Ripper Street: Women’s Lib

Programme Name: Ripper Street - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows:  Silas Duggan (FRANK HARPER), Long Susan (MYANNA BURING) - (C) Tiger Aspect - Photographer: Steffan HillPreviously on Ripper Street: Susan was getting shaken down by her skeevy landlord, which created a rift between herself and Jackson.

We open on…Rose? Wow, I didn’t expect to see her again. She’s working in a music hall now, just like she always wanted, but unfortunately she’s not performing, she’s waitressing. And maybe it’s for the best, because the show’s a pretty tactless song and dance about the Ripper. Nice. Two gentlemen in the audience are plainly disgusted, and even more so when Rose comes over with drinks. One of them calls the place a den of iniquity and promises to have it closed by the end of the week. And yet, he does not get up and leave, as one would expect. Rose rolls her eyes and moves on to another table, where Jackson and Susan are having a crappy date night. After a little small talk, she moves on, and Jackson and Susan get tense again. He complains, and she reminds him they’re there to support Rose. A dark-haired woman comes in, eyes some of the guests, and catches Susan’s eye. She turns away with a smirk. During the performance, the lights go out briefly, and when they come back on, the snooty jerk is gone, and his friend has a bloodstain on the front of his shirt and is mighty confused. He raises the alarm. How convenient that Jackson’s already there! Snooty Jerk, meanwhile, is being bundled  out the back of the theatre.

Drake and Reid arrive and Snooty Jerk gets a name: Sir Walter De Souza, of the London City Council. He’s a popular opponent of music halls. The actor who was playing Jack in the production is apparently a fan of Reid’s and asks to shake his hand, but Reid completely flips out at the idea of someone playing at being the Ripper, and then accuses the theatre owner of having Walter kidnapped because he opposed the music halls. The owner says that’s not the case at all and introduces Walter’s bloodstained buddy. All he can say is that Walter vanished as soon as the lights went out. Drake catches sight of Rose, who greets him warmly, and he looks uncomfortable. FauxRipper notes that one of the serving girls is missing and Rose pipes up that the missing girl, Hettie, was serving the missing man. Reid asks her if the lights go out at the same time every performance (they do) and figures Hettie may have been in on this and used her knowledge of the lights out to arrange the kidnapping.

Reid and Jackson follow a blood trail back to the stage door, where they find Flyte waiting for them. He finds some dirt on the ground and realizes it’s human excrement. Reid figures a night soil cart (night soil men went around neighbourhoods cleaning out the privies before indoor plumbing was common—bet your job doesn’t seem so awful now!) was used to take Walter away, which is fairly clever, because anybody would give that cart a good wide berth. Jackson finds some cigarette ends and wraps them up so he can dry them out and figure out the brand of cigarette.

He does just that and identifies jimson weed in it, which is an ingredient in a brand of cigarettes targeted to women, to help with various aches and pains. Flyte appears and tells them the night soil man’s been found.

The guy’s been stashed in Reid’s office, looking so terrified I feel badly for him even before Reid and Drake start making a big production of opening doors and windows to air the place out. NSM tells them his cart was stolen two nights ago by a vicious swarm of women, and he was so embarrassed by that he didn’t report the theft.

Best is downstairs, asking to see Reid and insisting to Arthurton that Reid will thank him for the info he has to deliver. Arthurton fabulously messes with him a bit (I love Arthurton—he may be my favourite secondary character on this show). Reid comes sauntering out of his office and Best tells him he received a letter from the recently kidnapped Walter, which is forming the basis of his front-page story the following day. The letter apparently renounces De Souza’s opposition to a woman named Cobden, another member of the London City Council. Best stopped by to give Reid a head’s up and hands him the original letter. Reid also takes the opportunity to mess with Best a little by introducing him to the night soil man before heading off to give the letter to Jackson.

The men exposit that De Souza basically hates women, and women in any kind of power are his especial bugbear, so he loathes Cobden. They all figure that the women who kidnapped De Souza forced him to write the letter.

