guy anymore, because it’s cost him too much. It’s cost them both too much. ‘Life, Mr Reid, is offended by you and me,’ he says, before departing.
At the music hall, Rose gets the word that she’s headlining that night. Man, how much did that cost someone? Her boss snippily tells her he’d appreciate not getting anymore visits from her ‘friends.’
Rose immediately guesses Susan’s behind this and goes to thank her, but Susan had
nothing to do with it: it was Duggan. Rose looks slightly skeeved out, but thanks him nonetheless, as Susan, distressed and ashamed, runs off. Duggan follows her, asking for breakfast, like he’s her husband.
Daniel limps to a pie stall, buys two, and hands them to the two thugs who beat him up last week. They warn him that, if he tries to sell the diamond, they’ll recover it and kill him. He smiles and heads into the station.
Somewhere down a back alley, Flight buys a pistol off someone.
Jackson recovers a wasp’s nest from one of the skeletons as his brother watches and comments that their dad would have been pleased with his skill and the fact that he’s put it to use. Dan hits him up for spending money and Jackson tells him he’ll get it if he puts in a bit of work. Dan grumbles but gets ready to acquiesce.
Rose stops by Drake’s place, where he’s sitting outside, smoking, and returns the photograph Reid lent her. Drake offers her coffee, but when she goes to follow him inside, he asks her to wait beyond the door. I get the feeling it’s still just too painful for him to be inside the place for long.
A little later, Rose has her coffee and is chatting about her song that night, which she doesn’t think is very well suited to her voice. He absently tells her to just do what she thinks is best. She asks him for more opinion and he advises her to sing something close to her heart. She screws up her courage and asks him to come and he promises he will. Aww, Drake’s still such a sweetie!
Flight reports to Shine, who’s getting some jumprope training in. Without breaking his stride, Shine asks if it’s true that Drake managed to locate Hinchcliffe. Flight says it is and Shine finally pauses, realizing that Jackson’s got the body now. He ominously reaches for his cheesecutter and Flight jumpily whips out his pistol. Shine asks if Flight would really kill him, after Shine made him what he is? Flight says he was a better man before, and fires, but only manages to barely graze Shine’s arm. The man doesn’t even flinch and tells Flight that he can’t be killed. Flight flees.
Reid arrives in the dead room to hear what Jackson has to say about the skeletons. The first is a woman past 50, second is a man also past 50 with some sort of skeletal deformities that point to Paget’s Disease, and three is also a man, but a younger one. They’ve been dead a season and a year, which he was able to date due to the fact that he found a dead queen wasp in that nest. Jackson also found cartilage in all three bodies, but found more in body three, suggesting he died a month or so later than the others. Dan is sure they were murdered, because he found marks on the neck bones that suggest they died the same way Hinchcliffe did. They’re pretty sure this is all the work of one man.
Flight bursts into the station, walks up to Arthurton’s desk (Arthurton gives him a fabulous ‘what the hell is this now?’ look) and asks to be arrested.
He’s taken to Reid’s office and admits to being an accessory to Hinchcliffe’s murder. Merrick’s too. Wow, I’d actually sort of forgotten about that, to be honest. I figured at the time that Flight had just dropped off to sleep, but apparently not. Reid’s surprised to hear this, because everyone thought Merrick died of natural causes, but Flight sets him straight. Reid grabs the young man and throws him across the desk, prompting Jackson to run in and intervene. Flight readily admits that Shine was behind the deaths and sent Flight to Leman Street to spy on Reid. Reid releases him and tells Arthurton to throw Flight in a cell, charging him with their betrayal.
Jackson follows Reid out into the street and asks if he’s fully in control of himself and knows what he’s doing. Who’d have ever thought Jackson would be the levelheaded one? Reid says he totally knows what he’s doing—Flight’s testimony can deliver Shine up for Hinchcliffe’s death, but if he can find out who the other three victims are and link them to Shine as well, they’ll have a fairly sewn-up case. He sets off, and Jackson turns back to the station, only to spot a newspaper with the front-page story about Cobden and Reid’s affair.
Reid goes to Cobden’s office, wondering why everyone in the area’s reading the paper and staring at him. Seriously, this little bit is bugging me, because it’s really silly. Yeah, I know that sex sells, but while people in the area are likely to know Cobden, I doubt most of them would know Reid on sight. And why would Best burn this particular bridge anyway? It seems like he was getting some fairly juicy stories from the police, which I’m guessing are going to dry up now. He’s also risking being sued for libel, since he can’t prove anything and didn’t actually see anything. All he did was hear. And the guy’s only got one functional ear, so…yeah, that’s not terribly reliable.
