Quarantine Post #49: Ripper Street

I don’t usually get around to watching much Netflix. And not because Netflix isn’t great, but because there is so much content being offered all over. When I do drift back to Netflix, they never disappoint. But it is my place for seeing things on the BBC. The BBC has yet to disappoint me. With Luther and Sherlock under their belt, I knew that that I could get into most things they produce. I remember hanging with a friend of mine and her pointing out that I love period pieces… and made so much sense… like a light bulb went off in my mind. If you have read my post about Peaky Blinders…. then you are already aware. But much before I put onto the Peaky Blinders… I watched Ripper Street. Back when I had a DVD collection, I was looking for things to go into it…. and Amazon recommended that I buy this collection as it fit with my recommendations. (That damn Amazon.) They were right. I used to be pretty daring… I mean to buy a show that you have never seen is pretty bold to me.

Keep in mind, period pieces can be hard to watch. Particularly, when you know the time. Women who aren’t married… could only be prostitutes. I had to remember that when I started watching these shows. Ripper Street is a British TV series set in Whitechapel in the East End of London. The series begins in April 1889, six months since the last Jack the Ripper killings, and in Whitechapel the H Division is responsible for policing one and a quarter square miles of East London: a district with a population of 67,000 poor and dispossessed. The men of H Division had hunted the Ripper and failed to find him. When more women are murdered on the streets of Whitechapel, the police begin to wonder if the killer has returned. I find that I like Matthew McFayden as Inspector Edmund Reid (who was a real person btw). The series only lasted 5 seasons…. would have been 4 if Amazon hadn’t picked it up to stream on prime. Great casting, great acting, costuming and storyline. I couldn’t hate it if I wanted to. Sad thing there is not too many people talking about this show…. and THERE SHOULD BE. Even I didn’t even know of this show until the fourth season had been put out on DVD. Here’s to hoping it becomes a cult classic.

But like I normally do. I’ll list the episodes that stand out to me in the series. If you have any… let me know in the comments section. BBC shows are usually easy to bingewatch. So as always… there are spoilers ahead.

  • I Need a Light (Season 1, Episode 1) – A young woman is found brutally murdered, (violinist Maude Thwaites) What stuck out to me was the way she was found. While conducting a “Ripper” tour of London’s East End, the tour guide and his charges are horrified to stumble on the murdered body of a young woman, seemingly mutilated in the same fashion as the Ripper’s victims. However, an autopsy by Jackson suggests it is a copy-cat killing. One-time H Division boss Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline believes that Jack has returned, but Reid – the precinct’s new master – suspects a different evil at work. It was interesting to watch Reid’s mind work. It was great to see him thinking outside of the box. It sets the stage for how we know he will work as the series wear on. Detective Inspector Reid and his team enter stumble unto Sir Arthur Donaldson. He is revealed to be a pioneer in early photographic pornography and producer/star of one of the first ‘snuff films’. Reid learns that Donaldson purchased the services of Rose and another prostitute. Rose having already taken photos with him. He plans on killing two more prostitutes. But Reid and his crew find them before anyone else can could be killed.
  • Threads of Silk Gold (Season 2, Episode 5) – The murder of a telegraph boy uncovers a secret network of homosexual prostitution within the post office. Two of the young men are found to have been blackmailing a client, which could lead to potential scandal. The investigation leads Reid to Barings Bank and the apparent suicide of one of its employees and a missing folio of the Bank’s business in an economic disaster in Argentina that would bankrupt the bank. The great thing about the characters here are that they are real. In Jackson’s case… I could never tell whether or not I liked him from one episode to the next.  Jackson’s means of ridding himself and Long Susan of the debt they owe the moneylender, Silas Duggan, backfires when he loses all their money in Argentine stocks. (The more things change the more they stay the same.)
  • A Man of My Company ( Season 1, Episode 7)– An American shipping magnate’s arrival in London coincides with a series of murders, while the man’s Pinkerton bodyguards plan revenge against their former comrade, Homer Jackson. An international shipping magnate, Theodore P Swift, arrives in London with his Pinkerton guard to complete the acquisition of an ailing London shipping line. The leader of the visiting Pinkerton clan, Frank Goodnight, badly wants to find Captain Homer Jackson. (Nothing good can come of it… especially for Jackson.) Jackson, however, doesn’t wish to be found. The murdered body of an engineer, inventor of a new ship’s engine that could save the ailing company, draws Reid’s attention. Reid’s investigation of the engineer’s wife, has disastrous results for Constable Hobbs. Poor Jackson, revenge is a hell of a thing. Goodnight’s handiwork places Jackson under the suspicion of Chief Inspector Abberline when a prostitute is found murdered in the same manner as the Ripper’s victims.

