Ripper Street Season 2, Episode 2 Review: “Am I Not Monstrous?”
This week’s Ripper Street blew last week’s episode away. Unlike last season’s largely stand-alone plots, “Am I Not Monstrous” picks up right where “Pure as the Driven” left off. We learned a bit more about what’s been up with our guys since Season One ended. For the most part, it hasn’t been pretty. Inspector Shine continues to weasel out of things; a new man joins up with H Division; and a known historical event comes to pass. Spoilers and pithy commentary after the jump.
“Am I Not Monstrous” begins with a pregnant woman running through the streets as she goes into labor. Note the abject apathy of everyone around her. She makes it to the hospital, where Doctor Treves attends to her. Treves, by the way, is the actual doctor of Joseph Merrick; so he’s a real dude. The mysterious woman gives birth, and she and the baby stay in the hospital…until. Another mysterious person, this time a man, comes to take the baby. The mother struggles and attempts to flee, but her scream tells us that she has died. Later, Treves discusses her death with Drake and Reid. It is revealed that the woman was well cared for until recently, and that she had a vestigial tail. Yikes.
We return from commercial to see Fred Best making the best of being shy one ear. Too bad George Weasley wasn’t there to give him pointers. Best is on his way to attend the funeral of Sergeant Linklater. He’s further attracted by Shine’s claims of Reid’s involvement in Linklater’s death. This offends Drake, but not as much as Shine referring to Bella as his “whore wife.” Not clear what he means about a “perjury of love,” but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, Long Susan takes a meeting with the creepy Silas Duggan. She hands him what looks like a lot of payoff money, and he propositions her. Ew.
Reid deduces that a woman with a tail might find a place with a freak show. He’s about to investigate when Abberline enters. Yay, Abberline! He’s got a spry young constable with him: Detective Constable Flight. Flight is purported to be an enthusiastic and capable officer, though in a much softer neighborhood. Reid, Drake, and Jackson are not at all enthusiastic about working with Flight. The freak show is everything one would expect it to be. A bearded lady informs the coppers that the woman in question, Stella Brooks, is friends with Joseph Merrick. Also working the freak show is John Goode, the father of Ms Brook’s child and a man impervious to pain. He seems distraught, but it’s still shocking when he clocks Jackson and takes off running. Watch for Drake getting the better of a truly enormous strong man.
Joseph Merrick is suffering with the knowledge of the murder he witnessed last week, and his ensuring silence. As he ponders it, Inspector Shine is badgering Doctor Treves about what he plans to tell the inquisitors about Linklater’s murder. Treves basically tells Shine to get bent. When Merrick rushes into Treves’ examination room with an urgent need to speak to him, he stops short at seeing Shine in the room. Shine, being a detective, knows something is up and follows Merrick home, where he wastes no time intimidating and threatening him. We are reminded that Merrick has terrible apnea and cannot breathe while lying on his back. Poor Merrick is clearly shaken by the encounter.
Because Det Insp Flight is so anxious to be helpful, Reid gives him the task of tracking down this John Goode and finding out all he can about him. Reid heads over to Merrick’s to learn more about Stella Brooks. Thinking he is there about Shine, Merrick becomes highly agitated upset. Enter Treves to rage at Reid and demand he leave Merrick alone. Everybody makes Edmund out to be the bad guy this week. Flight does a good job though, and we learn that Goode is a drunken brawler, but only recently. Flight and Drake head out to gather info, while Jackson goes home to his wife. Drake ends up saving Flight’s butt when drunken ruffians attack them. Bella Drake patches them both up. Awwww. Flight then announced that he’s going back to work on no sleep.