Anyway, Cobden’s reading the paper too, so when Reid comes in, she’s pretty pissed off. Reid promises to see to Best in the future, but right now he needs to talk about the skeletal remains. He asks about who owned the slums before the corporation took it over the year before and she produces the deed. It was a family named De Vere Lyons, which owned the place since the 17th century. Reid recalls that the senior De Vere Lyons was deformed, so he believes he’s one of the skeletons, along with his wife and son. She pulls out more paperwork that shows Obsidian Developments (which now owns St Paul’s Wharfside) also owns quite a bit of Whitechapel as well. The properties include opium dens, gaming houses…and Susan’s brothel. Oh, how it all comes so neatly together. Reid gets up to leave and tells her, in some pretty insanely poetic language, that he hopes to find the strength to get rid of these men and seek his own happiness with her.
Jackson finds his brother enjoying a drink with Werner and yells at him for wandering off, but Daniel tells him the guy’s been talking. Jackson hustles him out so they can talk. Over further drinks, Dan excitedly tells him that Werner knows of someone who might buy their stone. Before they can speak further, Reid comes in and tells them that the skeletons might be the remains of one of the country’s oldest and most distinguished families. Augustus, Clara, and Stefan de Vere Lyon. The couple apparently ‘went on holiday’ the previous year, and their son stuck around just long enough to transfer ownership of St Paul’s to Obsidian before suddenly disappearing himself. Jackson asks if Shine’s behind this, and while Reid thinks Shine’s involved, he doubts he’s the ringleader. He thinks the real power here is the same person who leases the brothel to Susan. Jackson tells him all about Duggan and how he lives at his barbershop. Dan breaks in and says he doesn’t live there anymore, actually.
Duggan’s entertaining some cronies at Tenter Street, while Susan sits outside the room. When one of the girls comes by with sandwiches, Susan takes them and sweeps into the room. One of the men asks Duggan if his ‘bitch doesn’t know to knock when men are at business.’ Susan responds by throwing the plate of sandwiches across the room and Duggan tells the men to clear out. Once they’re gone, he pulls her roughly down beside him and tells her off for behaving that way in front of his associates. He threatens her, and she dares him to do what he will, because she can’t live like this anymore. She’s given him what he wanted, so it’s time for him to hold up his end of the bargain. But, of course, he refuses to leave, declaring that he loves her and will give her anything she wants, if she declares herself his. Needless to say, this is not uttered with any real tenderness at all, it’s quite sinister.
Jackson, pissed off, is making his way to Tenter Street himself, tailed by Dan, who’s trying to talk him down. Jackson tells his brother that he loves Susan and needs to kill this douchebag. Dan warns him that, if he does that, they’ll have nobody to sell the diamond to, and they can play this in such a way that everyone wins. He finally seems to get through to his brother.
Reid has summoned Abberline and told him about all the murders and who he thinks is behind them. As further proof, he takes the man to speak to Flight, who confirms what he knows about Shine. Abberline is seriously pissed off himself to hear that the man he brought in to Leman Street was a spy for Shine. Abberline tells Reid to bring in Duggan, and he’ll see to Shine.
Arthurton goes to see Drake and talk about the upcoming fight. He thinks their man has promise, but he’s young and not so confident. He thinks it might help if Drake shows up to the fight to make the boy feel a little more supported. Drake thinks it’s pointless, because the poor kid’s going up against Shine. Arthurton sighs and tells him that life sucks, basically, and all they can do is put one foot in front of the other for as long as they have.
At the boxing ring, Shine watches the youngster fight his way into the finals. Drake arrives and acts as a bit of a cheerleading section. H division has a winner, and Shine shouts that he’s looking forward to their fight. He strolls over to Abberline, who informs him that he’d happily cut Shine’s balls off right now.
Shine and Abberline and Reid and Duggan meet up at Leman Street, where Reid tells Arthurton to book Shine on multiple counts of murder. Arthurton, awesomely, treats Shine like any other common criminal, boredly asking him for his name. Heh.