Susan has Rose over at her place for a drink and gossip. Rose hunts around for some info on how Drake and Bella are doing. Susan wonders if she’s a little jealous of what she might have had, but Rose earnestly says she only wishes them the best. Since Rose has always seemed pretty sweet, I’m going to give her the benefit of this one. A new girl, a blonde named Ida, comes in to hand over the night’s earnings and Rose takes the opportunity to excuse herself. Susan embraces her and whispers that she’s proud of her. Awww. Rose says goodbye to Jackson on her way out, and once they’re alone, he immediately starts snarking about how much they owe Duggan. That only starts yet another fight between them, the latest in what I’m sure is a considerable string of them.

Back in his office, Reid checks out various bits of literature related to Cobden and looks slightly exhausted. He lies down on his cot, looking sad.

Susan goes to see Duggan the following morning and makes a proposal: he can buy the business from her (meaning, he’d own the building and the running of the girls, which is profitable),  and she’ll be on her way. He’s not interested, because he clearly intends to keep shaking her down until she can’t pay anymore. Not in cash, anyway. She refuses to give him what he wants, just now, and leaves. You know, it strikes me as pretty stupid for this man to be sexually blackmailing a woman whose husband is fairly well known in the area for being a quick-draw sharpshooter who also works for the police.

On his way to Leman Street, Jackson spots an unusually well-dressed woman walking through the streets and talking to a beggar and checks her out. At the station, he starts telling Reid about this totally hot woman he just saw, as the woman herself comes in behind him. Reid tells him to shut up, but she rather merrily urges him to continue. This, of course, is Councillor Cobden. Reid apologises for his colleague and takes her into his office. She asks if she’s a suspect in Walter’s disappearance and offers up an alibi. Reid’s more interested in her supporters, figuring some of them snatched Walter in her name. Cobden swears she had nothing to do with it, because it would be totally against her own interests. Walter’s bringing some case against her, and if he’s not found, somehow the case will go badly for her. She tells Reid that the women who support her all work and feel they are being mistreated by their employers. Reid asks for any records of those who seek assistance from her. She agrees to send them over and leaves with a slightly flirty smile.

Piles and piles of paperwork arrive at the office and Reid sets a few of the officers to sorting through all of it.

At Susan’s, Ida and another girl are having a gossip when a regular comes in and asks for Ida, the second time this week. Almost as soon as they’re up the stairs, someone smashes a window, and when Susan goes to investigate, she finds a brick in her office, and two people steal their way up the stairs. Susan calls for a girl, Charity, and tells her to fetch a broom. Ida comes out as well and tells Susan that her customer wants to be tied up. Knowing something’s up, Susan rushes upstairs and finds two women, one the dark-haired one we saw at the theatre earlier and the other with a kerchief hiding her face, standing over the customer, who now has a nasty head wound. Kerchief smacks Susan over the back of the head, knocking her out, and nods to Dark Hair.

Charity, sweeping up the glass, hears people coming down the stairs and steals to the window, where she sees the kidnappers drive away.

One of the other girls rushes to Leman Street and tells Arthurton what happened. Arthurton sends for Jackson.

Jackson, Reid, and Drake rush to Susan’s, where they take in the bloodied sheets and a letter opener in the kidnap room and Jackson starts freaking out at Charity for having no idea who took Susan. Reid tells him to chill out and asks Charity who was ‘entertaining’ in that room. She tells him it was Ida, and that she’s gone as well. From the parlour, she saw Susan and the customer carried out and put on a cart. And Ida went along with them happily, so it seems to be the same MO as the theatre kidnap. Charity admits she has no idea who the man was, but he’s visited other girls in the past: Rose, and Drake’s wife. Reid asks to be allowed to interview Mrs Drake.

Susan wakes in a grubby room and finds the dark haired woman—Raine—as well as Ida and Kerchief there. Susan tries to escape, several times, and Raine seems amused. Susan threatens to rip the woman apart if any of her girls were harmed, and Raine reassures her that her premises were all that were required. Susan spits that those premises were her business, which is now ruined, because no man is going to feel safe there. Then again, the sense of danger may attract a whole new clientele. Raine takes her hands and says she doesn’t need customers like Eli, because he’s evil. Susan doesn’t care what men do outside her place, so Raine has Kerchief remove her mask. When she does, we can see that she only has about half a jaw. Seriously, she makes Two Face from Boardwalk Empire look fortunate. Susan barely manages to hold her lunch down and Raine harshly says that this is Eli’s fault.

