Review: Ripper Street (S4 E2/7), Monday 29th August, BBC2

Programme Name: Ripper Street S4 - TX: 29/08/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Homer Jackson (ADAM ROTHENBERG) - (C) Tiger Aspect 2016 - Photographer: Bernard Walsh
(C) Tiger Aspect 2016 – Photographer: Bernard Walsh

The docks have become a character in their own right in this series of Ripper Street; at the opening of this episode a dockworker’s daughter jumps to her death, presumably dragged  down by the lead weights in the hems of her skirts. But these watery matters must wait, as Dove and Drake have to fend off Constantine of Special Branch, eager to take their prisoner Hafeez for questioning over a supposed Muslim plot. Did Hafeez kill lawyer Al-Qadir? Drake’s afraid that Constantine will resort to torturing Hafeez – waterboarding, presumably, or some Victorian variation thereof.

NB: Spoilers ahoy

Our other imponderable is whether Reid’s friend Bloom killed the rabbi Ratovski. As he’s due to hang on the same day as Susan, we reckon they can’t both get off.

Susan belatedly realises that Jackson is in no position to look after their child Connor, and Rose, desperate for a child, offers to take him in. Jackson is none too pleased. He is still struggling to help Susan avoid the rope; what’s he going to do with the enormous spring he buys from a junk stall – bound over the walls of Newgate to rescue her?

Wharfinger Abel Croker (David Threlfall, doing a Shylock, even to waving a very sharp knife) is aiding Jackson in his plan to flee to America, but is he implicated in the killing of Al-Qadir, whose body was stained with turmeric from the docks? Dove questions Croker, with whom he obviously has a close relationship, but is fobbed off. Hafeez claims that Al-Qadir was killed for stealing alms, but was it actually because he was fighting for the legal rights of Lascar workers, against the interests of Croker?

Whatever the case, as Drake sets off to scour the docks for clues, Constantine busts in like Elliott Ness and takes the prisoner Hafeez, at the command of Colonial Secretary Chamberlain. Constantine makes a sneering speech about the Empire’s plans to bleed its colonies dry (as if even the most cynical imperialist would think in those terms).

Constable Drummond suspects dock-worker Roy Teague of involvement in the killing of Al-Qadir; his gang handled spice shipments, and it was his daughter who threw herself into the docks – the Lascars say she was Al-Qadir’s lover, and bore him a child, which is found by Drake and the Major.

Reid, meanwhile, is in Bloom’s chambers, trying to make sense of the killing of Rabbi Ratovski. He meets Rabbi Steiner (drama heavyweight David Warner), who tells him that the community believes Bloom to have been an evil force, a Golem, capable of supenatural feats of strength and concealment.  Now, we love the way in which Ripper Street introduces these little supernatural touches, but a little like Scooby Doo, they always turn out to have real-world explanations.

It becomes clear that Jackson’s plan is to allow Susan’s hanging to proceed, but to save her  with a mechanical contrivance and the connivance of corrupt doctor Probyn (at gunpoint if necessary). This sounds to us like it’s fated to go wrong – yet surely pitiable Susan won’t be executed?

Croker confronts Teague, accusing him of having killed Al-Qadir for impregnating his daughter, and of stealing the alms money; Croker’s speech about the virtues of racial tolerance and world trade would be more admirable if it wasn’t punctuated by him slipping a knife between Teague’s ribs. Teague’s going to get weighted down properly before he’s dumped in the river, so the facts in the case may never become known to Drake; but at least he can show that Constantine’s fears of Muslim terrorism are unfounded.

Drake goes to rescue Hafeez from Constantine and finds him battered, but Constantine is convinced that he has no subversive secrets to hide. Drake doesn’t have such luck with Reid, who turns up to convince him  that Bloom is innocent; Drake gives him an angry response and a pile of convincing evidence including fingerprints and bite marks on the corpse.

With Reid apparently accepting the evidence, Drake’s anger rather quickly turns to forgiveness, and he offers Reid a position on the force under him.  Blimey, the old team is in fact back together.

Bloom is convincingly hanged, but Susan survives the drop with the aid of Jackson’s wonderful spring-loaded corset (how the hell does that work then? If the rope’s around your neck, it’s around your neck. She’d be Even Longer Susan at the end of all that).

There’s a touching reunion when Susan is cut out of the body-bag in her grave; the plan now is for her to flee the country and for Jackson to follow with Connor. Presumably that won’t go to plan either.  Are we pleased that Susan lives on? Well, she’s responsible for the deaths of 55 people, so she sure deserves to hang; but the dynamic of the series wouldn’t be the same without her.

Theoretically this two-parter, with its rather clunking political commentaries on colonialism, Afghanistan and immigration, is now concluded, but with heavyweights of the stature of Davids Threlfall and Warner on the job, surely they must play a further part? We reckon the docks and the Jewish ghetto will feature again; whatever Reid avers, he won’t let go of the Bloom case, and  we imagine the Golem will walk again before this series is done.

Chris Jenkins 

Four our episode one review, go here




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