Previously on Ripper Street: Susan was getting ickily shaken down by her creep of a landlord, causing a rift between her and Jackson that was not helped by her embracing the teachings of a feminist nutjob, and Drake married a former prostitute.
Two young men play a post coital game of ‘if I could have anything, I’d have X,’ which ends with one of them saying ‘I just want you.’ Aww. It’s not quite as much of a fantasy game as usual, though, because apparently they’re getting ready to blackmail someone named Quint, so they’re expecting a bit of a windfall. One of the guys, David, notes the time and says they should get back to work, but the other one (Vincent) wants more sexy time.
Apparently these two are telegraph boys, and at the telegraph office their absence is noted because David has been requested for a delivery. Specially requesting a particular telegraph boy? Yeah, that doesn’t seem strange at all. The boss sends another guy, Otto, off in David’s stead.
Otto arrives at the appointed bedroom, pretending to be David, and is met by a man menacingly stretching a silk scarf between his hands.
Leman Street’s full of men who have been arrested during a raid on a Molly house. Best comes in to mock the men for wasting time on gay men instead of actual criminals, and then asks if there are any bluebloods in the mix. Reid tells him to get lost and do his muckracking elsewhere. Best says he’s not there to muckrake but to expose rank hypocrisy.
Flight (not Flyte, as I thought) comes rushing down the stairs and tells Reid a telegraph boy’s been murdered.
Drake and Reid stand over Otto’s body and quiz the owner of the place on the appearance of the man who rented the room. The rather nervous guy gives a very vague description indeed, and then asks if they’ll be much longer, because he wants to re-rent the room as soon as possible. Reid glares at him before leaving.
Jackson’s spending his afternoon at the pub, playing cards and losing. He spots a friend of his and goes to join him. The guy tells him his ship came in and orders up some drinks for everyone. Jackson asks the man to pay back money he owes Jackson, and he does, with interest. He also tells Jackson about a great business deal he’s in on.
Reid and Drake go to the telegraph office and tell the manager about Otto’s death. He tells them it was really David’s route. David himself, along with Vincent, wanders over and is told about Otto. Vincent says he was with David during the day, and they went to the fair at Bethnal Green. Reid asks David if he’s ever been to the Harlequin, which is presumably where Otto was killed, and David clearly lies that he hasn’t.
Back at the station, Reid consults the telegraph company’s ledger and finds several telegrams coming from the City of London to Whitechapel, but no replies back. And David has been sent to the Harlequin at least three times in the last two weeks. He sends Flight off to investigate the other addresses in the ledger.
Jackson inspects the body and finds silk fibres in the neck wound (Otto was strangled). Also, the boy was sexually active, and not with women. Flight comes in and says the other addresses are all like the Harlequin. Reid notices a leaflet advertising investment opportunities in Tierra del Fuego. Jackson asks if Reid knows anything about investments like this. Reid says nothing, just that ‘Land of Fire’ sounds a lot like hell.
A man in a bowler hat who’s walking in slow motion, has a birthmark on his face, and is accompanied by creepy music arrives at the telegraph office looking for David. I’m guessing he doesn’t want to take the kid out for tea. His name is Self, by the way, not that they tell us that until about 10 minutes before the end of the episode. Manager tells him David’s off shift, so Self asks who might know where David is.
David and Vincent are kind of freaking out about this portfolio of Quint’s they have, which they think is the reason Otto’s dead. David thinks they should just give the folio back before anything else happens, but Vincent figures the guy who’s after them doesn’t actually know what they look like, so they can still see this through if they act fast. He offers to go see Best, to get his help in this matter. He also hands David his knife, in case he needs to defend himself. David takes it, reluctantly.
Flight’s staking out the telegraph boys and follows Vincent to a pub, where he meets with Best. Best asks if a boy named Harry is ok, and seems relieved he is. Vincent offers Best a plum story involving one of the biggest banks in London, but before he can get details, Best spots Flight and warns him they’re being watched. Vincent looks and also sees Self come in, not so subtly brandishing a knife, so he tells Best to go. Best does, and then Vincent walks right up to Flight and tells him he’s a sodomite and needs to be arrested, because that was quite illegal in Britain back then. Flight has no choice but to take him in, unwittingly saving him from Self.
