TV Review – Ripper Street: Season 3, Episode 4

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TV Reviewer Katie Young attempts not to explode with excitement as she reviews Ripper Street’s fourth episode – Your Father, My Friend…

Another explosive, heart-stopping episode, as Reid finally learnt the truth about the daughter he’d believed was dead for so many years, and Susan resorted to desperate measures to conceal her part in the betrayal.

Drake found the dishevelled Reid living in a beach hut in Margate, and told him that Rose had reported seeing Mathilda, very much alive, in Susan’s house. He asked him to come back and find his daughter, assuring him that no one but he and Jackson had witnessed the death of Buckley.

Reid, galvanised by Drake and his own desire to find out once and for all what had become of the girl, returned to Ms. Hart’s house, nearly choking her to death in an effort to get her to speak, before being stopped by Captain Jackson and his trusty pistol. The tension between Reid, Susan, and Jackson in this scene was palpable, with Jackson torn between wanting to believe his estranged wife’s innocence, and loyalty to his former friend. Matthew MacFadyen is doing a fine job of portraying Reid this season, a man who has always believed himself to be decent, derailed by personal tragedy, and the violent outbursts which punctuate his usually calm demeanour with increasing frequency are genuinely frightening and difficult to watch.

Abberline came to interrogate Reid about Buckley’s death, but had a change of heart when he heard the full story, pledging every man on the force to help retrieve Mathilda. The girl, meanwhile had fallen prey to an Artful Dodger type pimp (with extremely good teeth for a street urchin) called Harry Ward, and was about to be sold to a line of eager punters when the ‘rookery’ was raided by Reid and Drake, both wielding shotguns like total badasses. Mathilda slashed Harry’s face with a shard of mirror she was carrying about with her and fled, despite Bennett’s attempts to lure her back with memories of them eating strawberry ices together when she was a little girl.

Reid interrogated Harry, employing a spot of Victorian style waterboarding, and realised that Mathilda had been retracing the last steps of some of the Ripper’s victims, even repeating Polly Nichols’ infamous words, “see what a jolly bonnet I’ve got now,” with goose-bump inducing creepiness. This development had me gawping like a fish out of water, and even considering the possibility that Reid might have had a hand in the murders, until I remembered the girl might have had access to his police case files. Phew! But I really enjoyed the call back to the series’ roots.

There was a wonderful exchange between Jackson and Dr. Frayn (Sherlock’s Louise Brealey), two medics speaking as equals. They discussed elements, Aristotle, and whether you can ever ascertain the true essence of a human being. Could a person, like any other jumble of chemicals, become toxic under the right circumstances, Jackson wanted to know, clearly pondering the nature of his ex-wife, and possibly his own part in her transformation. Frayn agreed to tell Reid all she knew of Mathilda’s mental state, confirming that the girl had been traumatised by something she witnessed before the accident in which she was presumed drowned, namely the post mortem photos and Reid’s map of the Ripper victim’s last known movements.

While Reid hatched a plot to wrong-foot his colleagues at “H” Division and find Mathilda himself, Jackson confronted Susan with her black-hearted deeds. But being the nineteenth century’s answer to Sid and Nancy, it wasn’t long before they were passionately ‘making up for lost time’ in an alley. It’s hard not to root for this pair, despite everything they have done to each other and the tumultuous nature of their relationship. I felt briefly sorry for Mimi at this point, who Jackson seemed to be developing genuine feelings for, and who was a good sparring partner for him, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of her.

The apex of an arc which had lasted two and half seasons was finally reached when Edmund Reid was reunited with his long lost daughter. It was always going to be tricky to do this in a way that didn’t feel anticlimactic, since the disappearance of his child has always defined the inspector to a large extent. But the way in which Reid stepped into his daughter’s room, as he had so many times previously, only to find it was no longer empty, was a master class in understated perfection. While the entire police force was out looking for Mathilda, Reid quietly and carefully brought her back to him with some patient words and open arms.

Having resolved to leave his old life and his ghosts behind, Reid packed for Margate, but could not pass up the chance of bringing Capshaw to justice when Jackson presented him with proof of the lawyer’s involvement with the train robbery. Jackson tried to protect Susan, telling Reid he didn’t believe she was party to the bearer bonds theft. Reid left Mathilda with Councillor Jane Cobden, who we haven’t seen since her ill-fated dalliance with Reid last season, citing her as the only person he would entrust his daughter to, and went to confront Capshaw.

But in yet another shocking denouement, Reid was shot in the neck by Susan, who had concealed herself behind a curtain in true penny dreadful style. Believing Reid to be dead, Susan blasted Capshaw with Reid’s shotgun, and planted her pistol on the dead lawyer, making it look like the men had killed each other. Of course, Inspector Reid was not actually dead, only injured, but Susan’s grief at having murdered him to protect herself and her businesses was genuinely moving. I am constantly amazed by how much it’s possible to feel for these characters even as they are doing the most deplorable things. Just like Homer Jackson, we the viewer simply can’t see true evil in Susan.

Some formidable performances, here, and enough emotional range to give a girl whiplash. Another brilliant episode to mark the halfway point in a sensational third series.

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