Ripper Street Season 1, Episode 6 Review: “Tournament of Shadows”
Wow!!! This week’s Ripper Street was big kapowza! Last week we focused on the frustrations, heartbreaks, and past travails of Bennet Drake. This week we learn still more of Homer Jackson’s intriguing back story with the Pinkertons, Chicago, and why he’s so damn mysterious. The plot revolves around union-busting, radical left-wing ideals, corruption, and deceit. Oooh, plus there’s some murder. And some kissing…totally unexpected kissing.
We meet a pacifist named Joshua Bloom who appears to be doing some amazing work of some sort. Turns out, he’s a leftist animal who thinks just because someone works hard all day that they should be given a fair wage. Worse still, Mr. Bloom believed criminals should be punished for their crimes—and he’s seeking Russian spies in order to bring them to justice. Obviously, plenty of people disliked that idea. Bloom is killed in the opening scene, having been set up to look like a terrorist bomber.
Reid pops home to visit his wife, and finds her distraught in their daughter’s bedroom. She’d gone in there to release a trapped bird and became overwhelmed with grief. Reid questions her, but she tells him only that she wants their daughter’s room cleared. Reid is horrified by the suggestion. Emily and Edmund barely speak anymore, and it’s only been a year since the incident that took Mathilde from them. Suffice to say, this would not be a good time to test Inspector Reid’s patience or mercy.
The crime scene reveals that the bombing was just that—a deliberate act. Hobbs informs Reid that two men from Scotland Yard were also at the crime scene before them. Puzzling, no? Reid is noodling this when he gets a visit from Deborah, the proprietress of the Jewish orphanage. She explains that Joshua was a pacifist and a friend; she believes he was set up. By the end of the conversation, Reid believes it too, and sends Deborah with crime scene evidence for Bloom’s brother to decipher. It’s worth noting that anti-Semitism appears pretty rampant around Whitechapel this week. Even Arthurton is guilty of it.
In the city streets, a man named Peter Morris is stirring up the crowd. Many feel that protest is working, but he tells them that only violence will create the change they desire. Jackson is ordered by Reid and Monro to break the strike. He refuses, and only agrees when he is blackmailed with arrest. Dammit, Reid! Instead of busting heads, Jackson infiltrates the terrorists by striking up a friendship with Morris. When a gang of Morris’ men nearly decapitate Bennet Drake (there to protect the safety of scab workers), Jackson breaks it up while keeping up his charade. Homer Jackson is super badass this week. His cowboy side is spotlighted to great effect. He’s a Han Solo, a Commander Riker, a Guy Fleegman. In Tournament of Shadows Jackson demonstrates that Yankees can do more than cheat at cards and frequent the local toffers.
Monro has his fingers in everybody’s pie this week. He’s pulling the strings on Reid—ordering him to stop investigating Bloom’s death. Monro is also active in the shady goings on of Constantine at the Special Branch. I don’t know what’s so special about this branch, because they seem like a bunch of crooked a-holes to me. Constantine shares a common purpose with Morris, which is to stomp down the revolution and disallow working men to hold any power in their own city. As Monro puts it “None of us are safe from the leftist cancer.” Monro, you will notice, is a giant jerkbag asshat. There’s also a Russian ambassador named Volsky who feels sad because there are still workers in the world that still have rights. It must have been just awful for those business guys back then. Oh yeah, and someone is going to unleash a devastating explosion smack in the middle of London in order to make a bold statement about how leftists are bad.
Before long, Morris gets wise to Jackson’s subterfuge. Homer is kidnapped at Long Susan’s where she and her girls are being held. The real bad guy here is Constantine, who, following Monro’s orders, is torturing Jackson to force him to confess to Bloom’s murder and to the bombing. Constantine also informs us that there is no record of a Homer Jackson having worked for the Pinkertons, or indeed, traveling to England at all. Jackson handles all this like a total boss, eventually pretending to sign the confession before delivering a totally badass beat down on Constantine and his handyman.
Kiss My Yankee Balls!
Despite these small victories, Reid is forced to tell Deborah that he is unable to punish Joshua’s murderer. Furious, she lashes out at him, exposing his injury and leading him to tell us what actually happened to his daughter, Mathilde. It’s worse than you think. See, they were on a ship that sank. His daughter slid away from him before he was pinned by “something…molten and crushing.” She was swept over the side. There doesn’t seem to be anything he could have done differently. But here’s the rub. Five bodies were never recovered, and Reid is convinced that Mathilde survived. The reason he and Emily are at such odds, the reason they cannot see eye-to-eye on how to get on with their lives—is that Reid honestly believes his daughter is still alive. In fairness, we can’t really know that she isn’t.
In the midst of this heavy emotion, Reid and Deborah kiss. Then they kiss again. They then proceed to keep kissing until they are interrupted by poor Drake–who is totally shocked and embarrassed. This development is not entirely surprising, given that Emily and Reid can’t stand to be in each other’s company for more than a few minutes. At one point, Reid literally screams at her to stay and talk to him. She can’t. Reid doesn’t do much to make himself available to her either though. It doesn’t seem like those two are going to stay together.
Jackson, Drake and Reid make Volsky tell where the bomb is with a few well-placed slaps to the face. Volsky getting tossed to the mercy of the proles was quite satisfying. Reid confirms that the Special Branch is actively involved in perpetrating violence on the city in order to make the leftist look bad. Monro is especially guilty, and goes so far as to have Abberline threaten Reid with manufactured disgrace if he reveals what he knows about the corruption. Constantine is outed as a disgrace, and gets hung out to dry by Monro. Because remember, Monro totally sucks. The actual bomber goes free without punishment, in exchange for some of “the crown’s men.” No one was actually punished, nor was any corruption truly exposed.
Ripper Street continues to provide beautifully poetic writing with compelling characters. The beauty of Edmund Reid, Bennet Drake, and Homer Jackson is that they are all flawed, all strikingly different, yet they manage to work out their differences in pursuit of a common cause. Each time I learn more about them, I feel a little closer to them. The trio inspire feelings of shock, sadness, surprise or even pity, but dammit I can’t stop watching. See you’s next week!