Previously on Ripper Street: Susan got it into her head to derail a train in order to steal some bonds belonging to her evil father. Unfortunately, she also derailed a passenger train, which crashed almost literally at H Division’s front door, killing more than 50 people and giving us an entire season’s worth of plotlines to explore. Those plotlines led to her (and our Justice League) murdering her father by locking him up in the cell that formerly housed Matilda Reid. So he’s dead, and Susan’s in prison for multiple cases of homicide. She was also pregnant with Jackson’s baby, because these two simply can’t untangle themselves from each other, ever. Rose and Drake finally got together, and Drake was poised to take over H Division, just as soon as Reid could let the place go, already. He finally did, and went off to live idyllically by the seaside with his recently rediscovered daughter.
We’ve jumped ahead three years, to 1897, and London is preparing for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The parks are filled with soldiers from all over the empire, and racial tensions are high because even then people assumed that brown people were always up to no good. Of particular interest is an Indian manservant to the queen, whom some higher-up is certain is bad because he’s brown, you know, and an organisation known as the Muslim Patriotic League.
And here’s where our heroes stand:
Well, on the B-list, Rose is still acting, and is really struggling with her childlessness. She wants a baby and is sure it’s all her fault that she can’t have one, and that everyone in the world thinks its her fault. Poor Rose. I feel her.
Drake is in charge of H Division, which has a nice, shiny new HQ that includes a telephone and an early microfiche, which is now where Reid’s insane but incredibly useful archive lives. Drake has a new superior, Augustus Dove (who looks to be about 23 but seems nice enough); a partner who appears to have done all his shopping in Best’s closet, and I don’t mean that in a particularly good way; a station manager named Drummond who’s played by Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom no more!) (wait, does this mean Artherton’s gone? 🙁 ); and a sassy lady reporter named Miss Costello. The new Best, I guess.
Jackson is faking still being a useless, debauched drunk, for reasons that are never made clear to me. He’s also been working through the courts for the past 18 months to try and secure Susan’s father’s money for his and Susan’s tot, Connor, so they can pay for Susan’s planned escape from Newgate. That escape is getting to be a bit urgent, what with her hanging now scheduled for two days hence. Sadly, without a body, someone needs to be missing seven years before they can be legally declared dead, so no inheritance, I’m afraid, Susan. She takes the opportunity to be incredibly shitty to Jackson about that, as if he somehow runs the courts or whatever, and look, Susan, I get that you’re tense and staring down the barrel of a death sentence, but let’s not forget you were complicit in the deaths of more than 50 innocent people, plus your father, whose corpse is presumably still walled up underneath Whitechapel somewhere, so it’s not like this isn’t some sort of justice being served, mmmkay? Also, Jackson is moving heaven and earth to try and get you out of here, so maybe just a sliver of gratitude wouldn’t go amiss? As he himself points out, he’s not exactly running the Royal Mint out of his surgery.
And Reid is desperately trying not to hate his life. He’s living in some seaside town that’s being transformed into a resort by a wealthy property developer. Said developer is enlisting Reid’s assistance in doing some offshore engineering that shows the developer has basically screwed up the beach, probably permanently. Reid is also kinda sorta dating the developer’s rather giddy-seeming widowed daughter, whose own daughter is besties with Matilda. Matilda’s recovered so completely from her life of trauma and imprisonment, it’s like it never happened. She’s a totally normal seeming, mischievous teenager, skipping school with her friend to sneak away to London and ogle some of the H Division police officers (they rightly decide that Drummond is the cutest). She wants to go to Oxford, in case that ever becomes important.
We have a body! An Indian man washes up in the East End, throat slit, hands chained. His mere presence is enough to cause all sorts of hysterical feelings, because the dock where he’s found is closed for investigation, leading the union rep, Teague, to have some high words with Drake, who basically tells him to piss off. Drake then grabs Jackson to do some of his magical work and Jackson is able to determine that the soil in the man’s boots came from Hyde Park. Hyde Park is currently stuffed with soldiers from all over the empire, and yet Drake’s able to go there and locate just the man he needs: Risaldar-Major Haroun Al-Qadir, who accompanies him back to the station and identifies the victim as his own son, an Oxford-educated barrister named Sayid.
Sayid and his law partner, Hafeez (whom, it is hinted, is of a lower caste and is not at all liked by Al-Qadir, were members of the Muslim Patriotic League. Sayid, in fact, was a contributor to a Muslim magazine that leaned a little extremist. Hafeez, too, leans a bit extremist and during a meeting attended by Al-Qadir, Drake, Dove, and an incredibly douchy Special Branch Inspector named Constantine, calls on his educated brothers to help Muslims break away from England. The meeting is infiltrated by Teague and a band of thugs, who proceed to just start beating the crap out of everyone not white enough to please them. Hafeez flees but is cornered and is about to get beaten possibly to death when Al-Qadir intervenes and, despite not exactly being a spring chicken, fights all the men off and reminds them that they’re all on the same side, here. (Well, maybe not Hafeez). Teague starts spouting some serious White Working Man Anxiety about dark people stealing jobs and infiltrating their country and causing trouble and I weep at the thought that we’re all still living in 18-frigging-97. Ugh!
Meanwhile, we have a B plot going. Isaac Bloom, a character we’re apparently supposed to care a great deal about and who has showed up in the past (but whom, I have to admit, I don’t remember at all) is about to be hanged for the brutal murder of Rabbi Leon Ratovski. Everyone who knows Bloom seems a little skeptical that he could do such a thing, and apparently Whitechapel is up in arms about it, though we’ll have to take everybody’s word for it, since we see no evidence of that.
Chief amongst those who believe Bloom is innocent is Miss Goren (remember her?) who travels all the way out to Reid’s seaside purgatory to beg him to come back to London and look into the case. At first he’s pretty much all, ‘You want me to go and prove that my best friend is a shitty detective? Even though I’m retired now? Uh, no. No thank you.’ But as we all know, Reid’s a Justice Junkie, so he brushes off the Homburg of Vital Investigations and takes a day trip to London.
There, he visits Bloom’s old apartment, which has been all sealed off with notices not to enter, because it’s a crime scene and all (but, isn’t the investigation concluded? How long is this place going to be called an active crime scene? It’s also a bit bizarre that, even though the crime has been investigated and the alleged perpetrator tried, convicted, and sentenced, Ratovski’s body is still hanging around in the morgue. That seems bizarrely contrived.) but Reid just kicks the door in. He’s wearing the homburg, people! He’s not messing around!
Even though, presumably, this crime took place at least a few months ago and the window in the room was busted in (in, not out–there’s glass all over the floor, which seems odd enough for me to make note of it), the room is surprisingly pristine. Signs of a struggle, yes, but the books all appear to be open to whatever Bloom was working on, and there’s not even any sign of mildew or anything, though it must have rained in the interim. I’m not saying this is important, just that it’s kind of an odd overlook for a show that’s usually fairly good on the details. It’s little things like this, and some way over-the-top flowery language in some cases, and Jackson’s apparently encyclopedic knowledge of the exact makeup of the soil in every London park, that make this episode feel sloppy and like everyone behind the scenes are, in some ways, trying too hard, and in other ways, not hard enough.
So Reid goes to see Bloom, who’s doing some complicated ‘this will reveal the Omega particle’ or something-type maths on the wall of his cell. Also, Bloom seems to be insane. In a harmless, sad kind of way. So of course, Reid’s going to be looking further into this.
And away we go.