Bella and Rose meet up at the station, and it’s a hell of a contrast between the two. Bella’s demure, in a pretty blue frock and gloves, whereas Rose looks fairly tawdry by comparison. It’s awkward as hell. Reid directs the two women to Eli’s things and asks if they can use them to figure out who he is. They go through them, murmuring between themselves and think it might have been some other guy, but the rose embroidered on his handkerchief makes Bella think it was Thomas Eli.

Out front, Drake tells Bella she’s a brave woman. She kisses him goodbye as Rose comes out, and it’s still a little awkward between the women, who are on completely different life trajectories at this point.

Inside, Reid sets the men to work looking through past case files to see if there are other disappearances that match the most recent two. Flyte finds one—a man named Collingswood who was an overseer a match factory. Reid remembers that Cobden’s devoted to helping out the girls who work in match factories, because they have a particularly horrific lot: the ingredients used to make matches eventually caused necrosis of the jawbone, which basically ate away the woman’s entire face from the inside out. And yes, this was actually a thing, and it was pretty much one of the most horrific ways I could think of dying. Eli was apparently a lawyer who may have drawn up legal papers for the girls to sign, claiming that the work didn’t affect their health at all. Reid sends Drake to the match factory to get a list of girls who had grievances. Flyte is sent to fetch coffee. Welcome to the entry-level workforce, Flyte!

Raine takes Susan into another room of the house they’re in, where several women polish and arrange clearly stolen goods. Raine claims the women are being shown a better life, but Susan points out that they’re thieves, and a life behind bars isn’t exactly an improvement over anything at all. Raine says these girls have been saved from slavery and disease and given a voice. She spits that Susan just wants women who can spread their legs and let her pocket her 60%. Susan defends herself by telling Raine that she actually takes very good care of her girls, far better than most others would. Raine asks if she really thinks she’s a liberated woman. Susan does. Raine mocks her and takes her into a bedroom, where she asks Susan to stitch up a wound that Eli dealt her in the kidnapping. Susan crosses her arms and says she’s not one of Raine’s girls. Raine says she’s the girls’ leader, and they can’t see her so mortal. Susan understands and goes to sterilize a needle. Raine removes her top, revealing several wicked scars on her back. She says the first she got from the carriage that killed her mother, leaving Raine with her infant sister. She won’t explain where the others came from. Susan guesses they came from the hands of men and asks if Raine’s sister is still of this earth. She is not. She stitches up Raine’s back, snipping off the thread with her teeth, which gives this scene an unexpected level of eroticism. Susan notes that Raine started with nothing, whereas Susan started with everything, and they both want to see some change in the world. Susan quietly tells her that these kidnappings will ruin everything Raine and her sister tried to build up. Raine won’t hear it, only starts to get angry at the mention of her sister. So angry, she flies off the handle and begins throttling Susan. Woah, ok, then. She yells that she won’t hear anymore from Susan and drags her downstairs.

In the basement, the men are being held in a filthy room. Raine unties one of Walter’s hands and places it on a barrel, brandishing a butcher’s knife. Susan, held back by Ida and someone else, begs Raine not to do this, but Raine, relishing the moment, goes and chops the man’s finger right off. He screams in agony through his gag, and the other men desperately try to loose their hands so they can get the hell away from this psycho. Ida ties a blindfold over Susan’s face and Raine turns to Eli.

Reid and Drake go to see Cobden at her office, where she’s practicing a speech. She breaks off and Reid apologises before handing over the list of women from the match factory. She recognizes one name: Agnes, and recalls that the woman came to her with her head and shoulders entirely covered in black lace. But Agnes died of her phossy jaw. Before she died, however, she was the leader of a faction of disillusioned women. Another woman, with whom she seemed to share a familial closeness, led with her. Now, who could that be? Reid goes through the list and finds another woman with the same last name: Raine.