  • What Use Our Work? (Season 1 Episode 8) – With Abberline convinced that Jackson is The Ripper, the captain is in custody and facing the death penalty. Reid is convinced of Jackson’s innocence, and brings in Joseph Lavender who had seen The Ripper with one of his victims the previous year, but Lavender proves not to be the key to Jackson’s release from custody. (You think I wasn’t annoyed at this. And I don’t even think annoyed is the right word.) Rose leaves the brothel to stay at Mrs Reid’s shelter and, through a newspaper lonely hearts page, she seeks out a wealthy husband. When Rose disappears, Reid and Drake suspect that a white slavery ring is operating in their midst, with previous Ripper suspect, Victor Silver, at its head. (Did not see that coming at all.) Jackson is eventually given the chance to prove to everyone (most importantly Abberline) that he is not Jack the Ripper. Reid, Drake and Jackson are left free to continue cleaning up the streets of Whitechapel.

  • Our Betrayal Part 1 & 2 (Season 2, Episodes 7 & 8) – To say that there is a bunch going on in this 2 part episode is one hell of an understatement. Rose searches for a missing Drake. Jackson’s brother, Daniel Judge, arrives with a stolen rough diamond from a South African mining company. Long Susan has pressing matters when Silas Duggan moves into Tenter Street intent on taking her absent husband’s place. (BTW, Long Susan had to be my favorite character.) Reid and Flight investigate a confidence trickster who has cheated jeweler Nathaniel Hinchcliffe and under the protection of Inspector Shine seems untouchable. Jackson believes the diamond will solve his problems with Long Susan but agents of the mining company seek its return. Reid’s investigation of the confidence trickster is undermined by betrayal and a coincidence brings Drake back to Leman Street with the body of Hinchcliffe. Three corpses found in a slum tenement murdered in the same way as Hinchcliffe lead Reid, by Flight’s testimony, to Inspector Shine’s doorstep. Identifying the corpses leads to a property trail and Silas Duggan whom Jackson’s brother wants to sell the stolen diamond. Unable to prosecute Shine or Duggan, Jackson and Long Susan see a way to gain revenge on Duggan while Reid seeks Shine’s demise in a boxing match with Drake. (This is where we see dissension between Drake and Reid or at least start to which will mark the rest of the series.)

  • Whitechapel Terminus (Season 3, Episode 1) – Now this is the episode where I started to dislike Long Susan. Susan has always been well-intentioned, but never quite able to carry that over into practice. This season opener picks up four years after those events of the 2 part episode (Our Betrayal). Reid has fallen far from the moralistic, upstanding inspector he had begun the series as. Despite their separation, Reid, Drake and Jackson find themselves drawn back together in Whitechapel after a tragic train accident kills 55 people and leaves a mystery to be solved. A daring robbery is attempted and is successful but not without causing a serious accident. We find out that it is Susan’s solicitor, Capshaw, whose plan to balance the books of Susan’s Obsidian Estates results in the train accident. This is the season where we see Reid coming apart at the seams. The scene with Abberline quickly called attention to Reid’s fastidious attention to his work, now descending into obsession with his work in the archives.

  • Your Father, My Friend (Season 3, Episode 4) – Since Reid is away, it is Drake that steps up to run H Division and does well at it. Reid… was my favorite character. But he has had several issues. His daughter that disappeared and is presumed dead. It tears apart his marriage… as he throws himself into work. But at work, he fails to capture the ripper so he is also coming up short there. Rose’s sighting of Alice/Matilda running away from her captors prompts Drake to seek out his inspector and return him to Whitechapel. They return to Whitechapel and eventually locate Mathilda at a brothel, where she had been taken by teen-aged pimp Harry Ward. Matilda leads them on a merry chase through the streets of Whitechapel until Reid notices a pattern to her behavior that echoes the Ripper killings. Dr. Frayn tells Reid she has reason to believe Mathilda saw his files on Jack the Ripper and the details of his first two murders, with the images of his victims scarring her and pushing her away from Reid. Fred Best shadows Capshaw believing that he has something to do with the train crash and produces evidence to show that the stolen money belonged to Susan’s father – which he gives to Jackson. Was Fred Best annoying to me? Sure… but only in the way that I have seen journalist almost ruin investigations before. However, just like everyone else in the cast…. he has more too him and you wonder what he may do in the future. Reid is reunited with his daughter. Jackson confronts Susan and they reconcile romantically. Jackson believes she is innocent and points Reid towards Capshaw. Before Reid can arrest the solicitor, Susan shoots him from behind the curtains and then kills Capshaw as he gloats over Reid’s body, making it look as if they shot each other in self defense. (That damn Long Susan…. I love to hate her… but here again…. she is just trying to make it and keeps getting caught up with the wrong men…. this means more in a time when women have absolutely no rights.)

