Last week’s conclusion of the two-part opener left us with more questions than answers. Did Bloom actually kill the rabbi, and if so why? Will Long Susan leave the country, or will we see tested the old saw that you can’t be hanged twice for the same crime? And will Reid be happy returning to the force under the command of Drake?
While Reid is returning to duty, daughter Mathilda is conducting a social research project for a Mr Booth (presumably William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army); no doubt this will bring her into contact with the very wolves and demons Reid fears. Certainly in her first visit she finds a dying boy, Tommy. Red iodine on his scalp marks him out as a workhouse boy, and Reid undertakes to find his family, though he’s first tasked with another case, in which a costermonger is accused of cutting the hands off four men.
Drake and Rose are caring for the fractious Connor, child of Susan and Jackson, who are in hiding with docks crimelord Croker. They’re terribly regretful about all the time they’ve spent apart – well, she shouldn’t have murdered all those people, then.
Perhaps bored by her restrictions, Susan can’t help interfering with Croker’s business, putting pressure on fraudster Nystrom to seal a deal. Doubtless this will lead to her being exposed.
Reid’s investigations into Tommy Riggs lead him to a Mr Wilde at Whitechapel Union workhouse, which seems a marvel or order and cleanliness; but Wilde says that the woman who has turned up to collect Tommy’s body can’t be his mother. What are we looking at here, then? – our money’s on a child abuse ring.
But is there some connection with the murder of a Salvation Army captain by a gang called the Skeleton Army? (This was a real movement, which started in Weston-Super-Mare but spread to several areas including Whitechapel. The police often ignored their violent opposition to the anti-alcohol Salvationists, several of who were killed before the rioting became so intense that the police were forced to put down the Skeleton Army).
Rose – who has a connection with the Assistant Commissioner, Augustus Dove – identifies the mysterious woman as a singer, Leda Starling, and Reid soon finds her entertaining in a pub. She’s ‘all mops and brooms’ – (we had to look that one up, but it means drunk) – and claims that she’s still looking for her missing boy. Reid seems drawn to her – maybe she reminds him of his dead wife? – and accompanies her to the workhouse to settle the matter. But Wilde claims that her child has never been there, and Jackson diagnoses Leda as suffering from tertiary syphilis.
If we were asking ourselves what brought Reid back to Whitechapel, he explains this to Drake; he feels Whitechapel is his life’s work, and more alive than the polite seaside town of Hampton.
Leda, in a rare lucid moment, claims that several boys have disappeared from the workhouse, and this is backed up by Skeleton Army murderer Redskin Jake (Charley Rothwell), who says that to help balance the books, Wilde is poisoning children in the workhouse infirmary with a Black Potion, which all sounds a bit X-Files.
Reid and Drake led a team into the workhouse, where Reid now perceives some lack of humanity and conscience in its ordered ways – it’s all a bit ‘Arbeit Macht Frei.’ Analysing the accounts suggests that infirmary costs are falling – which could only be achieved if the patients were dying. The discovery of a cache of iron tablets suggests that Wilde is poisoning the weakest patients, and they are found buried under the floor of the vacated ‘casual’ ward. The deserving poor, the undeserving poor – who is Wilde to judge, asks Reid? Ripper Street’s message of the week is as relevant today as it was in Victorian times.
Reid can at least comfort Leda with knowledge of her son’s last resting place, and she can offer him forgiveness for being unable to help his wife.
But what of the costermonger case? – no answers there yet. And the Bloom case? Reid and Mathilda are confronted by journalist Rachel Castello (Anna Koval), who is still interested in the case on behalf of Deborah Goren, but Reid brushes her off. This one will run and run, or in the case of the Whitechapel golem, lumber and lumber.
Next week – Count Dracula in Whitechapel? It looks like Reid is going to be tackling an outbreak of vampirism. If anyone says ‘I never drink… wine” in a Bela Lugosi accent, we’ll ROFL. This is going to be fabulous.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here