Ripper Street Season 1 Finale Review: “What Use Our Work”
The first season of Ripper Street concluded tonight with turmoil, crises, and bombshells that inspired a full range of emotions. I daresay the season started out slow but progressed into a tense and wonderful drama that I will sorely miss come next Saturday. Matthew Macfadyen, you have gained a new fan in me, Sir. Ripper Street’s dialogue is lyrical and direct, lending every character a certain amount of grittiness, foibles, wit. Leads are all complex and devoid of typical stereotypes—even the swaggering Captain Jackson. * swoon * Captain Jackson…I daresay I have a tiny crush on you.
Having a crush on Homer Jackson made it that much more difficult to see him locked up in a cell and accused of the Ripper murders. That bungling but well-intentioned Abberline totally butts heads with Reid, who is, like us, convinced of Jackson’s innocence. Yeah, innocence may not be a typical word one uses to describe a guy like him—but in this case, it’s apt. Reid warns Abberline that obsession is an addiction that takes place solely in one’s mind. See what I mean about the dialogue? Poetic, but no less truthy or compelling.
At Hobbs wake, the guys sing in his honor as they get their drink on. When Reid asks Drake how they should proceed in clearing Jackson, Drake is pointedly disinterested. After some prodding, he tells Reid that essentially, no one gives a rat’s ass about saving Jackson’s ass. In fact, the men hold him largely responsible for Hobbs murder—charging that Goodnight was only in their town in order to kill Jackson. This is, of course, not true. We learn that young as he was, Hobbs had a wife—now sadly widowed. We also learn that Reid is stepping out with Deborah and that it’s gone past the point of mere smooching.
Jackson honestly seemed to expect Reid to let him out of jail and arm him. As the internets would say: LOL, no. Reid is committed to clearing his surgeon, but not by illegal means. Meanwhile, we learn that Rose has been at Emily’s shelter since Susan’s brothel was ransacked by the Pinkertons. Long Susan tries to talk Rose into returning, but Rose has plans. She’s reluctant to say what her plans are—but they are part of her plan to improve herself and secure a better life. Emily, for her part, tells Susan not to come to the shelter if she’s only there to procure women for her brothel.
Next thing we know, Rose is missing. She went on a date to meet someone from a personal ad. This someone is a creepy weirdo named Victor Silver—played by the guy who played the ill-fated Juan Borgia on Showtime. Silver drugs Rose and takes her home where his sister and brutish brother also reside with a young girl who doesn’t seem to be related to them. Soon enough, Rose gets wise to something afoul there and tries to leave. No dice. When Rose does not return to the shelter, Emily tells Reid, who enlists Drake’s help to investigate. And man…that’s when it starts getting crazy!
Reid utilizes Fred Best’s assistance as he zeroes in on the kidnapper. Turns out, Reid knows Victor Silver as a former Ripper suspect. Silver was cleared by Abberline when he supposedly died. That is, he supposedly died on the same boat Reid and Mathilde were on at the time of her disappearance/death. In fact, Silver was seen by Reid while zeroing in on another young girl. Reid comes to believe that finding Silver will mean finding Mathilde. As you might imagine, this turns the drama up to eleven—especially when we see that the Silver family is locking these women in shipping containers for transfer and sale to places like South Africa. They refer to it as “white slavery” because I guess when you just say “slavery,” it’s presumed to mean non-whites.
Given the distance between the Reids, it’s not surprising that Edmund is seeing Deborah on the sly. Deborah is amazing, and kindly tells Reid that she cannot be a sounding board for her guilt, nor can she give him the solace and forgiveness he seeks. She doesn’t do this until after they sleep together, however. In her defense, how could anyone turn down a sad Edmund Reid?
Edmund and Emily Reid eventually discuss what happened on the boat, and Edmunds current suspicions about their daughter. Amanda Hale, who plays Emily, is a stunning performer. She conveys so much emotion with every tilt of her head, every shift of her eyes. We feel her pain, her sorrow, frustration, uncertainly, her anger as she warns her husband that if he tries to lay the blame for Mathilde at her door—that she will leave him forever. Still, it’s hard to empathize with her when she immediately goes on to blame Edmund for everything. In retrospect, it wasn’t very smart of Edmund to take his daughter with him to follow a Ripper suspect. But in fairness, no one could have possibly foreseen a colossal boating accident or a kidnapper finding freedom from suspicion in a fake death. The hope of seeing Mathilde is paralyzing for Emily, and gripping for us.
When Reid sets up a meeting between one of Susan’s girls and Victor Silver, we really think Reid will make it work. There were cops all over that park, and they were determined not to lose him. Silver makes the cops, and threatens to cut the girl’s throat. The girl shoots Silver in the neck, killing him before Reid can get any information. It’s tragic. Reid does not take it well. He then learns there is a sister, and the investigation moves on.
Reid takes Silver’s body to Jackson to find clues as to where Mathilde, Rose, et al are being held. When Abberline busts in to raise hell, Jackson demonstrates conclusively that Goodnight was the killer of the woman in the morgue. Abberline is understandably bummed and Jackson is vindicated. A disgusting, Rob-Zombie style ruse with a human wig and a feigned beating get Silver’s sister to give up the location of the kidnapped girls. That’s when it happens.
Reid and Drake arrive at Silver’s home. It takes a minute for Reid to see the young girl we’ve been seeing all episode. Their eyes lock. He looks; she looks. Close up. Longer close up. Reid’s face slowly falls. It isn’t her. All that tension, emotion, all that exhilaration, hope, fear, longing. And it’s not even Mathilde. Damn. Rose is alive and well, and is once again saved by her knight in shining poverty—Bennet Drake. Reid is left with his devastation and shattered hope. He and Emily take the girl to Deborah’s orphanage, telling her she’ll be safe there.
At the end of things, Rose realizes how badly she screwed up. She expresses her regret in a letter to Drake, but she puts it in a drawer, so who knows when or if he’ll ever receive it. The finale ends with Jackson, Drake, and Reid getting called to the scene of another violent crime.
BBC’s Ripper Street is a great watch for people who love police procedurals but are bored stupid with how repetitive they are in America. Rather than trying every week, season after season, to come up with more gruesome perps—Ripper Street utilizes sociopolitical commentary, genuine attachment to complex characters, and believable but compelling storylines that pull us in and keep us watching. I’m stoked to see where we go next season. BBC shows don’t tend to give us any hints.
Ripper Street may be done for the season, but you can watch for my Season One Retrospective later in the week. My commentary on FOX’s The Following appears every Monday night—and is awash with pithy commentary and witty remarks. Coming up, I’ll be giving you my weekly thoughts on the new seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones and BBC’s Doctor Who.
See you’s then!