  • Live Free, Live True (Season 3, Episode 7) – Here is another topic that while in the middle of a period piece… we are still talking (read: arguing about) to this day. Inspector Reid is back to work in full force, while newly reunited daughter Mathilda stays home waiting alone. When a poor frightened-looking woman gives what appears to be her last dollar to a chemist—most of us already know what’s coming: abortion. Then as now, the illegality of abortions leads to unsafe, unsanitary conditions and the unscrupulous doctors who take advantage. The girl is found vomiting her guts out in the streets, and is tended to by her adoptive father, George. George works construction at Obsidian Estates. The chemist, Currie, is murdered, and it’s learned that he’s been treating his patients with a dangerous led solution—poisoning several. Drake and Reid investigate, though Drake is confident that Reid is back to work too soon. Jackson finds money stuffed into the facial cavities of the murdered chemist. (Just gross but one could argue that it is a powerful statement.) Mary is also being wooed by her father’s boss, Edwin Havelock. Mary has been taken to Obsidian clinic where Frayne is disgusted to see another young woman victimized by unscrupulous abortionists. Frayne maintains that she could perform abortions safely, cleanly, and affordably for them—except that she’d be breaking the law. Even then, criminalizing abortions only serves to negatively impact the women who need them. (I feel like I have heard this somewhere before.) Frayne meets her mentor, Doctor Rolle and agrees to petition Susan Hart to offer contraceptives and abortion services in her clinic. Susan won’t even consider it which I found to be weird and disturbing… in this line of work and given how intelligent she is… but I digress. Havelock takes Mary to the clinic, where Frayne assures her that she will not die. Rolle arrives at Frayne’s office to show her the procedure they’ll be using. But wait—this isn’t just abortion, it’s sterilization. When I tell you all that shocked wasn’t the right word for me. Rolle is totally fine with preventing women he sees as lowly from ever having children. (What a douche. We are good for pleasure but do not bear children. Another age old argument.) Frayne is about to throw her mentor out on his ass, but that’s when Reid and Drake show up to arrest him. She gives him up immediately, declaring him a criminal and looking more angry and sad than we’ve ever seen her. 

  • The Peace of Edmund Reid (Season 3, Episode 8) – By this point in the show, In an attempt to rob her father, Long Susan caused a massive train crash that killed more than 50 people. In the ensuing cover-up she also shot Reid, but not fatally. Still, he’s suffering some after-effects but nonetheless refusing to quit his job. Jackson’s just about to discover that Susan’s fingerprints are all over the gun that shot Reid, and he doesn’t even know that she’s pregnant yet. Fred Best is having dinner with a gross American reporter named Ackerman. Ackerman congratulates Best on uncovering information on the stolen bonds. Seems Ackerman’s been looking into Swift and now the two men are arranging an information exchange. Ackerman warns Best to get what he needs from his office and then get away from there and find someplace to hide. Ralph Ackerman is tortured and killed. Theodore P. Swift has returned to London to dissolve Obsidian Estates to make way for his expanding business. Meanwhile, having matched the fingerprints found on the gun, Jackson confronts Susan about shooting Reid, which she confirms, along with the revelation she is pregnant. Best goes on the run for fear of his life at the hands of Swift’s men. Reid meets with Susan, and offers to spare her instant arrest if she helps him bring down Swift. Jackson manages to find Best, and offers to keep him safe in the confines of his rooms, but Best ignores warning and goes in search of the truth. 

