Ripper Street Episode 3 Review: “The King Comes Calling”

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If you’re not watching Ripper Street, there’s something you should know.  Inspector Edmund Reid?  He’s a badass–a total and complete badass on par with classic TV badasses like SSA Aaron Hotchner from Criminal Minds, or Detective Pembleton from Homicide.  Inspector Reid and his understated ass-kickery have been slaying me thus far on Ripper Street.  In this week’s episode, Matthew Macfadyen gave us even more of the no-nonsense, forward-thinking, law-upholding dynamo that he is known for.  It’s a thrill to watch.

             “The King Comes Calling” begins with a corpulent fellow named Algernon Winston.  Mr. Winston has the unfortunate displeasure of puking his guts out and dying in the middle of the street.  The feared cause of his sudden death strikes even more panic than The Ripper in the hearts of citizenry and cops alike—King Cholera.  If Ripper Street teaches us anything, it’s that the good people of Whitechapel don’t need Jack the Ripper’s input to drop like flies.  Death abounds in Whitechapel, despite the best efforts of Reid, Bennet Drake, and even the industrious Hobbs.

Emily Reid is in the hospital visiting Cathleen, an unfortunate woman who is being regularly beaten by her pimp.  That is, unless the pimp later turns out to be Long Sally.  We can’t really know.  Mrs. Reid is seeking funds to build a rescue home for women like Cathleen, to keep them safe from the harsh life associated with prostitution.  Emily finds herself still at the hospital when the supposed sickness forces many more puking patients there.  “The King Comes Calling” is easily the most vomitous episode of Ripper Street yet.

Rips 1.3 Emily

When Reid and Drake investigate possible sources of the Cholera outbreak, City Police Inspector Ressler gets his panties all in a bunch, telling Reid to stay off his turf.  Reid, of course, is not dissuaded and steps up on Ressler, demanding that Ressler stay out of the way of his investigation.  Ressler follows Reid and Drake, leading Reid to think Ressler knows more than he’s saying.  When Inspector Ressler admits that four people in his district have died in two days, Reid’s righteous fury is a thing to behold.

Captain Jackson spends some quality time with the victims, and suspects that the culprit may actually be ergot poisoning, not cholera.  Good news, except they have no idea why ergotism is killing people or where it’s coming from.  Widespread ergot poisoning is akin to giving LSD to an entire town without telling anyone.  It’s something a Batman villain might do to cause mass mayhem.  So in this context, Inspector Reid is essentially Batman.

Young Hobbs is studying forensics under Jackson.  Personally, I’ll feel less scared for both of them as soon as disposable gloves are invented.  Seems like the life of a forensics man in this time period would be pretty short.  Jackson needs to observe someone who is actually dying of the poisoning.  This guinea pig comes in the form of George.  If George looks familiar to you, it’s because he’s played be Dave Legeno, who was also the werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter movies.  George is a bad man who likes hurting and killing women.  As we watch, we may even think he’s about to confess to the Ripper murders.  Then he dies.  Ressler, it turns out, is a terrible cop who doesn’t really have the brain power to effectively lead an investigation.

Rips 1.3 Reid et al

Worried for his wife, Reid tells Emily to go home and stay there.  She doesn’t.  She keeps her appointment to seek funding from the widow Gable for her women’s rescue home.  Mrs. Gable is incensed at the idea that prostitutes might get compassionate help without being told how evil they are.  As Gable raves, Emily feels strange and sick.  She starts full-on tripping during their meeting—and it’s not a good one.  Mrs. Gable gets all big-eyed and scary, telling Emily she hasno pity or empathy for her.  See, Gable’s husband was a whoremonger whose diseased prostitute habit cost his wife her fertility.  And Mrs. Gable is one of those types who think their personal life experience can be extrapolated to the entire rest of the human race.

There were some great lines in this week’s episode.  After Drake is snubbed by a haughty woman in the street, Reid offers his friend some comforting wit.

Money never begat courtesy.

Don’t we know it?  Later in the episode, the investigation takes Reid and Drake to a transvestite burlesque club.  I laughed out loud when homosexuality was referred to by Reid as playing “Backgammon.”  That just sounds to wonderfully British to my American ears.  Ha!  Backgammon…

Reid sends Bennet to check on his wife.  Emily is quite loopy by this point, believing that she sees her dead daughter.  Bennet finds her and takes her to the station.  It’s a wonderful scene.  Watching it, I was struck by Bennet’s goodness and loyalty to Reid.  His commitment to decency and morality almost excuses his brutality.  Almost.  Seeing Emily so close to death is nearly as heartbreaking for viewers as it is for Edmund Reid.  I admit, I got teary when he pled with her to live:

I will tell you why

I am the way I am

And why I cannot mourn her

 as you do.

            Reid, Ressler, and Drake trace the source of the poison to the Widow Gable’s flour mill.  A creep named Claxton has been having a grand old time refining poisons and killing people for the sole purpose of becoming more famous than The Ripper.  Reid eventually assures Claxton that his fame will never happen.  Reid reports the poisonings as accidental contaminations, and the widow backs him up.  With a little enhanced interrogation from Drake and Jackson, Claxton gives up all the information needed to keep anyone else from dying.  Watch for the look of terror in Claxton’s eyes at hearing that the surgeon is American.  Pretty sure American and barbarian mean the same thing in the Queen’s English.  LOL

Rips 1.3 UnSub

If you like happy endings, you’ll be pleased to learn that this week’s episode does not end in tragedy.  Claxton gets what’s coming to him.  Emily lives.  The Widow Gable sells the mill and becomes slightly less terrible, giving Emily the endowment she needs to fund the women’s shelter.  Reid and Ressler talk out their differences, as Ressler laments what might have been done differently.  That’s when Reid delivers a much more eloquent version of what cops on TV have been saying for decades:

This work we perform…

It does not serve to look backwards

…we are not magicians.

We fight

With all the skills we may muster

Beyond that,

We can do no more.

Ripper Street is a great new show that so far, has gotten better every week.  I’m gratified to see Reid and Jackson trust each other a little more each week.  I love seeing little bits of characters revealed as the story progresses, especially since it never distracts from the immediacy of the plot.  This is subtle but effective writing, brought to life with thoughtful performances and intriguing visuals.  And dammit, I want Bennet Drake to find happiness.  Here’s hoping.

See you’s next week!


  • sansured

    Ripper Street is an under the radar gem of a show. I just discovered it and I am about five episodes deep. One aside, the wealthy or well-to-do are generally the most courteous people that I encounter. Enough with the stupid class warfare.