Review: Ripper Street (S4 E4/7), Monday 12th September, BBC2

Programme Name: Ripper Street  S4 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 4) - Picture Shows:  Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN), Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN) - (C) Tiger Aspect 2016 - Photographer: Bernard Walsh
(C) Tiger Aspect 2016 – Photographer: Bernard Walsh

The legend of Jack the Ripper has always ascribed almost supernatural qualities to the serial murderer, hence Ripper Street has always been suffused with otherworldly suggestion. This episode falls under the shadow of the most feared and legendary of spectral terrors – the vampire.

Mathilda is reading a book about vampires – obviously Dracula, published in this year, 1897. (They’ve even gone to effort of making sure that the copy she reads is  edition – the depth of research in this series is just terrific).  “When the Count comes to London, he makes his lair in Whitechapel – just like ” she says to her father, pointedly.

It’s suggestive, then, when three bodies are found in a cold store – one drained of blood, one on the point of being drained, and another rather too full of it.

Jackson’s examination suggests that the man was a hanged criminal and the woman a Polish immigrant afflicted with scurvy, so we begin to wonder whether some inventive doctor isn’t experimenting with blood transfusions.

Drake visits the Polish community and finds a seamstress who can identify the dead woman, while Reid goes to London Hospital to question Frederick Treves (Paul Ready), who he last met seven years previously in connection with the ‘elephant man’, Joseph Merrick. Treves can’t account for the missing corpse sent for dissection, but paraphrases both the Bible and Dracula, ‘the blood is the life’.

Jackson explains his theory of blood typing, suggesting that the Polish girls have been used as blood donors – hmm, is the ‘vampire’ seeking blood transfusions for someone suffering from, perhaps, porphyria?

A visit to Newgate could be embarrassing for Jackson, as his contact there is the corrupt Doctor Probyn,  who falsely certified Susan dead;

Probyn blusters about inoculations, but has a cabinet full of blood samples, and Jackson extracts the truth about a disgraced French doctor, Blanchard (Dylan Smith), who is collecting blood to treat his daughter, who suffers from, yes we guessed it, porphyria. Seamstress Magdalena has gone missing, so has she fallen into the hands of Probyn’s vampiric co-conspirators?

Mathilda is pursuing the bashful Sergeant Drummond, with the help of journalist Castello, who is still looking into the case of Isaac Bloom – Mathilda says that Reid keeps some of his work at home, a habit we  he would have broken after the Ripper farrago. Mathilda importunately lends her copy of Dracula to Drummond, and Reid finds it. We get the feeling Mathilda is going to be grounded forever.

Reid recognises Blanchard’s photo from Treves’s lecture  and hastens there to find him  out a potentially fatal transfusion from Magdalena to his daughter Camille. Jackson halts the operation and saves Magdalena with the help of a transfusion from Thatcher, but nothing can be done for  Camille.

Drake and Rose’s arrangements with Connor  threaten to break down, as only Jackson can comfort the child, while Probyn, dismissed from his post, unwisely tracks down Susan and threatens to expose her, only to get a knife between the ribs.

What, indeed, has Susan become? She confesses to Croker that the killing of her father troubles her more than her other crimes, but this is the first time she’s actually killed someone face-to-face. As she becomes closer to Croker, will she drift away from Jackson, or will he feel forced to separate from her?

Lots of new technology in this episode – we get  of cold storage for food, and carbon lights, see extensive use of the telephone and the telegraph, and of course get the discussion of blood transfusion. Though this had been tried for many decades previously, it wasn’t until 1901 and the definition of the different blood groups that all the problems inherent in the procedure were understood.

By contrasting the superstition and fear of Dracula, which Reid dismisses as being xenophobic, with the enlightening and life-saving potential of science and technology, Ripper Street again returns to themes as relevant today as they were in Victorian times.

The dramatic tension of the season, though, still revolves around Susan and the inevitability of her exposure. If she’s caught, she won’t escape again – now Probyn is sleeping with the fishes, she’ll be all on her own at the end of a noose.

Chris Jenkins

For our episode one review, go here

For our episode two review, go here

For our episode three review, go here


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