Last night we saw the penultimate episode of Ripper Street unfold, and what a tragic day it was for Whitechapel’s H Division. An ominous episode, was A Man Of My Company, that was littered with twists and secrecy focused around the mysterious past of Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) and his companion and love, Long Susan (MyAnna Buring).
The sixth episode, Tournament Of Shadows, questioned the identity of Homer Jackson, as Constantine claimed he was not who he says and that he was not a Pinkerton. Also the ring, inscribed with the name of Matthew Judge, that appeared in the second episode (In My Protection) pointed to Jackson being this man Judge, the man whom the Pinkerton’s have been searching for. The situation is exacerbated at the opening of ‘A Man of My Company’ when an American businessman Theodore P. Swift (Ian McElhinney, another actor pulled out of the Game of Thrones cast: Ser Barristan Selmy) arrives in London looking to complete the acquisition of the struggling transatlantic shipping company, Argentine Marine. The company is run by Mr. Bruton (Luke Allen-Gale) and his second in command Joshua Fields (Rod Hallett). The business is failing as Bruton looks to an engineer as a final hope, believing the marine engineer Samuel Fanthorpe can design a new engine which would significantly decrease the time it takes Bruton’s vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean and thus improve the companies status and in turn its revenue and profit. The acquisition of the company is not Swift’s only concern though, surrounded by a barrel of rifles and a fleet of Pinkerton agents, including the dastardly Frank Goodnight (Edoardo Ballerini), who aim to trace Long Susan and Captain Homer Jackson/Matthew Judge, needless to say their fates were not looking bright.
The structure of A Man Of My Company revolved around several plot lines which ultimately concluded together in the finale. Whilst we had Long Susan and Jackson/Judge’s attempt to be unearthed and Mr. Goodnight’s search for the duo, the Star reporter Fred Best (David Dawson) returned and was shown to have caused the Pinkerton’s arrival after one of his articles, that pictured Long Susan, had made its way to America and informed the Pinkerton’s of her location. Alongside these plots we saw DI Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and DS Drake (Jerome Flynn) drag another body from the Thames and it is revealed to be that of Mr. Bruton’s engineer Samuel Fanthorpe, having had his spinal cord cut to paralyse him then being dumped in the river. Their journey of investigation leads them to question the actions of Swift as he has proposed a shareholder buyout of the company, having rising star Dick Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell) placed on the tail of Fanthorpe’s wife Martha, something I will resume discussing later. It was the balance of Reid’s ignorance to the situation that allowed for the development of the other plot lines.
The episode had an ulterior motive compared to the usual style of police procedurals, we basically knew the culprit of the murder from the start but that was not the important strand of narrative, the episode was focused on Jackson’s past indiscretions and his daunting present situation. All the separate plots were fantastically linked, with little information being given to each character but for the omniscient status as the viewer, we knew all and were waiting for the characters to come to the same conclusions.
The portrayal of tension between the Pinkerton’s and Reid’s H Division was marvellous, each sides disgust for the other was an intricate part of the episodes ability to build tension, beginning when Reid and Drake approached Swift over the death of Fanthorpe. In this scene there was a present nervousness in the air, as the slimy Swift was able to exonerate himself and the Pinkerton’s of any wrong doing for they were traveling at the estimated time of death. There was some fantastic interplay between the two sides; one scene in which Reid refused to give Goodnight the location of Long Susan, stating; “We would gladly be of service to you but we currently lack the means.” That raised a smile from me. There was also some great coded dialogue between Jackson and Goodnight that alluded to their shared past and Jackson possibly having killed the brother of his former friend. It takes near the whole episode for his crimes to be revealed and to be honest, it is a bit anti-climatical compared with the scale of what I had believed it to be (something along the lines to the bombing in Chicago during the trade strikes alluded to in the previous episode). The acting of the entire cast was something to behold, once again, from the intimidatingly brutal Goodnight to the charismatic Jackson, the portrayal was enticing to say the least, with some of the set pieces really drawing upon the emotions and morals of the viewers (in my eyes the scenes involving the Pinkerton invasion of the brothel and H Divisions later assault upon the Pinkerton’s and Reid’s face-off with Goodnight – I was on the supporting side for Reid having pulled the trigger no matter what would have come of the Inspectors integrity).
The most moving scene though (if you have not scene the episode I beg you to skip this paragraph for it contains the biggest spoiler of the series!!) had to come with the fate of Hobbs…poor young Hobbs. With a future as bright as Edmund Reid’s present, the face of a new generation of officers, I did not expect to see what I did. When he came to face Goodnight we all knew Hobbs wouldn’t fare too well but I never expected the outcome and its completely brutal nature. Having been paralysed I still expected someone to save the young PC, Reid miraculously appearing with Drake to seize the villain. Up to the point on the river bank I was still believing, wholeheartedly believing, that someone would appear to stop Goodnight; the end result was, for me, the biggest shock of the series and the most endearing. We are used to having Hobbs pop up with a vital clue in the climax, that he did again with the ship model in his hand and the cadaveric spasm his body went through in the cold water of the Thames, but still it was the saddest day for all the characters (and viewers alike). The resulting emotional discharge that lead H division to invade the location of the Pinkerton’s and even Jackson’s last words to Goodnight showed what the young PC meant to the entire force. It was so unexpected and untimely yet stands the show apart from others, the brave writing for an equally brave series.
The climax of the episode, the long awaited duel (literal duel) between Jackson/Judge and Goodnight, was one that seemed a bit comical and a cliché of Americanism and the Wild West but for me it did work in the context of the show and the character of Jackson. For me, it was the hollowness felt at the shows end when once again it is shown the money equals power and power offers sanctuary, even to those who have had a hand in the death of three people, an abduction and also the assault upon many women. The final twist of the knife came when Swift ultimately won with the acquisition of what he needed, another kick in the teeth for justice. as for the final scene, it sets the final episode as perhaps the most important and intriguing; Goodnight’s final laugh I suppose.
The episode was one of the best in the series I believe, thew multiple strands and separate character arcs all worked well and maintained my attention. The underlying ominous tone and darkness throughout the episode was definitely welcomed and underpinned by the episodes focus on identity; that of Fanthorpe’s killer, the true architect behind the engine and the question of who Homer Jackson is and what has he done. Also the portrayal of gruesome acts was not missed, the spinal cuts and ear severing offered gore to those who desired it. Overall, the Jackson focused episode had so many fantastic individual set-pieces and a complete story that drove intrigue and emotion reactions from the characters and viewers alike; definitely a four star performance.
This article was first posted on February 18, 2013