Ripper Street Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Become Man”
Ripper Street fans rejoice! It is finally official—Amazon Studios has decided to move forward with a 3rd season (or series depending on which side of The Pond you’re on) of Ripper Street to be aired on Amazon Streaming and BBC1. I have no doubt we’ll get it in the U.S. eventually. Another Ripper Street season is fantastic news—even if we do have to wait until 2015 to see it. Ladies ruled the roost in tonight’s episode, “Become Man.” Tonight’s subject matter was all about the women, and The Poisoner’s Handbook, obvs. 😉
Become Man, begins in a small theatre where a hilarious comedy about Jack the Ripper is being staged. We see Rose Erskine there, and for an instant—we think she has realized her dream of being a performer. No dice, though. She’s toting drinks. Rose is still waiting for a patron, and hopes some man will notice her and offer to help her live her dream. A few stuffy dudes declare that they plan to get the theatre shut down. Next thing you know—the lights go out and Ser Walter–one of the stuffy dudes, is gone. Kidnapped! Luckily, Susan and Jackson are in the audience to lend Rose some support in her new job.
When we last saw Ms Erskine, she was declaring that Bennet’s undying affection for her was not good enough. Now Drake is happily married and has no time for Rose and her nonsense. Reid is disgusted that an actor would play the Ripper for laughs, and that a theatre was profiting from such. They deduce that Walter was carried off in a “night soil” cart. Even if we didn’t know, it would be easy to infer that night soil is a kindly euphemism for human poop. The whiffy driver of the night soil cart is questioned, and sheepishly admits that his cart was stolen by, of all things, women. Women who smoke jimson weed cigs for pain relief.
Smelling controversy, Fred Best pops by the station to give Reid a sneak peek at the next day’s newspaper. Arthurton gets lippy with Best, which is always fun. Best eventually reveals that Ser Walter has sent a letter to the newspaper renouncing his opposition to Ms Cobden—and unspeakably female political candidate. Egads! Can you even imagine such a thing. Ladies robbing people, running for office, and turning Captain Jackson’s head. According to Jackson, this Jane Cobden is a goddess. She’s great, assisting the investigation without hesitation, and helping unfortunate women abused by employers and other evil men. Ms Cobden illustrates the predominant attitude toward women when she jokes about earning a badge and warrant card. How ridiculous! A woman with a badge! ** hearty guffaw **
Across town, Susan takes another meeting with Silas Duggan. She literally begs him to buy out her business so that she and Jackson can skip town. True, Duggan already owns the house, but it was a crapshack when Susan moved in. Now it’s the home of a thriving business. He won’t buy it, secure in his belief that she’ll eventually lose the place to him anyway. He’s basically waiting to pounce on her the first time she misses a payment. Or, he’ll let her go if she sleeps with him—even calling her a hypocrite because she runs a brothel but is not a prostitute herself. Is it un-feminist of me to want Jackson to smack this guy around?
We learn that Drake’s wife, Bella, is a former top-earner at the brothel. Susan’s new top earner is Ida, who brings in the big spenders. It’s all business as usual until a rock smashes through a window. This causes enough chaos that the wealthy client is bound and gagged. When Susan intervenes, she’s clunked on the head, and wakes up in an unfamiliar house. It’s quite a scene, full of women slowly dying from phosphorous poisoning. That’s what happened to countless women who made yellow-tip matches. You’ll notice that yellow tip matches are rare these days.
One of Susan’s girls dashes to H Division and tells Arthurton that Susan has been taken. Jackson wastes no time rushing to her rescue. Jackson is totally Alpha-Male this week. Usually, we love that. But given the theme of “Become Man”—this behavior takes on an unsettling connotation. Reid figures out that all of the kidnappings had an inside-man (actually a woman). They also need to question some of Susan’s girls to find out who the latest kidnap victim is. Jerome Flynn gives an awesome performance as Drake observes his wife talking about someone she bedded as a prostitute. I still have trouble getting my head around this idea that a brothel is a place where one might go to find themselves a wife—a turn-of-the-century match dot com, of sorts. Still, if Bennet Drake is happy, I’m happy for him.