  • A White World Made Red (Season 4, Episode 4) – The discovery of a body drained of its blood in a Whitechapel meat store leads Drake and Reid to suspect that a further victim lay dead elsewhere.  A quick search turns up a young woman, dead, not far away, with a puncture wound to her neck similar to that on our male victim, both having been the subject of a gruesome blood transfusion experiment that appears to have gone badly wrong.  During the post mortem of the first victim, Jackson discovers wounds which suggest the man was taken to the rope just 24 hours previously, and should therefore be held in the morgue at London City Hospital. Jackson lets Reed know this bit of information, and Reid pays a visit to Frederick Treves, who denies all knowledge of a body disappearing from his morgue. The victim’s identity is discovered when a card in his possession reveals him to be an occupant of the Polish workhouse. There, Thatcher finds another victim, Magdalena, and uncovers a man’s desperate plot to find a blood donor for his seriously ill daughter.

  • No Wolves in Whitechapel (Season 4, Episode 6) – Someone is roaming the streets of Whitechapel, biting the hell out of people and killing them. Vampires? Werewolves? The police thought it was Isaac Bloom, but since it looks like he/it has struck again, Bloom is now an unlikely candidate. Drake is distraught when Thomas Gower is found stabbed on the streets of Whitechapel, having been the victim of an attack by a perpetrator described as the ‘Whitechapel Golem’ by witnesses. Jackson’s post-mortem, however, throws up some interesting questions when Gower is found to have sustained similar injuries to that of the victim of incarcerated murderer Isaac Bloom. Reid begins to question if Gower’s murder is somehow linked to Bloom’s case, but his findings only throw further shade on Drake’s investigation. The investigation is now open once again, and everyone keeps telling Drake that this wasn’t his fault and he shouldn’t feel guilty. Drake does feel guilty because not only did his investigation lead to the hanging of an innocent man, it also resulted in the death of Thomas Gower. When a third victim is discovered by the local rabbi, Dove is forced to step in and gives Drake a grilling. Reid and Drake are forced to set their differences aside and work together to capture the now suspected serial killer operating in the city.

  • Edmund Reid Did This (Season 4, Episode 7) – Drake and Reid are convinced that Dove is somehow implicated in the case of the Whitechapel Golem, and with the help of Rachel Costello, uncover evidence that suggests that he was one of two young boys who were ambushed by wolves whilst travelling from their Jewish community to the streets of Whitechapel, in the care of the murdered Rabbi. Thatcher and Drummond organize a sting to capture those responsible for the theft of three priceless porcelain vases, but are shocked when they find Jackson in possession of the stolen loot. Incarcerated, Jackson gives Reid information which leads him to the docker’s yard, where he finds the Golem and Long Susan. Castello, meanwhile, stops by to tell Drake that his wife was walking arm in arm with Dove (gasp!) and Drake, already fairly worked up, goes home to confront the pair as they come in. He ends up beating the crap out of Dove and demanding to know if he and Rose have been having an affair. She denies it. He leaves. Dove asks Rose where Theodore was killed and she tells him it was in the basement at the new Cobden Estate. Reid’s plans to bring down Dove are screwed when Rose offers information which leads Dove to the body of Theodore Swift, and a message, which reads ‘Edmund Reid Did This’. Dove sends a message to Leman Street ordering the officers there to arrest Reid and Drake. Luckily, no one is eager to arrest their comrades/bosses, so everyone just sits on their hands. Reid, Drake, Jackson and Long Susan head to the tunnels to find Dove and Nathaniel but find Croker nearing death. The four separate to find the brothers, with Drake confronting Nathaniel. They viciously fight each other, which ends with Nathaniel biting Drake on the neck, mortally wounding him. Nathaniel flees as Reid, Jackson and Long Susan arrive to tend to Drake, but Drake dies. Let me explain how sad I was… but I was pretty sure it was going to be one of the three (Jackson, Reid or Drake.) Usually when they want a series to end, main characters start dying. I knew it was coming but it made it no better. Hard times in Whitechapel.
  • Closed Casket (Season 5, Episode 1) -The great thing about season 5 is that it almost did not happen. Thank goodness for Amazon. Also thank goodness for me finding this show as Season 5 was airing because I am not sure I would NOT have been okay otherwise. Reid, Jackson and Susan – on the run from the police – and in the care of Jackson’s former flame Mimi Morton (Now… that is a big woman… to have hid her former lover… and his love and their son) – must find a way to bring down Assistant Commissioner Dove, and reveal the truth about his long-lost brother, serial killer Nathaniel. Reid and Jackson discover that Nathaniel was responsible for an attack in which a fight dog was stolen from its owner, and set about finding out the location of the next dogfight. Before they arrive, Nathaniel sets all of the fight dogs free, causing a stampede through Whitechapel. Reid and Jackson pursue, but lose Nathaniel in the crowd. Meanwhile, H division are introduced to their new leader – the feared Inspector Jedediah Shine, former leader of K division. (That dude is no joke. UGH. Hated him.)

