Ripper Street: “The Beating of Her Wings” Review
The second ep of Season Three is chock full of murder, hypocrisy, deceit, and victimization.
Man, this was a crazy one. Wikipedia was kind enough to spoil the giant reveal in this week’s episode of Ripper Street. But “The Beating of Her Wings” was so compelling, so beautifully written that knowing what was coming barely mattered. This week, the search for the true mastermind of the train robbery continues, as Fred Best pushes for justice. Obsidian Estates gets a new resident, Drake and Reid iron out the future of H Division, and Susan proves herself to be less honest than she seems. Spoilers for “The Beating of Her Wings” follow.
We begin with a man named Buckley, crawling through the muck of a riverbed to find goods to sell in his curio shop. He lives there with his wife, Clara, so it’s bad news when Capshaw shows up to evict them. Capshaw, bastard that he is, is unmoved with their explanation that since the terrible train crash—their finances have suffered. You know, the one the lawyer caused so he could steal bearer bonds. When the Buckley’s reveal that they can’t pay, Capshaw invites his thug to tear up the place. While doing so, Capshaw accidentally murders Clara as she attempts to prevent him opening her clandestine cellar door. Mr. Buckley tears down the street while the thug gives chase—and both are seen by one of Fred Best’s reporters. What’s in the cellar? A young girl who is terrified to leave. Capshaw takes the girl to Obsidian Estates, to Long Susan and Dr Frayn.
The investigation is tough. The only witness, Mr. Buckley, cannot be found. Drake suggests they find Jackson to glean what evidence he can from Clara’s body. Meanwhile, Reid tells Drake how glad he is that they’re working together again. It’s decided that Reid wants to stay at H Division, and “Benito” Drake is cool with that. Reid has some apologizing to do to Captain Jackson. Turns out, his feelings were very hurt by Reid’s impassioned and shredding words to him last season. Watch for Jackson’s girlfriend to describe my perfect date. Fred Best meets Reid in the street and tells him what he knows about the murder. But Best is more interested in avenging his lover, who died in the train crash.
Dr Frayn determines that the girl is physically unharmed, but mentally destroyed. She thinks she’s a fairy; she’s been badly burned, and becomes hysterical when she wakes to see that she’s out of her “pupa.” Before long, we realize that this girl could be Reid’s lost daughter, Mathilde. Capshaw tells Susan that he intends to find Buckley and kill him. She forbids it. Various parties are questioned, all of whom lie. Watch as the guy who had no problem tossing the Buckley’s place get way agitated when Reid looks through his ledgers. Reid is confident that Capshaw is knee-deep in all of this. At Blewett’s, Drake meets Rose Erskine’s fiancé. Bennet is bummed, but claims to be happy for them both.
After investigating the body, Jackson determines vital clues that throw further suspicion on Capshaw, and lead them to the cellar of the Buckley’s shop. Reid is impressed with Jackson’s work, and tells him so. He’s also horrified that a child was held captive in that hidden dungeon for long enough for her to require larger clothes. Back at Obsidian, Frayn attempts “modern” mental health techniques on the girl. Capshaw makes a deal with Buckley that if he gives up his shop and home, he can leave town with the girl. Of course, he’s not really going to do that, because Capshaw is a complete asshat. Jackson does further research that allowed Reid and Drake to locate Buckley and bring him in.
It’s vital to note here that the men of H Division think of Long Susan as formerly lawless—but basically honest and truthful. They believe her intentions for Whitechapel are honorable, which they probably are. In some ways, Susan continues the work started by Mrs. Reid in Season One. While they may trust Long Susan, Reid won’t even shake hands with Capshaw. Reid is disgusted to learn that neither Buckley, nor the thug collector, nor the girl from the cellar can be found. Drake reminds Reid that their work is a fight without end, but a battle worth the blood. With that, Reid orders his people to get out there and do some ass kicking. Do not spare your billy clubs. Drake is aghast. C’mon. Reid is supposed to be one of the good guys.
Drake visits Reid at home, impressing upon him how important it is for him to keep to the law. The borough needs him, and needs him honest. Their conversation is fantastically moving. Edmund wonders aloud about the nature of men, whether they’re all good or all dark. Drake’s empathy and understanding of people is amazing. But Edmund is unmoved. When he goes upstairs to look at Mathilde’s things, we know that his wounds remain unhealed. Frayn’s techniques get the girl talking. Soon we understand “The Beating of Her Wings.” The girl has been immersed in a fantasy world where she’s been taught to believe her father, Reid, was a “wicked king” who meant to do her harm. She remembers the fire, the boat, being surrounded by dead bodies (fairies, she calls them) and being saved by “river sprites.” What we’ve hoped and feared is true. She is Reid’s daughter. Now we want more than anything for them to be reunited. But this is Ripper Street. So we know better. Susan shows the girl a picture, and she reacts badly. Susan knows Reid is the “wicked king.”
Back at the station, Best arrives to inform Reid about the bearer bonds. He’s so vehement about solving the crime, Reid wonders what he’s going to want in return. All Best wants is justice, and he fricken deserves it. When the guys find Horace Buckley, we realize that he’s none too bright. When Capshaw hears how close the cops are to catching him—he suggests using the girl for collateral, for “deflection.” Capshaw and Susan convince Frayn to lie for them. In the cells, Buckley agrees to testify against Capshaw, but refuses to reveal the identity of the girl. We later learn that he knows she’s Mathilde Reid.
That’s when “The Beating of Her Wings” gets way dismal. Drake, Jackson, and Reid arrive to arrest Capshaw. That’s when Susan comes in and tells them that Capshaw saved the girl from Buckley, who raped and tortured her. They tell him that the girl has died and been buried. Why didn’t Susan tell him before? She says the girl was in a horrible state, one that Reid wouldn’t have wanted to see. When Susan finally reveals that the girl was Mathilde, probably, Drake and Jackson both, if you’ll pardon the expression, lose their shit. Nobody believes Susan was protecting Reid. Why on Earth would they?
When Reid bursts into Buckley’s cell, it’s the beginning of the end. Horace refuses to give Reid any information until he’s given a sound thrashing. Drake tries to restrain Reid, but cannot. Edmund and Horace are now locked in the cellar while Drake and Jackson plead with him to obey the law, to not murder this man. But the longer their conversation progresses, the surer we are that Buckley will die. Finally, Horace says her name: Mathilde Reid. Jackson literally begs him not to do it. Drake implores him to stop—Reid is about to straight-up murder this man. And so he does. He’s fallen even further than last season when he screamed for Drake to murder Shine in the boxing ring. Drake gives Reid five minutes to run. Will he? It’s impossible to say. A whole lot of people watch Reid emerge from Buckley’s shop covered in blood and looking like he’s seen a ghost.
“The Beating of Her Wings” was gripping and devastating. Keep in mind, this is only the second episode of the season. Where will they go from here? We know Capshaw will be caught eventually. But what will happen to Edmund after this terrible loss of control? What about Susan? Will Best get vengeance for his lover? Will Drake and Jackson ever find happiness? Time will tell.
See you’s next week.