This feminist revolution is led by Raine, a woman who has lost everything and will now do anything for revenge. She’s cool with kidnapping, smacking people around, cutting off fingers, and eventually—we learn that she’s totally fine with burning men alive. Pretty ruthless, wouldn’t you say? Raine and Susan come to understand and respect each other through discussions on liberation and self-sufficiency. Still, Susan doesn’t agree with their methods, and isn’t shy about saying so. I’m loving Susan much more this season than last. Raine’s girls are rife with sickness and dripping with stolen jewelry. Raine herself has been brutally abused. The fx team has really been working over time in Ripper Street Season Two. No lie.
Back at the station, Constable Flight (still woefully oblivious to the fact that he slept through Joseph Merrick’s murder) follows the physical evidence and fetches coffee. They are close to narrowing down who and where these women are when Susan stumbles in–disheveled and carrying a satchel. It’s got three fingers inside, and a ransom demand. Again Jackson leaps to his wife’s aid; and again, we sort of wish he wouldn’t. Susan lashes out at her husband, acutely aware of the limitations that simply being a woman have placed on her. Jackson tells Reid that Susan won’t be used as bait, won’t go back to the women. Susan disagrees, and says she’ll take the ransom money to the kidnapping feminists. Reid, while not actually one of the sexist men on the show, grossly underestimates these women. His plan of following whoever picks up the money doesn’t cover the possibility that the women might know they’re being followed. Really, Edmund?!?
Of course the women were ready for the cops. Using multiple women with similar clothing and bags, Raine manages to elude the police and make it back with the money. Susan lends the assist; and there is much rejoicing. Susan reveals to Raine the indignity Duggan has suggested—Raine tells her never to do it, that it will change her forever if she does. Before we realize it, Raine reveals that she intends to murder the kidnapees anyway–and badly. Susan comes upon her dousing them in a flammable liquid—presumably gasoline. Yikes! Back at H Division, Ms Cobden approaches Reid, thinking she can help narrow down the whereabouts of Raine. She does.
Susan does her best to talk Raine down, knowing that every woman and girl there will hang if three wealthy, important men are burned alive. Raine appears to be past reason until Susan tells her that she’s become man. Raine is infuriated by this accusation. The two women struggle physically, just as the men of H Division enter. Finally, Raine agrees to cut the men loose. She’s lifting her knife as Jackson enters, misreading the scene and shooting Raine dead. Susan is crushed, horrified, and orders her husband not to touch her. It pretty much sucks. Raine’s girls are likewise destroyed to see their leader murdered by male police.
Fred Best organizes a “truce” meeting between Ms Cobden and Ser Walter. She readily agrees to shake his hand, while he parlays the actions of one woman into the intentions of all. He actually waived his maimed hand around, declaring it proof of “what women can do.” Ser Walt doesn’t seem to realize how much that should frighten him. Best is happy though, as the Star gets another sensational headline—and a retraction of one even more sensational.
Susan is hiding out in the tub when Rose comes to visit. She tells a delighted Rose that she intends to become her patron, so Rose never need depend on a man again. Afterward, Jackson comes in to explain again that he only killed Raine because he believed he was saving her—his beloved wife. His desire to care for Susan is so strongly undercut by the themes of tonight’s episode, that it’s hard to watch them interact with each other. You can see what each of them is thinking, feeling—but the gap between them is so large that you have to wonder if it can ever be managed. Jackson is awesome at saying what he thinks, but not so good at revealing how he feels.
This was a fantastic episode, and I love that it comes with the news that Ripper Street Season Three is a go! We still haven’t heard the big secret about Bella Drake and her whole back-story. I can’t wait.
See you’s next week!