Review: Ripper Street (S3 E4/8), Friday 21st August, BBC1

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Programme Name: Ripper Street - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 4) - Picture Shows: Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN), Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN) - (C) Tiger Aspect 2014 - Photographer: Bernard Walsh

Though Reid seems to have got away with killing his daughter Mathilda’s captor Buckley, Drake now has to bring him out of hiding to find out whether Mathilda is in fact still alive. Reid has been closing in on Susan and Capshaw for the train heist, so Mathilda is their leverage; but rather than be shipped off to Switzerland, she’s done a runner, and is lost in the stews of Whitechapel.

Drake finds Reid wallowing in self-pity in a beach hut in Margate, and breaks the news that Rose claims to have seen Mathilda at Susan’s clinic. He’s distraught, as is Susan at Mathilda’s disappearance.

Reid does a surprisingly quick clean-up job on himself, and confronts Susan as Capshaw sneaks out the back way with the bonds. Susan gives away nothing and Reid is about to strangle her when Jackson intervenes.

Reid accuses Jackson of begin Susan’s puppet – perhaps even of killing Cree, the only conspirator who could have identified Capshaw, in his cell. But Abberline turns up and hauls Reid off for questioning before Jackson can respond.

Surprisingly, Abberline is sufficiently convinced by Reid’s account to put men searching for Mathilda, though he won’t let Reid join them. Mathilda meanwhile has fallen in with Harry, an Artful Dodger type who obviously intends to sell her off to the highest bidding perv.

Jackson, clearly stung by Reid’s accusations, questions Dr Frayn and satisfies himself that Mathilda is indeed alive, and that some toxic element (we know it’s Capshaw) has suborned Susan and the doctor.

A street vendor puts Reid onto Harry, who is in police records as a pimp; Reid and Drake get tooled up, brush aside Abberline and head for Harry’s crib to raise hell.

Harry leads Mathilda to the brothel, and we see a poster on the wall reading “290 killed in mine disaster in Glamorgan” – this will have been the gas explosion at Cilfynydd in the Rhondda Valley, dating the events of this episode neatly to around June 23rd, 1894, fact fans.

As Mathilda’s about to get serially violated, she slashes Harry’s face and escapes through a window. Reid and Drake turn up all guns blazing, but they can’t catch Mathilda.

Then things to absolutely crazy. Reid realises that Mathilda had been leading Harry around the streets where the Ripper murders had taken place; indeed, had been quoting from the police reports of the investigations.

Frayn comes in to make a clean breast of it, and confirms that Mathilda came up with stories and drawings seemingly related to the Ripper case. Whatever Mathilda had undergone in captivity, how could she have knowledge of the Ripper murders from the time when she was still with her family?

Well, it doesn’t take much figuring out. Reid had been taking his work home with him, and young Mathilda had been reading the files. She has constructed for herself a bleak mental world populated by the streets and victims of the Ripper. Three of the victims, though, died after Mathilda’s disappearance, so she could not have know of them; this narrows the search for her.

Only Reid, though, realises that she will return to her childhood home, and in an unbearably emotional scene he finds her in her old room playing with her toys, and she finally breaks through her beddazzlement and acknowledges that he is her father.

Jackson questions journalist Best, who has been following Capshaw and produces proof that he has been converting the stolen bonds.

Jackson goes on to confront Susan (and uses the phrase ‘step foot’, an anchronism and a ghastly one at that), and accuses her of having used him to mislead Reid. He uses her real name, Caitlin Swift, she seems genuinely distraught at the extent to which she has been hardened by experience, and he rather implausibly tells her he still loves her, and humps her in an alleyway. Who says romance is dead?

Yet Jackson still delivers the letter incriminating Capshaw to Reid, presumably in the hope that Susan will escape blame. Reid leaves Mathilda with Councillor Cobden while he goes to confront Capshaw; a mistake, as it turns out. Susan shoots Reid, then Capshaw: but is Reid dead?

In an unbelievably twisty episode full of cliffhangers, the main surprise is that we still have time to re-introduce the theme of the Ripper murders – hardly mentioned since the earliest episodes – and indeed work them plausibly into the main plot, together with liberal dollops of a subplot about child abuse. If there’s more complex yet meaningful drama on the TV at the moment, we have yet to see it. Forget your Scandis, Ripper Street continues to prove that home-grown stuff can grab you by the throat.

Chris Jenkins

For all our Ripper Street news and reviews, go here

 

 

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