Drake, meanwhile, follows David to some address, where he sees him through the window with some man.
At the station, Drake and Reid question Vincent, who now claims he was drunk and retracts what he said in the pub. Reid doesn’t really care; he wants to know about the apparent male prostitution ring the telegraph boys are running. Vincent denies it, so Reid tries guilting him for Otto’s death on David’s behalf, but Vincent doesn’t crack. They have no choice but to release him. Drake suggests they try a firmer approach with the boy, but Reid thinks they should try someone easier: the manager. They get him into a cell and swiftly terrify him, accusing him of running the boys. They ask for the names of the boys who are ‘renting’ and he claims not to know, but he does know that David was apparently seeing some rich guy whom David and Vincent were going to shake down. He’s a banker named Quint.
Flight gets a dossier on Quint, who’s an employee with Barings Bank. Reid briskly orders Flight to get him a hansom cab and Flight looks pissed off to be handling intern duties again.
At Barings, Reid is greeted by Quint’s boss, Stone, who’s played by the same actor who played Cardinal Sforza in The Borgias. Nice to see him again! We learn that Quint was recently fired from the bank (they have such terrible luck with employees, don’t they?) and that before he went he was basically an investment risk analyst. Reid asks why Quint’s gone and hears his work had become erratic of late, which is bad in someone with that sort of responsibility. Stone admits that Quint, while married, had certain ‘pasttimes’ that took him away from it frequently.
Quint, in his home office, is panicking because he needed to get that foilo back, but it’s all gone pear-shaped, thanks to Self, who’s with him, listening calmly. Quint gestures to a note from the boys, asking for more money and Self tells him to chill, because he’ll clean this up. Quint calms down a little and asks to see Stone so he can get all this cleared up. Self tells him Stone wants this kept quiet as much as possible. Quint admits he would have given David anything he asked for, and that he loves him.
Jackson reads the newspaper and crunches some numbers at home when he’s interrupted by Susan, who’s delighted to find the cash Charlie Frost paid back Jackson. Jackson notices that she’s pretty tense and she admits that Duggan’s demanding even more money. Jackson tells her there’s some great investment opportunity in Argentina that promises excellent returns, which could be their way out from under Duggan’s thumb. Susan is not at all enthusiastic at the idea of gambling what little they have on such an uncertainty, but Jackson doesn’t see this as gambling. Susan still shuts the idea down, so Jackson arms himself and says he’s going to go deal with Duggan his way. She urges him not to, because Duggan’s a dangerous man, but Jackson doesn’t listen.
Off to Duggan’s he goes, and the man comes out to greet him, calmly smoking. Jackson pulls his pistol and Duggan tells him it’s in his best interests to leave now, before he does anything stupid. Jackson cocks the pistol and says he’s gotten the last penny he ever will out of Susan, and Duggan, showing surprising spryness for a man of his bulk, swiftly disarms him, wrestles him into the barber’s chair, and gives him a good old fashioned beatdown while threatening to rip Susan apart. As a final insult, he tells Jackson he’ll be billing Susan for the damage his shop just sustained.
Drake and Reid go to visit Quint at his very nice home and find him dead in his study, his brains gorily sprayed over the curiously intact glass-fronted cabinet behind him. There’s a suicide note in front of him, in which he says how sorry he is and admits to killing Otto,
That evening, Reid and Drake have a drink together in Reid’s office and Reid asks Drake what he thinks the purpose of the law is. Drake thinks it’s there to protect people. Reid wonders whom they’re protecting by going after homosexuals. You know, these guys are pretty anachronistically laid back about the gay issue. It may just be because of the rough neighbourhood they work in, but still, this sort of thing was fairly well drilled into the Victorian psyche as being terribly, terribly wrong.
Drake takes a walk with his wife and buys her some flowers. Awww. She notes that he’s rather quiet and he tells her Reid was getting all philosophical on him and feeling bad about locking up people who aren’t really all that dangerous. Bella says that Reid just understands what it is to be lonely, and then asks Drake what he would do if their relationship were made illegal. Would he turn his love off, like a gas jet? He admits he would do no such thing. They kiss, and their cute moment is interrupted by a blonde woman calling out to her. Bella tells the woman she’s got the wrong woman and steers Drake away, asking if they can go home. She looks a bit panicky.
