Theodore Swift, Susan Hart’s estranged father, has arrived from America, on the run after his shady business empire has been exposed; will he bring ruin to Susan, or be her salvation? A twisty, turny series in which heroes have become villains, series three of Ripper Street has maintained its standards with aplomb. Inspector Reid has (effectively) died and been reborn – he’s a different character – but still passionate about bringing justice to Whitechapel. Susan Hart has seen her philanthropic ideals compromised by villainy, and Inspector Drake has found a chance at happiness – but will it be torn away from him?
With Susan about to be exposed by Jackson’s fingerprint evidence and the investigations of journalist Fred Best, all she needed was for her dodgy father to appear from over the pond. Yet here he is, big as life and twice as nasty, as portrayed by Ian McElhinney.
Abberline is trying to force Reid into medical retirement, but despite his headaches, he refuses to give up his warrant card until he has tackled the evil that enmeshes him, like a snake swallowing its own tail – a reference to the mythical world-snake Ourobouros, one of many hints at protean, supernatural themes permeating this series.
Ackerman (Elliot Levey), and American journalist, has come to London in pursuit of Theodore Swift, and has hooked up with Fred Best in a Jewish restaurant. Ackerman gives Best some photos of dead British soldiers, and a Mcguffin that looks like a tea-strainer, and warns Best to be cautious; unsurprisigly, Ackerman then gets abducted, tortured most unpleasantly, and killed by Theodore Swift and his henchmen.
Jackson’s fingerprinting techniques show that the gun used to shoot Reid was in fact handled by Susan Hart (Caitlin Swift, as he knows her to really be). Of course he doesn’t reveal this immediately, and when Ackerman’s corpse turns up, he’s tasked with investigating.
Ackerman has been seen with Best, but a visit to the offices of the Star finds them ransacked and abandoned. Best has gone to ground.
Swift takes his daughter Susan to the workers’ housing project she was developing; work has been suspended and he plans to take the land. He gives her the choice of accepting this, or going to the gallows for her complicity in the train crash in which she planned to steal his bearer bonds.
Constable Grace tracks down Ackerman’s newspaper articles about Swift’s tax evasion and bribery, which have brought the tycoon under congressional investigation; and Best is spotted at the Ace Hotel, but Jackson gets there first and helps him escape.
Best shows Jackson his evidence, including the photos of the dead men of the Royal Niger Company, and the tea-strainer, which Jackson identifies as a ‘Stanhope’. But what does this tell them of Swift’s schemes to relocate his business empire?
Reid puts together the plot to launder Swift’s money via the bearer bonds, and agrees to raid Susan’s house. Suffering head pains, he confronts Swift there, but although the place is torn apart, nothing incriminating is found.
Jackson finds the missing part of the Stanhope in Ackerman’s body; it’s a microfilm viewer, and the slide documents Swift’s armaments dealings. Jackson confronts Susan with his knowledge that she shot Reid, but she counters with her news that she is pregnant.
Best has foolishly returned to his office, where of course he’s captured by Swift’s men, tortured, and eventually killed using Swift’s secret weapon, a machine gun (it looks like a 1913 Vickers Mark VII, and so is probably a bit anachronistic, though Vickers guns based on Maxim designs were developed from about 1896).
Drake goes in search of Jackson, finds his evidence about Susan and her father, and confronts Jackson at the music hall. Jackson’s response to being rumbled is an expressive ‘Aw, shit.’ The two fight but are interrupted by Reid.
Best’s body has been found, and Jackson confirms that the bullets in him are from one of the Maxim machineguns that Swift has been dealing in. (Why does Swift keep leaving the corpses of his victims lying about, and how are they being found so quickly?).
Reid examines the Stanhope and determines to disrupt Swift’s gun-running, if necessary with the help of Susan. Susan herself, clearly convinced that she is about to be taken, is busy turning over funds and deeds to Dr Frayn’s clinic and to Mathilda’s guardian Jane Cobden.
Reid catches Susan before she flees, and offers her the chance to save herself by giving up her father.
Reid and the boys confont the Swift gang in an OK Corral-type shoot-out, complete with Ennio Morricone style music. Swift’s thugs are killed, and he is taken and entombed in what was Mathilda’s dungeon. Are we right in thinking that this might not mark the end of the horrid old man?
Reid, his job done, retires to the seaside with Mathilda; Drake marries Rose; and Susan and Jackson sit side-by-side in the cells. In the end, everyone has made the decisions they had to make.
And with Fred Best’s unpublished obituary for Edmund Reid,
this series ends. It’s been a roller-coaster, the last episode tying up all the loose ends (except did we ever find out what happened to the bearer bonds?), and beating the record both for brutal violence and for an almost steampunk use of Victorian technology. But has the darkness finally been banished from Whitechapel? We think not…
For all our Ripper Street news and reviews, go here