TV Reviewer Katie Young sifts through Ripper Street’s third episode as she reviews Ashes and Diamonds…
It was a Reid-free episode this time around, as the residents of Whitechapel were left to their machinations in the aftermath of Horrace Buckley’s brutal death at the hands of the traumatised inspector. This presented a chance for Jerome Flynn’s Drake to step into his wayward friend’s shoes, to drive the investigation, and to prove that he is a compelling lead in his own right.
It’s testament to the strength of the Ripper Street cast that any one of the principle characters could carry an episode. While the shifting dynamic between Drake, Reid, and Jackson remains the heart of the series, the world of Whitechapel and its inhabitants is so richly drawn, we can afford to meander off down an alleyway now and then to explore new territory.
The case left to Drake and Jackson in Reid’s absence, was the poisoning of clairvoyant Alex Le Cheyne (an unlikely but surprisingly fitting cameo from comedian Jason Manford), who dropped dead on stage while communing with the dead victims of the locomotive crash in front of an audience of grieving relatives. Drake pursued Le Cheyne’s assistant, Ezra Marvell, believing the motive to be a love triangle involving the two men and a dancer named Juniper, while Jackson probed one of the murdered man’s clients – a widow by the name of Olivia Wakefield – believing she also had motive for killing the charlatan.
Meanwhile, Abberline tried to get to the bottom of Buckley’s death in custody, Susan became increasingly close to her ward Mathilda and Fred Best planted a seed of doubt in Jackson’s mind about Susan’s possible involvement in the theft of the bearer bonds.
There was also a whiff of romance in the air, with Rose falling back into Drake’s arms although she is engaged to be married, and Susan confiding in both Mathilda and Rose that she didn’t regret a moment of her time with Jackson, despite how their relationship ended. But as this is Ripper Street, it seems unlikely that any of these rekindled feelings will lead anywhere good! While Rose always rejected Drake’s affection when they were both available, she is reluctant to turn him loose entirely, and similarly Susan seemed to be rethinking her dismissal of Captain Jackson, just as he started developing feelings for Mimi. The relationships here are totally believable, because while we might not like to admit it, I’m sure most of us can relate to these scenarios, not wanting to be with someone, but not willing to concede our pedestal either.
The scenes between Rose and Bennett also served to highlight another theme of the episode, that of destiny or predetermination. While it was clear from the outset that Le Cheyne was a fraudster, it appeared that Drake genuinely believes himself ‘cursed’, an idea totally at odds with analytical and scientific mind-set one would expect from a detective.
The case of Alex Le Cheyne’s murder took a shocking turn, when it transpired that Juniper planned to run off to Paris with the not-dead-after-all Mr. Wakefield, along with the insurance money she had claimed after murdering her showman. He didn’t see that one coming! Sorry…But with the theme of doomed lovers prevalent, Olivia Wakefield took matters into her own hands before justice could be served, stabbing her unfaithful husband and his mistress to death. This very much seems to be the crux of the series – inherently ‘good’ people being driven to commit terrible acts – and it ties in with this notion of fate. If you believe yourself cursed or doomed in some way, can you be held accountable for your actions? Certainly Reid seemed to think killing Buckley was inevitable, given what he thought he knew at the time, and Susan Hart often cites her circumstances as having left her no choice. I think the point is that everyone is capable of darkness whether they want to take responsibility for their deeds or not, and the reason the Ripper Street characters work so well is that they always seem to offer the possibility or redemption, even in the midst of horror, and even when they are so deeply flawed. It’s comforting in a weird way.
There was one more twist in the tale as Rose glimpsed Mathilda in Susan’s house and told Drake what she had seen, despite her love for her former employer and friend. Realising they must keep her out of sight, Capshaw and Susan tried to take Mathilda out of town in a cab, but she ran away and disappeared into the streets, while Drake tracked a dishevelled Reid to the beach hut where he was in hiding.
With secrets being unearthed, loyalties tested and old feelings surfacing, it looks like no one is getting out of this season unscathed!