Susan finds Jackson by the fire in the sitting room, drinking. He tells her she looks beautiful and she thinks it’s the drink talking, but it’s not. She joins him and he starts reminiscing about the two of them once taking a balloon over Chicago. He starts diving straight into a deep pool of self-pity, wailing that he totally let her down and broke every promise he ever made to her and she rolls her eyes and stomps out, refusing to indulge him. That’s my girl.
Best is shown to a room at the Harlequin, accompanied by one of the boys, presumably Harry. Once they’re in, the proprietor tells Self, who’s coming up the stairs, that they’re in place. Self stations himself in the next room, where he takes some very artistic pictures through a peephole of Best and Harry together.
Jackson checks out Quint’s body and deems it not a suicide, based on the fact that several of his fingers are broken, which makes firing a gun fairly difficult.
Reid calls Mrs Quint in for an interview, apologizing for forcing her to do this during such a painful time. She’s clearly affected, but calm. Reid asks if her husband had any enemies and she says he was a gentle man. Reid gently asks if she and her husband had any issues and Mrs Q says the only person her husband had issues with was Stone. All she knows is, there was something going on regarding business in the Argentine. The only files that weren’t kept at Barings were in Quint’s folio, which was stolen. Reid guesses they were stolen by a boy and Mrs Q knows all about it, urging Reid not to judge her husband. He reassures her he does no such thing. She goes on to say that their marriage was a loving companionship, no more, and that they genuinely cared for each other.
Vincent and David get a telegram telling them of Quint’s death. Vincent angrily throws a package of matches across the room, figuring their scheme to squeeze money out of the guy is dead now too. David, on the other hand, thinks that what they have must be really important, so right now they need to stay calm and not let ‘them’ see that they’re afraid.
Reid sends Drake to visit Best and find out what he knows about these telegraph boys. What’re the odds, really, that the one newspaperman they seem to have a relationship with would happen to be mixed up in the same gang of rent boys? I mean, it’s not like these were the only young men available in all of London at the time, you know? Drake arrives at Best’s office and finds it empty, but judging from the still-smoking cigarette on the desk, he left in a hurry, and recently. He finds a telegram from Vincent on the desk.
David arrives at Leman Street and asks to speak to Reid.
In Reid’s office, David claims he only spoke with Quint, who said he was afraid and said that someone was against him and that they would silence him if he spoke the truth. Before he gives a name, he asks to be given free passage out of the station. Once Reid promises it, he says Quint was terrified of Stone, because of something to do with the Argentine.
Reid’s back at Barings, where Stone tells him the accusation that he was threatening Quint and destroying his files is absurd. Reid says it’s not absurd, if Quint found something detrimental regarding their investment in the Argentine. He asks for full access to Quint’s work, but Stone tries to stonewall him by reminding Reid that he’s out of his jurisdiction. Reid backs down for the moment, but twists the knife by reminding Stone that Quint’s folio is still out there somewhere. Once he’s gone, Self comes in and Stone bitches about the telegraph boys and tells Self to buy him some more time.
Vincent meets with Best in some back alley and tells him that, if anything happens to him, there’s a folio stashed somewhere that Best should take and publish. Before he can tell him where, Self shows up and Vincent flees. Wow, Self sure got from the City to Whitechapel fast. Self pursues, and Best escapes, only to run right into Drake. He urges Drake to go help the boy and Drake complies, but gets there too late. By the time he arrives and pulls Self off the boy, young Vincent’s already been stabbed a few times. While Drake subdues Self, Vincent gets away.
Despite being gut stabbed, he makes it back to his and David’s place, where David desperately tries to help him. But of course, Vincent dies. Drake arrives and looks sad as David weeps over the body of his lover.
At the station, Self confesses to all the murders, claiming he did so for spiteful, indecent reasons. Reid figures he’s covering for someone and Self sort of admits it by saying that, when he dies, his insurance policy will go to his boy (in this episode, it’s hard to say if he’s talking about a son or a lover). He won’t give up the man in charge.
