Ripper Street 1.8: ‘What Use Our Work?’ Review
The final episode of Ripper Street’s first series seemed like it would be a tense mismatch of Captain Homer Jackson…
The final episode of Ripper Street’s first series seemed like it would be a tense mismatch of Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) seeking his freedom, following being set up by his former arch-nemesis Frank Goodnight (Edoardo Ballerini) to make it seem that Jackson was Jack the Ripper all along, and Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) finally having an episode focused upon the loss of his daughter, possibly even reaching a conclusion over her disappearance.
The episode opens with H Division divided. Many mourning the death of young Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell), Jackson imprisoned, the usually symbiotic duo of Reid and Drake (Jerome Flynn) broken. Reid seeks solace in the bed of Miss Goren (Lucy Cohu) whilst his righthand-man Drake seeks solace in the bottom of many pints and Jackson is left in his cell alone apart from his thoughts and occasional visits from Reid. Everything is in tatters, for the stability that kept H division together in episode one had been broken, the equilibrium disrupted. It is shown that Reid has lost the support of his fellow officers, Drake states to Reid that, “If you work to free Captain Jackson…then you do so alone.” The force blames Jackson, in a way, for Hobbs’ death for Goodnight was after Jackson and the young officer simply was, brutally, caught in the crossfire.
The story, though, mainly focuses upon Rose’s (Charlene McKenna) attempting to better herself by leaving Long Susan’s (MyAnna Buring) brothel and taking pitch at Emily Reid’s (Amanda Hale) hostel, only to end up endangering herself by seeking a date through the lonely hearts pages, an act that ultimately brings the force together to save her from Reid’s old foe; the creepy Victor Silver (played by David Oakes, an actor supposedly from my home town!) who was once a suspect of Reid’s for the Ripper case. Silver is running a, far-fetched, human trafficking ring, taking women to Argentina. Along with Victor are his sister Clarissa (Ruta Gedmintas), supposed brother Barnaby (Kristian Nairn) and a young girl they call Mary (Anabel Sweeney), the presence of whom tantalises the audience for she could in fact by Reid’s daughter. It is later revealed that Matilda, the daughter of Reid, was only involved in the boating accident as Reid was tracking Silver, the boat crashed and a steam pipe fell onto Reid’s chest causing the scars. His daughter and Silver both dropped from the ship and their bodies were never recovered. Eventually Silver is defeated and his Texas Chainsaw Massacre style family are arrested but, in what was one of the most impressive Chekhov’s gun situations I have seen to date, Reid finds himself deflated for Mary is not Matilda. Rose is saved again and the young girl Mary goes to live at Miss Goren’s orphanage.
Instead of focusing on the quest to free Homer Jackson and prove his innocence, the the whole ordeal seemed glazed over culminating in the simplest of solutions in the final third of the episode, something that was void of tension and left me very disappointed. I thought there would be more suspense to the storyline for it set out to be an intriguing concept but lacked the strength in a heavily plotted episode filled with several story-lines; this being potentially the most important fell into the background.
For me, the episode and sense of a finale, didn’t live up to the high expectations I had for it. The plot seemed a bit farfetched and I was disappointed how the Edmund Reid based episode didn’t convey the same sense of a personal quest as that of Drake and Jackson, sure it involved Reid searching for his daughter against a previous foe but it could not live up to the intensity and excitement of Drake’s and Jackson’s quests. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed ‘What Use Our Work?’ and was impressed by many factors of the episode yet I believe that I was expecting the show to take one step further for it was the finale; it was more teasing than tantalising. There was not enough emphasis upon Jackson’s intending hanging and there was no real suspense, for me, in any of the scenes particularly.
This episode was at its best when focusing upon the characters emotional display. The portrayal of Reid’s story of Matilda’s loss was exaggerated by the directors choice to centre solely upon Reid’s eyes rather than using a facial shot, the eyes themselves seem soulless and deep whilst the closeup gets the audience to focus on the words, crafting their own version of the event in their mind, rather than on the acting. There was a touching, although slightly creepy, scene in which a drunken Drake looks for comfort from one of Susan’s working girls, Bella (Gillian Saker), by just lying with her rather than seeking sexual fulfilment. It shows how alone Drake is, having been rejected by Rose and losing a colleague he is torn apart. Jerome Flynn’s portrayal of Drake has been fantastic throughout the series and in this episode he goes beyond the quality he has shown, simply fantastic. The best of the episode came during the opening scenes of Hobbs’ wake. The emotionally torn force shows how much they all cared for the young man and how tormented they are at his loss. Artherton’s (David Wilmot) song encapsulates the dire mood that echos throughout the episode, and as he leads the procession others join, a poignant moment that depicts Reid in tears and Drake having only alcohol to consul him.
As with all the series’ episodes, the cinematography, costumes, acting and props were magnificent, especially Long Susan’s lime green suit, you cannot fault the aesthetics of this show. Eventually the equilibrium is restored as our three heroes set off for another adventure with the show leaving questions to further our intrigue for the second series; will Reid find his daughter? What will come of his affair? Will Rose ever return Drake’s feelings? And what horrors lie in the backstreets of Ripper Streets second series portrayal Victorian London?
P.s. My copy of the series is pre-ordered, is yours?