Review: Ripper Street (S4 E5/7), Monday 19th September, BBC2

Programme Name: Ripper Street  S4 - TX: 19/09/2016 - Episode: n/a (No. 5) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN), Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN) - (C) Tiger Aspect 2016 - Photographer: Bernard Walsh
(C) Tiger Aspect 2016 – Photographer: Bernard Walsh

When your idea of a romantic evening is paddling up the Thames with a bottle of plonk, you know you’ve reached a pretty low ebb. For Jackson and Susan – who has already murdered to preserve the secret of her escape from the gallows – it’s the last roll of the dice. They must surely leave the country or die trying.

NB: Spoilers all over the shop

Susan, of course, doesn’t want to leave without young Connor, currently in the care of Drake and Rose.

When factory worker and footballer Charlie Tanner is found in his rooms beaten to death with a hammer, foundryman Hackman (Owen Teale) reckons his rivals from a gasworks football team may be to blame. Or was it Thomas Gower (Jake Mann), who Drake saved from the gallows and sent to the army eight years previously? (blimey, all the way back in Series 1 Episode 2, when Gower was an orphan charged with murder and protected by Deborah Goren). Gower reckons it’s ironworks team-mate Wilbur Wren (Rob Compton).

Susan’s cosying up to Croker’s boy Nate to find out about his crooked business – foolish given Croker’s propensity for dumping corpses in the river.

Drake and Jackson aren’t on speaking terms – Reid agrees that the American owns ‘an abundance of odious qualities’, but he has to be kept on the team. Jackson misses the day they used to push Drake around – well, not so much they didn’t, as we recall.

Drake invites Gower for tea and tries to recruit him to the force,  but Wren alleges that Gower is a violent drunk.  Certainly the murder scene is a mess, prompting Jackson to bring up Piotrowksi’s theories (The first methodical study of blood spatters, titled “Concerning the Origin, Shape, Direction and Distribution of the Bloodstains Following Head Wounds Caused by Blows,” was published in 1895 by Dr. Eduard Piotrowski of the University of Krakow, Poland). This gives Jackson the chance to conduct a fabulous CSI-style crime scene reconstruction, complete with squashed rabbits.

Mathilda Reid and Rachel Castello are about their nattering when Deborah Goren turns up and warns Rachel not to exploit Mathilda for her links to the Bloom case. See, it hasn’t been forgotten. Rachel has retrieved dead Rabbi Ratowski’s diaries from Paris – what secrets will they contain?

Hackman’s clockwork-like football tactics suggest a man obsessed with controlling his boys, and Gower has had the boot because he’s turned up for work drunk. Reid knows this will distress Drake.

Drake is reading to Connor (from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, published 1894), when Gower turns up at his door the worse for drink, shattered by post-traumatic stress syndrome and with the tumult of the Maxim guns in his brain. Rose is not best pleased, the shrew.

But it’s Reid who establishes that Gower was no war hero, and had been dishonourably discharged from the army. For once, it’s Drake who believes a man can change, while Reid is convinced otherwise.

Reid rather implausibly browbeats Gower into confessing to Tanner’s murder, but Jackson’s forensics prove he didn’t do it; there was a third person present, who took a St Sebastian pendant from Tanner – clearly Hackman, feeling betrayed because Tanner was taking a transfer deal.

Hackman confesses after a short speech about Newton, physics and nature versus nurture  (how times have changed – these days football managers don’t normally batter departing players to death).

Gower offers Drake scant gratitude for his help, and in a bizarrely protracted scene, is stabbed in an alley by a strange hairy figure, and dies staring up at what looks like the Batsignal – what on earth is going on here, and is it somehow tied in with the Bloom case?

As Reid was wrong about Tanner, Drake gives him a well-deserved roasting; can the two continue to work together? Possibly not, as Reid’s next move will surely be to question the conclusion of the Bloom case.

Nate foolishly shows Susan his secret tunnel into the Customs house, where she steals a log book. Croker’s understandably furious, but Susan convinces him to plan the theft of some Japanese pottery which will buy her freedom. She plans to blow the doors off the vault with dynamite, possibly not the best idea when you’re going for pottery.

Finally Susan and Jackson go to plan the abduction of Connor, and of course Rose spots Susan through the window.

This whole episode is thrown off-kilter by Reid’s implausible brow-beating of a vulnerable suspect. he’s usually the first to defend anyone in this position, so there’s no explanation for his behaviour – unless, and we can’t believe this, he simply wants to challenge Drake? It all feels a bit like the part of a rom-com where the loving couple fall out over some contrived matter – you know they’ll resolve things in the end.

It seems rather less likely that there’ll be a happy ending for Susan and Jackson. Somewhere between only blowing the bloody doors off and snatching the kid, something’s bound to go wrong.  They can only be expected to get away with so many cunning plans.

Chris Jenkins

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