Reid’s called away to meet with David, who’s in his office, still wearing clothes stained with Vincent’s blood. Reid gently tells the boy that the man who killed Vincent and the others won’t talk to him, so he needs to know everything David knows. David tells him he has the folio, which had some choice information about the investments in the Argentine: namely, that they’re worthless, because the country’s sliding swiftly into bankruptcy. That little bit of info gets Jackson’s attention.
David takes Reid and the others to the telegraph office, where he’s stashed the folio. From the papers inside, Reid deduces that the Argentine’s too deeply in debt to stay afloat much longer, and that Barings is seriously exposed. Jackson can’t believe that this could be happening. Ok, let me just sort this out for a second. What started out as a ring of rent boys has now grown to encompass a credit bubble and an entire country’s economy. And the murder that Leman Street started out investigating has now expanded to bank fraud, another murder, Fred Best’s personal life, and an investment that Jackson just happens to have made? Talk about convoluted. I kind of wish these episodes were a little more focused, because this is kind of ridiculous. It’s insane, for one thing, that these events should personally involve not one, but two main cast members—the world was a little smaller back then, but not that much smaller—and do we really need to wrap gay rights up with a Victorian-era commentary on the credit crunch? And what seems like what could have been an early Ponzi scheme? They just can’t seem to focus on one big issue anymore.
Anyway, Jackson takes off, and Reid notes that Stone was concealing the bad investments and was fuelling the inflating bubble, and now they have the letters to prove it.
Reid confronts Stone with the evidence, and Stone informs Reid that he has no real criminal evidence against him. Reid promises they’ll break Self eventually but Stone’s not worried. Reid asks how he thought he could keep this going and Stone says he just finished a meeting with some very important people, who have agreed to cover the bank’s losses, mostly because they were unaware of this current fiasco. It’s the first bailout! He goes on to say that, if news of this had come out earlier, Barings would have been finished, and that would have dragged down the whole City and possibly the country. So, he bought the bank another century. Reid grabs the portfolio and swears everyone will know what Stone’s done. Stone really doesn’t care. He knows he’ll suffer socially for this one, but ultimately the bank will be saved, and people will come around, because profit runs the world, not love. He wishes it hadn’t had to be this way, but there you are. He’s a company man, through and through.
Reid takes the folio to Best and tells him to have fun with it. Best promises to do so.
Reid puts David in a hansom, telling him, from a man who knows, that one must move on, even in the face of love lost.
Susan’s been told about the lost investment, and to say she’s not happy is…an understatement. And I can’t blame her. She actually seems more upset that Jackson went behind her back, took her money, and lost it against her express wishes. He’s a little freaked out by how calm she is and urges her to yell or throw something or whatever, but she just quietly tells him she’s never going to give him a scrap of feeling ever again. She hisses at him to get out, telling him he’s betrayed her. She can’t trust him anymore, and without trust, you’ve really got no relationship. Jackson puts his glass down and leaves. Susan cries, though whether it’s from the betrayal or the hopelessness of her situation it’s impossible to tell.
Best has written his article, but he scraps it and throws it into the fire while drinking and looking at the blackmail photos of him and Harry, which Stone apparently sent his way.
Reid decides to actually give his own advice a try and goes to see Cobden, who’s working late. He gives a very elaborate speech about how difficult it is to find someone special, and how much some people risk for it. He castigates himself for failing his wife and says he doesn’t want to do the same to her. Still, he doesn’t want to just huddle in the dark the rest of his life, either. ‘I hope you’re not going to break into a sonnet every time you want to take me for dinner and a dance, I’ll find the swooning quite tiresome,’ she tells him. Heh. Se goes to him and announces that she won’t be his mistress, but she’s not expecting him to divorce Emily. They kiss, so I guess they’re just going to see how things go.
David, who clearly just doesn’t give a shit anymore, somehow gets into Stone’s house and surprises him in the bathroom, getting ready for bed. He slashes the man across the throat and he dies, gorily, choking on his own blood. The blood budget for this episode must have been astronomical.