Let’s start with the B-plot: The LemTeam is not doing well in captivity. Reid, especially, is getting very agitated and nasty, lashing out at Susan, whom he blames for Matilda hating him (as if he didn’t have his own reasons to want to see her father dead) and poor Thatcher, who’s only trying to help but can’t seem to get any of the info Reid wants. That’s probably because Thatch is getting shut out: he suddenly finds himself demoted to Desk Sergeant, while Drum is promoted to Thatch’s job in what one can only assume is Dove’s attempt to cement a relationship between himself, Drum, and Matilda.
Susan, who you’d think would be somewhat out of her mind over her kid, is managing to keep calm and handle things and remind Reid that being a dick to their only connection to the station is a fairly poor idea.
And Jackson is just chilling and biding his time. He and Mimi get a rather nice scene where she admits that she got super excited when he came knocking on her door, and she sort of hates herself for that, because she’s amazing and knows she deserves better. But she also knows that, eventually, she will manage to move on. Excellent work by Lydia Wilson here.
So, why are our stars the B plot? Because this episode is dominated by Nathaniel, and I’d just like to say: thank God it was, because BRAVO, folks. I do admire shows that operate in shades of grey, and that’s always been one of Ripper Street’s strong points. This is no exception. Nathaniel has, thus far, been a bit of a murky figure, hovering around in a menacing way, but this definitely gives him more depth, and Jonas Armstrong really knocked it out of the park here. I’ve never wanted to give a crazy serial killer a hug so much in my life.
So, Nathaniel’s trying to make a go of it, living somewhat Thoreau-esque on the Hackney marshes. He catches eels to sell to a local fishmonger, Sumner, but it’s clear he’s getting lonely, fast. Sure, Dove swings by with food and books and the like, but Nate needs more than that. He tries to make friends with Sumner, who isn’t having it. But when Sumner fails to show up for his usual eel collection, Nate gets worried and hikes to the man’s cottage to see what’s up.
There, he meets Sumner’s daughter, Prudence, her brother, Caleb, and son, Robin. He also learns that Sumner has died. He helps dig the grave, and a grateful Prudence invites him to stay for supper. The next day, she also comes by for eel collection and asks Nate to help her man the family’s fish stall in Whitechapel. Caleb, it seems, is rather too fond of the gin bottle and has to sleep it off.
Nate demurs, realising it’s a poor idea for him to be in Whitechapel just now, but Prudence is sweet and nice and pretty, so eventually he agrees. He manages to keep his head down as he slices up eels, and even Thatcher and the other local police don’t realise he’s there.
Caleb’s soon back at work, but clearly a bit jealous of Nate’s presence. When a thief steals the stall’s moneybox, Nate chases the man down, drags him back to the stall, and breaks his wrist right in front of Robin, who’s equal parts ‘woah’ and horrified. The ruckus alerts the local police, and Nate flees. Later, Prudence comes to visit him at his cottage, he apologises for having gotten kind of violent back there, and they share a nice supper.
Unfortunately, Nate’s not the neatest of housekeepers, so the following day when Dove comes by, he notices the pair of dishes and freaks out that his brother’s entertaining when he’s supposed to be laying low. Dove then goes to the Sumner cottage and tells the family that Nate’s a wanted man, which seems like a pretty stupid thing to do, really, when he’s supposed to be hiding his brother. What if they told someone else that Nate was there?
Anyway, Nate goes to the cottage and Caleb sends him on his way, so he goes to Dove’s house, sending his brother into a panic by playing with little Conner in the garden. Nate says he’d never hurt Conner, whom he looks on as a nephew, but rather darkly tells Dove that what he did was really unkind. This is clearly a man walking on a knife’s edge (and the frequent appearance of various knives throughout the episode really drives that point home, if you will). He knows he has these horribly violent tendencies which he’s fighting all the time, because he wants to be good. He wants to be normal. He wants to go back to being the sweet boy living on the farm he told Prudence about, before the horrifying violence that drove him, his mother, and his brother into the woods, and his mother to her dreadful death.
Prudence eventually comes around and visits Nate to have a talk, and then to give him a BJ and have sex with him. This is…a strange scene. There’s something about Prudence, who apparently mothered her brother after her own mother died in childbirth, and therefore loves and defends her brother fiercely, as a mother would, despite the fact that Caleb clearly has a problem with alcohol and violence. That maternal instinct is strong in her, and she seems to see in Nate someone else to nurture and mother, which would be fine, and might be what he needs, but it’s downright creepy in a sexual partner. Like, as she’s kneeling in front of his naked body she’s calling him a ‘good boy’. And afterwards, they curl up together and she hugs and soothes him, kind of like a mother would with a small child who’s just had a nightmare. It’s just a bit off.
But Nate’s happy to have finally made some sort of connection with someone. Because this is Ripper Street, though, that can’t possibly last. He joins the Sumners for dinner one night, and Caleb starts hitting the bottle really hard. Nate begins to look a little twitchy, and when Caleb leaves the room, he urges Prudence to run away with him. She refuses, because she can’t leave Caleb.
Nate heads home, and as soon as he’s gone Caleb starts beating the tar out of poor Prudence. Nate bursts back in, wrestles Caleb off of her, and beats him up right back. At this point, we find out just what the hell is up with Prudence: Caleb is both her brother and her son’s father. When did this show become Chinatown?
Caleb gets back up and goes after Nate again, and at this point, Nate the human takes a big step back and Nate the animal comes rushing to the fore. He bites out a chunk of Caleb’s neck. Prudence starts to panic as her brother swiftly bleeds out, and when Nate tries to subdue her, he accidentally breaks her neck. While he’s mourning her, and realising, with increasing horror, what he’s done, Robin comes in, sees his whole family lying there dead and Nate with a face covered in blood, and very sensibly runs.
Nate drags himself off to Dove’s, where he collapses in the garden, having been stabbed in the back during the fracas at the Sumner cottage. So, now the Golem has a new victim and Dove’s got a punctured brother to deal with. His job just isn’t getting any easier.