Back at the station, Reid and Drake go through the records but find nothing on Raine. Suddenly, Susan comes in, looking like hell, and stiffly holds out a small carpetbag. She’s guided to a seat while Reid opens the bag and finds three severed fingers. Eeeew. Drake swiftly pours her a drink as Jackson comes rushing in, all sweet and concerned. Nothing like a good kidnapping to solve marital problems, right? Reid asks him for a quick assessment of the fingers and Jackson’s pretty much like, they’re severed fingers, can I attend my clearly traumatised wife now, please? The fingers came with a note demanding a ransom of 500 guineas, to be delivered by Susan the following day to Petticoat Lane. If she doesn’t appear with the money, the men will all die. Susan has no idea where the men are being held. Jackson gently leads her away to get her fixed up.

By the following morning, Susan’s a little more together and Reid has managed to gather the ransom. Jackson refuses to allow Susan to go, but we know she’s her own woman, and she says she’ll do the drop, because she hopes these girls might somehow be able to find their way through this mess in a way that doesn’t involve a man and/or a rope. Presumably she’s only really talking about Raine here, who’s the only one who would hang if the men were killed (I’m guessing she’d be the only one wielding the knife or whatever). And why Susan feels any tenderness for a woman who is so clearly homicidally insane is a mystery to me. Reid promises that he and the other men will hide around the drop area waiting for the collection, then follow Raine back to her hideaway to rescue the hostages. He promises that, if the men are still alive, the women will all avoid the hangman.

Later, Susan takes her position on Petticoat Lane while Reid, Drake, and Jackson lurk nearby. Why didn’t they bring more plainclothes policemen? This seems a little stupid, to just keep it the three of them. They have to know there’s going to be some trickery here, and this is a fairly high profile case.

Raine, draped in a veil, finds Susan, who tells Raine that she and her girls will all go to prison if she moves ahead with this. Raine tells her to have a little faith in womankind. A cart pulls up in front of the stall where they’re meeting, and when it moves away, a veiled woman can be seen walking off with the bag. Jackson follows her. And then another veiled woman with the same bag emerges from behind the stall and is followed by Drake. And then a third. Susan catches Reid’s eye and shrugs, as bewildered as he. He follows the third woman. See, Reid? I know you’re short staffed, but you can surely give Flyte a break from coffee-fetching duty just this once, right? Once Reid’s gone, Raine, no longer veiled, comes out from behind the stall and rushes off, looking delighted. Susan hesitates, then follows her.

Drake catches his woman, who of course is not who he’s looking for. He hurries back to Petticoat Lane, only to find everyone else gone. Why didn’t he hang onto the woman for questioning? She’s clearly in on this somehow, so she might have known where the hideaway was. This is a really sloppy episode.

Susan follows Raine down a back alley and catches up with her. Raine notes that Susan didn’t call out to the police. Susan says she wants to help Raine (Susan, why? I get that you feel a certain kinship with a woman who hates how men use other women, but this one’s a complete nutter!) and offers to be a sort of partner with her. She’s sick of taking orders from men all the time—especially Duggan. Raine urges her to remain strong against Duggan’s demands, saying (clearly from personal experience) that the first time you give in to that sort of thing changes you.

The boys return to the station, where Jackson is seriously pissed off that his wife’s disappeared again. He promises to take it all out on Reid if anything else happens to her. Reid tells him to relax and get back to his lab to look at some soil that was found on the floor at Susan’s. Reid notes that Cobden is there and apologises for the scene. She waves it off and says she remembered something about Raine: he might be able to find her in Hackney.

Jackson gets to work on that soil and finds something in it. He puts it in a bowl over a Bunsen burner and it ignites.

Upstairs, Reid draws a circle around the area of Hackney Cobden mentioned and around the matchworks and figures they’re looking for a place in the overlap area. Jackson bursts in and says the soil has a heavy concentration of organic matter, like peat, so they’re probably looking at Hackney Marshes.

Raine returns home, with Susan, and starts throwing the money from the top of the stairs, laughing a little crazily. She holds a hand out to Susan and declares her one of them. Susan smiles like the new girl being accepted by the popular crowd and hurries to her.

At the station, Reid gives out his orders and prepares to move in on Raine’s hideaway.

