Review: Ripper Street (S5 E5/6), Monday 17th July, BBC2

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At last, the pace picks up this week, as Dove’s empire begins to crumble around him, and a turn of fortune brings a glimmer of hope to the beleaguered Reid. After what frankly have been four lethargic episodes, with no real plot development beyond what was strictly inevitable, the action takes off this week, as several characters face up to now unavoidable moral dilemmas.

With Reid imprisoned, and likely to be hanged for the killing of Susan’s father, all sorts of characters have to face up to the consequences of their actions. Susan has to confess to Mathilda that it was her self-serving lies which drove Reid to murder his daughter’s kidnapper; and Jackson has to face up to the fact that he does have a moral conscience, which will not let Reid go to the gallows.

Even Thatcher, who started off the series as a fairly repugnant character, seems to have turned to the side of the angels, and follows Reid’s instructions to look for the body of Robin; not that it does him much good, as he ends up being killed by Dove.

With Jackson’s escape attempt being foiled by Reid’s intransigence, Susan has to make the even more difficult decision of turning herself in to bring down Dove. As she tells Nathaniel, all murders must be punished, and as we remember, she is more guilty than anyone, for her involvement in the rail crash. Jackson confesses that he can’t choose who he loves, but surely a repentant Susan is more worthy?

Nathaniel, meanwhile, is so moved by the killing of Robin and the betrayal this represents, that he is even willing to give himself up for the evidence of his brother’s misdeeds to be brought to light. In fact, of all the characters in the picture, only Augustus Dove shows no conscience or remorse, continuing to portray Reid as the villain, and to go to any lengths to protect his brother. He is the true monster of the piece, as has become abundantly clear.

The reappearance of the towering figure of Fred Abberline, who at the prompting of Miss Castello takes charge of the situation and knocks Dove cold, is a deus ex machina which is fully justified; tying the series right back to its beginnings, it revives the spirit of no-nonsense coppering embodied in the sadly missed Drake.

With all the characters gathered in one place and locked in together, the inevitable conclusion must hold some shocks – surely Susan and Jackson cannot now escape justice, the Doves must be ended, and even Reid must answer for his sins?

Whatever happens, we’re relieved that this season looks like going out in style, after an uncharacteristically turgid start. We particularly liked the teaser of Dove almost drowning in the marshes, like Stapleton, villain of The Hound of the Baskervilles – but Dove saves himself through his own effort, as he always has.

However, the episode raises a few uncomfortable questions – like how did Dove catch up with Thatcher, when he didn’t even know where he was going? Why are the gentlemen of the Press astonished to hear of the death of Jedediah Shine, when Miss Mimi already knew all about it? And why does Reid quote a distance in kilometres, when the measurement system wasn’t in use in Britain then, and even now is not in use in America?

And two more mysteries are yet to be solved – what’s that funny rash on Mimi’s neck? (whatever it is, we predict it will progress to coughing up blood, then tragic death). And what is Augustus Dove dosing himself with? Is it something lethal which will allow him to escape the noose? And will he try to put down Nathaniel before the inevitable end?

Chris Jenkins

For all our news and reviews of Ripper Street, go here

 

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