We return from commercial to meet Doctor Corcoran. He’s droning on about heredity and selective breeding. He’s a zoologist with a keen interest in “the correction and improvement of humankind.” Sounds like another guy with good ideas that he goes about all wrong, eh? And so he is. Back at Susan’s place, she finally tells her husband that they don’t actually have any money—that Silas Duggan owns everything. And guess who Duggan is bestest buddies with? Inspector Shine. Shine then sends one of Duggan’s men to follow Merrick and make sure he doesn’t say anything untoward about Shine. For now though, Merrick is only talking to Reid about Stella Brooks. Jackson also becomes aware of this shirt business between Susan and Edmund—the business that still doesn’t seem to actually be about shirts. Jackson and his wife argue. In anger, Susan tells Reid that Jackson plans to skip town.
John Goode, we find out, had been housed at the asylum run by Doctor Crabbe–a murdering a-hole from last season. Crabbe hates Reid now, blaming him for his being “brought so low.” He talks of Emily Reid rending herself in the street, partially dressed, demanding booze, stuff that sounds just awful for such a composed and stoic woman. Reid reveals that this happened because he gave her false hope about their daughter, and was unfaithful with Deborah Goren. Seems like we won’t be seeing Emily Reid again. Crabbe eventually tells Reid that Goode was tortured as a child, and reveals enough information for them to figure out that he’s actually Alexander, the child of Doctor Corcoran. Whoa. Alexander also believes that his child is cursed, monstrous. Corcoran stole the baby to test his own scientific theories, but Alexander wants to murder the baby and himself to spare them both pain.
Joseph Merrick tries once more to do the right thing, and goes out alone to see Inspector Reid. He’s viciously attacked, first by children, but then by townies at large. It’s horrible. Flight comes to Merrick’s aid, and takes him to the museum where Reid has gone to confront Corcoran. Merrick comes upon Alexander preparing to jump to his death with the baby in his arms. What follows is an incredibly moving speech from Merrick about there being infinite happiness and joy in the world. But you can only find it if you live. He talks of simple pleasures, including some voyeuristic stuff involving a nurse. o.O Alexander abandons his attempt at murder-suicide, and Corcoran is arrested for Stella’s murder.
Once all that wraps up, Merrick finally tells Reid that he witnessed Shine killing Linklater. Vindicated, Reid orders Det Insp Flight to watch over Merrick so he can bring in Abberline to take Merrick’s statement. But remember, Det Insp Flight hasn’t slept in a while, and he’s been knocked around quite a bit at this point. He falls asleep outside Merrick’s door, and doesn’t even realize that the evil Inspector Shine has gone in, killed Merrick, and left completely undetected.
Joseph Merrick’s death scene was horrifying. “Am I not Monstrous” presents him as much less happy and fulfilled than I thought he was. My understanding was that he was routinely visited and celebrated by nobles. But Merrick did die in 1890 from asphyxia at the depressingly young age of 27. Shine’s overt delight and sadism in watching Merrick struggle to breathe is the stuff of nightmares. Right now I feel pretty certain that Shine’s ultimate undoing cannot be gruesome enough. Reid, Drake, and Abberline arrive at Merrick’s room to find Treves deciding that this death was accidental, and that Merrick must have gone horizontal of his own volition. Really? No, Treves. Just…no.
With Merrick dead, Abberline has no way to know whether Reid or Shine are telling the truth. Treves has decided that Linklater died from his fall and subsequent leg-impalement. It becomes clear that Abberline has his own agenda. He wants to keep both Inspectors in their respective districts, and orders them to declare a truce and shake hands. Reid is appalled, but eventually gives in. Shine dons a grin that you just want to slap off his face. Ugh! How infuriating. For a guy who couldn’t catch Jack the Ripper, that Abberline really thinks he’s the cat’s pajamas.
Man, what a fantastic episode. In “Am I not Monstrous,” we tie up more loose ends from last season. More of our favorite characters are showing up, and Fred Best too, hahahahaaha. If Emily Reid is gone, does that mean Edmund could take up with Deborah once more? Will Jackson really skip town with his wife? Or will Duggan put a stop to that for his own reasons? It sounds like Bella Drake has a few secrets of her own, or at least some juicy back story we don’t know about. Here’s hoping for a fun reveal.
See you’s next week!