Reid takes Duggan to his office, gives him some tea, and asks about Obsidian Estates. Duggan readily admits it’s a concern of his. When asked, he says St Paul’s was given to him by Stefan as repayment for a debt. Reid takes a drink and congratulates Duggan for having concealed himself from Reid’s view for so long and accuses him of being in cahoots with Shine. Duggan, unconcerned, doubts he’ll be able to prove anything, because at the end of the day it’s just one man’s word against another’s; there’s no real proof. I haven’t mentioned it previously, but the actor who plays Duggan is really fantastic. He manages to bring an intriguing mix of menace, outward calm, and even congeniality to a role that could have been quite flat and rote. Well done, sir.
Reid goes down to the cells with Abberline and Shine tells them to go ahead and give him their proof. Reid fetches Flight and Shine says he knows him. Flight was an Irish man who was selling adulterated gin that made people go blind, and now he’s reinvented as a respectable man. Flight’s on the verge of tears as Shine hands over his police record and tells the other two men that there’ll be a great scandal if he lets it be known that a criminal managed to successfully lie his way into the Whitechapel police. Abberline demands to know if this is true, throttling Flight, and Reid tells him that the young man’s no good to them dead. Shine goes on to say that the police’s position in the city is already tenuous, so they have to be careful. Flight tells Reid that he’s disgusted by the man he was before, but he did good work for Reid, because he wanted to put all that behind him. They have no choice but to let Shine go, but not before he makes a veiled threat to kill H division’s young constable in the upcoming boxing match.
Jackson arrives at Susan’s and begs for a word. She’s not terribly interested, but he persists and reminds her of this diamond and says there are men willing to kill to get this thing back. He goes on to say that Duggan might be persuaded to buy this incredibly dangerous rock, if she helps them out. It’d be a win-win: either they pay off the debts to Duggan with his own money, or he gets gutted by the diamond syndicate’s men. Susan spits that the debt’s already been paid, and he knows exactly what that means and raises a hand to strike her, so she tells him to go right ahead, because she has no pain left to be felt. He lowers his hand and backs away, gathering himself, and begs her for the chance to try and make her smile again. She tells him that joy is passing, but revenge is glorious.
Reid and Abberline sit in Reid’s office and try to figure out what to do here. They agree that they both want to do great harm to Shine, but they need to remain within the law. Abberline pauses, and then awkwardly brings up the situation with Cobden, telling Reid that he has to break it off, because the higher ups are grumbling about it, with Reid being still married and all. I actually rather doubt that men at the time would hold it against another man for having an affair when his wife’s insane and locked up, but I’m guessing it’s more the bad publicity they’re having a problem with. Abberline leaves him, and Reid gets ready to write a ‘Dear Jane.’
Susan pitches the diamond to Duggan, pouting when he expresses some reluctance to buy it.
Back in the dead room, Jackson takes the stone out of the arsenic, rinses it, and agrees that Daniel will broker the transaction. Yes, the con-man brother, that sounds like a good plan.
Jackson visits Finkle with a photograph of the stone, and Finkle asks to see it in person. Jackson agrees, but only if they meet somewhere neutral.
That night, Susan comes downstairs and meets Duggan, who reassures her he has the full amount asked for the stone. They head out for a date.
The boxing match is about to get underway. Backstage, Arthurton tapes up their fighter, while just outside the room Drake tells Reid the kid’s doomed. Reid asks what he plans to do about that and Drake says a man can be replaced if he’s injured and incapacitated.
We cut to Arthurton giving the kid a belt of laudanum while the kid lays his hand out on a table and Reid gets ready to bash him with a cricket bat. These folks have an interesting concept of teamwork.
At the music hall, Rose is ready to go onstage, but she wants to wait for Drake. Her boss tells her she can’t wait any longer.
H division’s fighter arrives at the boxing ring and shows his injured hand. Drake steps in instead and my eyes start to gleam in anticipation. He steps into the ring and he and Shine get ready to beatdown. As they tap gloves, Shine starts taunting Drake about Bella. He is so dead.
Rose comes out on stage, just as Duggan and Susan arrive. She starts to sing some sweet little song about falling in love. I’m guessing this is the song she chose to sing, but man, she’s still really, really awful. Her voice just isn’t made for singing at all, and she has no stage presence to speak of. She just stands there the whole time, like a charisma black hole. I like this actress and this character, I really do, but this was a poor choice of direction for her storyline, because she just doesn’t have the necessary voice to pull it off. It’s like how we were supposed to believe Ellen was a singer in Mr Selfridge. If you’re going to have a character be a believeable singer, they have to be able to sing!