  • A Brittle Thread (Season 5, Episode 2) – Reid and Jackson are forced to run for cover when Shine and Thatcher arrive at the theatre, suspecting it to be their hiding place. Jackson is forced to control his trigger finger when Shine threatens to harm Mimi, but she manages to keep her cool. After the close call with Shine in the opening episode, Reid and Jackson devise a way of discrediting Dove with an inventive use of a corpse and some dentures. Dove seeks to continue his wrecking ball approach to Reid’s reputation by pulling the records of previous discrepancies and making them public. hey decide to use the recently deceased body of a docksman as a ploy to smoke Nathaniel out of hiding. They recreate the injuries caused to his earlier victims using wolves’ teeth, and leave the body in an alley just yards from Leman Street. Shine, however, is too clever by half and identifies the body as a hoax. When the morning paper portrays Reid as somewhat of a vigilante hero, Shine confronts editor Castello, but his interrogation proves too much for Thatcher – who, fed up with being under the reign of a bully and potential sexual predator, seeks out Reid, Jackson and Susan to offer them much needed help. The opposing forces of Reid and Dove were fun to watch. As Shine observes, it’s a battle of two tacticians, matched in wit and operating on the strength of their respective knowledge of the other.

  • A Last Good Act (Season 5, Episode 5) – The situation is looking bleak for Reid and Jackson. I had a love hate relationship with Long Susan but I was sad that the net was closing in on her. Long Susan didn’t take no shit though… With Reid incarcerated, Jackson and Susan plan their escape with Connor. Susan, however, cannot bear to see Mathilda’s relationship with her father laid in ruins, and in an attack of conscience, hatches a plan with Jackson to break Reid out of custody. Reid, however, has other ideas and refuses to go along with Jackson’s plan. Having sent Thatcher to exhume the body of Robin Sumner in the hope of proving Dove’s guilt, Reid lies in wait for the walls of H division to come crashing around him. Dove, however, is warned of Thatcher’s plans and, at the boy’s graveside, brings about Thatcher’s demise and disposes of his body in the river. Nathaniel, however, witnesses the entire event and takes Robin’s body to Susan.

  • Occurrence Reports (Season 5, Episode 5) – Dove is brought to justice, as are his brother Nathaniel and Susan. I think I wanted by this time for Susan to get away. But I have to say that on some level that I knew that she couldn’t escape the rope twice. To cover up the public scandal the Commissioner orders that Dove be imprisoned without trial under a false name. Instead of going to Susan’s execution, Jackson leaves with Connor for the United States. (I really want them to be together and ride off into the sunset. But they could never get it together and my heart just broke.) Reid is reinstated as inspector. Mathilda marries and, being pregnant, leaves Whitechapel for a healthier setting to raise her child. Reid refuses to go with her and contents himself with reading her frequent letters and looking at the pictures she sends him. Mimi’s Alexandria Theatre opens to the public and, on New Year’s Eve 1899, Mimi leaves with a suitor after getting news of Jackson’s death in the United States. Reid remains troubled by memories of Jack the Ripper and attempts to find closure for having failed to solve the case. This proves fruitless, and he continues to police Whitechapel as its sole guardian, spending the turn of the century alone in his office reading daily occurrence reports. For Reid’s character, I don’t see him ending up any different. I was not surprised. I can’t say I am mad about how he ended. Reid was a character that you knew wasn’t going to shy away from his calling.

I never have an issue if it was on BBC… especially if it was a period piece from the BBC. This did not let me down at all. There were plenty of highs and several lows. It is funny because I am used to shows that have several seasons with several episodes. The BBC is know for being great with a few episodes in a few seasons. If you need a good show… look no further. I can’t gush over this enough. If you have seen it, let me know what you enjoyed or what you hated.

One response to “Quarantine Post #49: Ripper Street”

  1. You are right that Ripper Street is so underrated. It’s not just the characters, actors, costumes & dialogue, it’s raw, dirty, visceral & gritty. So different from the other sanitised dramas from this era.

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