There, Susan goes looking for Raine and is told she’s downstairs. Susan goes down to the basement and finds Raine circling the room, dousing the three men in gasoline, or something else no doubt highly flammable. Jesus Christ, Susan, is this not enough to convince you this woman is insane? Her response to social injustice is to burn three people alive! After having kept them prisoner and torturing them for days! Susan tells Raine that she and the others will hang, but Raine doesn’t care about any of that. She doesn’t care about anything, since Agnes died. She stops at De Souza and tells him that the rot from Agnes’s jaw went into her brain and destroyed what she was, before she even died. Susan tears up, though if I were tearing up at this point it’d be more for the three people about to meet a horrible, horrible end. Don’t get me wrong, what happened to Agnes was awful, but to be fair, these three guys didn’t rub her face in phosphorus. And only two of them actually had any role—however remote—in her death. De Souza’s just there because…he doesn’t like Cobden, I guess? See what I mean when I say this woman’s crazy?

Raine goes to punch one of the men for daring to be afraid, and when Susan stays her hand, she smacks Susan instead. And then she gets all gentle and says that Susan understands her. Susan looks terrified. Raine lights a match, as Reid and the police arrive upstairs and start breaking down the door. While Raine’s briefly distracted, Susan puts out the match and swiftly tries to talk Raine down. Raine responds with violence, as upstairs the door comes down and the police swarm in and start placing women under arrest. Jackson demands to know where Susan is.

Downstairs, Raine’s having a freakout because Susan essentially told her (rightly) that she’s becoming as bad, if not worse than, these men. Susan urges her to cut them loose, and somehow she gets through to Raine’s addled brain. Raine pulls out a knife to loose the men, just as Jackson comes in. He misreads the situation, thinking Raine’s about to slice Susan up, which is a fairly reasonable assumption, and he shoots her dead. Susan screams and weeps over her now-dead ally. Man, talk about Stockholm Syndrome. And it only took, what, a day? I thought Susan would be made of much sterner stuff. I’m sorry, but I don’t really buy this at all. Maybe if Raine had seemed a bit more rational, this would make some sense, but since she seemed so clearly off her clogs, I don’t believe that Susan would be quite so firmly on her team as this.

Women are led out of the house and put in a police wagon, while the three kidnapped men are taken to hospital. Raine’s body is carried out on a stretcher and the women all start wailing. Reid goes over to Susan and apologises for putting her in harm’s way. Susan asks what will happen to the girls. Reid promises to speak up for them and keep them off the rope, but asks why Susan went over to Raine’s side. Susan explains that she and Raine both wanted the best for the girls, and life consistently fails to reward good intentions like that. Well, when you try to serve those intentions through violence and attempted murder, yes, I think it’s perfectly acceptable that Life not reward that.

Best arranges a meeting between Cobden and De Souza so they can shake hands and be friends. But of course De Souza’s a douchebag who takes the opportunity to show off his index fingerless hand and say that this is the sort of damage women cause. He goes on to say he’d rather lose every finger than shake hands with Cobden. He orders Best to print a retraction of the letter. Cobden stomps off and Reid catches up, begging her not to think all men painted with Walter’s misogynist brush. She knows, and she also knows that Reid’s one of the good ones. He asks what’s on her agenda next and she says she’ll rally her team and keep fighting the good fight. See, if Raine had been slightly more like this woman, I’d have an easier time believing Susan’s worship of her. Reid warns her that, if she keeps antagonizing people like De Sousa, she’ll risk ending up in jail. She jokes that at least she’ll be under Reid’s lock and key. Mmm, possibilities?

Susan’s soaking in a tub at home. Rose comes in to see her and tells her how relieved she was to hear Susan was safe. She also wants to thank Susan for offering to act as her patron at the music hall, which will presumably enable Rose to go onstage. Susan takes her hand and tells her she doesn’t want Rose to be beholden to a man. Rose thanks her for always being her saviour and Susan, a little bitterly, says she was never that.

Jackson interrupts by coming in and Rose makes herself scarce. He sits by the tub, clearly wanting to connect with his wife but uncertain how, since he doesn’t really know what he did wrong. He tells her he really thought Raine was going to take Susan from him, and he thought he was saving her. Susan says nothing. He notes the water’s getting cold and offers to get her some more, or some towels. Anything? She tells him she just wants him to leave her alone. He considers saying something, but finally nods and goes. Susan begins to cry, and slowly sinks beneath the water.



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