The fight continues, and Drake’s just basically allowing himself to be beaten hard. Mercifully, the bell rings to end the round and the men in Drake’s corner tell him he has to put his guard up or he’ll be completely pummeled. They start fighting again, as Jackson arrives, skulking in the back. He spots Finkle, who’s brought along the two guys from the syndicate, who grab Jackson and search his pockets, only to find a worthless pebble. He promises to take them to the actual diamond.
Dan arrives at the music hall while Rose’s song drags on and on, and Susan notifies Duggan of the seller’s arrival. Dan hands the rock over to an appraiser, who says it’s genuine, so Duggan hands over the cash. Dan takes it and takes off. Yeah, I saw that coming.
Cobden receives the dumping note and goes to Leman Street to speak with Reid face-to-face, like a grownup would, only to hear he’s not there. She leaves, alone.
Drake’s back in his corner. Reid guesses he’s punishing himself here and desperately tells him to stop and just fight back. They go back to fighting, and over Rose singing about the boy she loves, we see Shine land brutal punch after punch.
Rose finishes up and everyone seems bewilderingly charmed. Jackson and the syndicate men arrive and Jackson directs them towards Duggan. They demand their rock, and when he refuses to hand it over, they gut stab him and his bodyguard before taking the stone. Jackson pulls his pistol and tells them to leave. They want Daniel and Jackson informs them that he’s stolen from Jackson too, and is a liar and cheat. He escorts them off, and Susan hisses to Duggan that she’s dreamt of this, and that all his estates and holdings will now be in her hands. I don’t see how that would be true, legally, but it’s pretty fantastic, so I’ll go with it. Duggan dies and Jackson reaches for her, but Susan tells him she’s done with him, done with all men, in fact. And then she leaves to go and be spectacular elsewhere.
Drake finally gets his mojo back and starts hitting, and man, when this man starts to hit, he doesn’t let up. Shine barely seems to know what’s happening. He’s on the ropes and Drake’s merciless, hammering away at him. The referee gets ready to step in but Reid yells at him to let them finish, so Drake keeps going while the crowd cheers. Cobden shows up just in time to hear Reid scream at Drake to kill Shine. Woah, Reid. I’m pretty sure telling one man to kill another in a room filled with policemen is not ok, no matter how worked up they are. Nonetheless, Drake gets ready to do just that, but hesitates, and then lets Shine drop to the floor. He’s not this man anymore. Reid turns and sees Cobden standing behind him, looking disgusted. She leaves. The credits close on the cheering and roaring of the bloodthirsty crowd.
It looks like that’s it for Ripper Street, probably permanently (unless those rumours about the deal with LoveFilm are true, and I really, really hope they are, because I loved this show). The episode clearly wasn’t meant to be a series finale, but if that turns out to be the case, I think it’s actually a fairly good ending for the show. We had Susan cutting ties and going off to be her own woman, at last, free from the ties of any men (which is something that’s been percolating with her character throughout both seasons—men have constantly been running her life in one way or another, whether they were her father and his thugs, her husband, or her customers), Reid’s slowly transforming into a brute, while Drake’s leaving this life behind, having realized just what it costs a person. Jackson’s, well, Jackson. He’ll keep puttering along as always, I guess.
I’m not saying the show didn’t have weak points and weak episodes, but taken as a whole, it was pretty great. Yes, it was brutal and bloody, but I’m ok with that, because this was a brutal, bloody, uncertain and ugly time and it’s nice to see an unsantisied version of life in the Victorian era. It’s not all nice manners and pretty bonnets. The casting throughout—from the leads on down to the bit parts—was really spot on; I don’t recall ever being disappointed by an actor’s turn on this show, and they were dealing with some pretty rough stuff. The dialogue alone was thick and almost Shakespearean at times (reminded me of Deadwood, another show that wasn’t afraid to show the grittier side of life week by week, and was the better for it), and the themes were wide-ranging and, to a great extent, applicable to modern times. It’s a shame some foolish programme planners at the BBC put the show on opposite I’m a Celebrity, and then bewilderingly wondered why it wasn’t doing so well in the ratings. I know this show isn’t cheap to produce, but it deserved better than that (and why is the BBC, which isn’t dependent on ad revenues, all that worried about ratings anyway? The thing I love about the BBC is that it can take more risks with its programmes because it doesn’t have to worry about attracting masses of viewers or commercial cash). Sadly, these are rough times we live in, and now Ripper Street is off to its own dead room. We’ll miss you, Ripper Street. You were definitely a good ‘un.