TV Review: Ripper Street Episode 1.5, ‘The Weight Of One Man’s Heart’

Finally, Ripper Street had an episode entirely dedicated to my favourite character, Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn). Drake usually...

Stu Whittaker

Contributor

Ripper Street

Finally, Ripper Street had an episode entirely dedicated to my favourite character, Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn). Drake usually takes his place as DI Edmund Reid’s (Matthew Macfadyen) right hand man, the muscle to Reid’s intellect, but this week he was liberated from his position behind Reid, he was at the forefront of the episode. It revolves around Drake’s secret pasts, hinted in the second episode (In My Protection) as being rooted in Egypt, and a traumatising event that took place whilst he was there.

The episode opened with the intercut shots of Drake shaving and applying aftershave, ready to go on a date with the prostitute Rose (Charlene McKenna), and the scene of a man preparing his rifle in a military grade routine of precision and efficiency. At the end of the sequence the gunman takes aim at his target – the horse pulling a carriage. He kills the horse with a single shot between the eyes, obviously this man must be an experienced sharpshooter and in this instance I believed he must be of a military background but had yet to link it to Drakes past.

The shooting is only the first stage of the assault though, smoke bombs are set off around the carriage and men with chloroform cloths subdue the guards. Drake’s segment ends with his approach to Rose in the street, handing her the flowers of her name and stating the rather cheesy double-entendre, “There is nothing more lovely than a rose.”

Drake’s infatuation with Rose has occurred throughout the series and it seemed that one day the two may live happily together. Their date spans the Victorian streets, Rose confides in Drake that she dreams of being an actress like a girl she once knew, but would be in need of a benefactor, this I felt was not a hint for her extorting money from the Sergeant for her own gains, like DI Reid and Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) would suggest, but instead just Rose vocalising her whimsical dreams.

Rose and Drake’s frolic is abruptly ended when the young PC Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell) tells the Sergeant that he has been summoned for by his DI to look over the scene of the carriage robbery which we are told is that of an Insurance firm. The safe at the back had been blown open by a substance which was not black powder (gunpowder). Jackson is given the task with deducing the substance used to open the safe and the ballistic implications. Having decapitated the horse, Jackson removes the bullet from the horse head in his ‘dead room’ and finds that it is from a Whitworth rifle, this information combined with the knowledge that the explosive was military grade, our protagonists know they are dealing with a dangerous threat.

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Throughout the episode Reid’s allegiance is questioned and strained; from Reid and Jackson’s warnings over his attraction towards Rose, their belief that she is simply seeking money from the Sergeant (“[she will be] deep in eye as long as [she is] deep in the pocket”), to the return of his military Colonel Madoc Faulkner (the fantastic Iain Glen who works upon Game of Thrones as Ser Jorah Mormont alongside Jerome Flynn who plays Bronn). Drake obviously holds much respect and admiration for Faulkner who seems to be the anti-Reid yet still another man who Drake had followed whole-heartedly and with an unflinching honour. It is revealed early on that Faulkner is the leader of the thieves, a group of angry and destitute former soldiers who are disillusioned with the United Kingdom due to their treatment following their sacrifices at war. Drake’s past is revealed to be steeped in the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian war including the ptsd like visions of horrific woundings by gun fire.

Drake’s loyalty to the police force is placed under much pressure throughout the episode, placed between old loyalties and new friends who are, at this time, questioning Drake’s infatuation with Rose and her moral standings. Reid’s concern over Rose’s motives towards Drake seem unfortunately to be true as we are shown a scene of Rose and Jackson in bed together, with her explaining that she and Drake have yet to have sex and that he is not the ideal for her.

Faulkner knows Reid’s reservations towards the possible relationship between his Sergeant and the prostitute and uses a supporting stance to alter Drake’s allegiance from Reid to him and his thieves. Faulkner in fact needs Drake and his status to infiltrate the Royal Mint to steal the Queen’s gold and destroy the medals that are given to soldiers, deeming them as insufficient a reward for their sacrifices and the affects that war has upon the men. Drake’s stance is put under more strain when he begins to experience more flashback to his war days and is reminded of his status as the ‘scourge of the goddess’. What seems to tip the scales for Drake is the revelation that Jackson has been seeking the services of Rose, to which Drake throws Jackson across the room, and his realisation that he is simply Reid’s “grunt”, the heavy handed brute.

Drake goes against everything we have come to respect about him and joins Faulkner to rob the Mint. It is only when one of his fellow soldiers kills a hostage that Drake regains his moral stance, taking the mans weapon and telling them that they can leave but must not take the gold. At this point Drake’s past in Egypt is truly revealed; the story that has garnered him so much respect saw him cut off from his troop and when surrounded he defeated a troop single-handedly and was found by Faulkner in the morning screaming in the dunes and surrounded by the limbs of those who had opposed him. Drake is soon overpowered but manages to foil the plot of destroying the medals in time for Reid, Jackson and the police force to arrive.

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There is a short standoff that culminates in Jackson using the Whitworth rifle to free Drake and allow him, like in the story of his days in the army, to defeat his remaining enemies single-handedly, or so it seems as the wounded Faulkner places a rifle to Drakes throat, as Drake does the same to him. The tense standoff sees Drake explain that he is no longer the same man he was during the war and pleads with Faulkner to surrender stating, “I am not your Sergeant anymore,” to which Faulkner concedes. Faulkner lies to Reid and claims that Drake was forced to do these deeds against his will, absolving him of the guilt, before killing himself. Reid does not question Drake’s involvement rather absolving him of guilt as well.

This episode was fantastic and offered a stark distance from the usual police procedural narration, instead focusing on emotion and character development. For weeks we have wondered what lies in the pasts of our three protagonists, Reid, Drake and Jackson, and Drake’s is the first to be fully explained, in an excellent and exciting fashion I must add. Drake’s self-imposed reserved manner is shown to be a veil to hide the horrors of what he saw and what he did during the Anglo-Egyptain war, providing an interesting angle for the character and viewer alike as we saw the protagonist struggle with his morals considering the plight and mistreatment of his brothers of war and the trust and upstanding nature of his new life as a DS in Whitechapel’s H Division.

Sadly, at the end of the episode Drake approaches Rose and offers to marry her, but from what she has told Jackson during the episode we know the optimistic Drake will not have his happy ending. Rose tells him that she is not prepared to be the housewife of a ‘bobbie’ but would like to remain friends. Drake is obviously heartbroken but is offered kind words from Jackson that are full of support and hope claiming, “No man’s heartaches forever, I promise you,” which mirrors his own sentiment and care for Drake earlier in the episode when he pleads to Rose to turn Drake down gently. In the final scene we see Drake remove two colourful lovebirds, that he and Rose came across at the start of the episode, from their cage giving them their freedom and then blowing a solitary feather from his palm, offering the belief that Drake will be fine and will overcome his heartache.

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As with previous episodes, The Weight of One Man’s Heart was filled with beautiful cinematography and dialogue whilst being served by fantastic acting from the cast. The editing of Drake’s flash back segments deserve praise, in a scene (ala Tom Hank’s shell shock in the latter stages of Saving Private Ryan) that obscures diegetic sound by exaggerating the silences and placing emphasis on the striking giggles of a woman, the eery accordion being played and the cries of the birds being sold on the street, all accompanied by a high pitch ringing sound and a haunting blueish tint to the shot. One example of the fantastic dialogue was a humourous statement by the bird salesman who likes Drakes name to the term for a male duck and tells the Sergeant that he and the birds the man sells are “practically cousins.”

The interplay between Jerome Flynn and Iain Glen was fantastic and believable in terms of their old friendship, it is a shame the two are not require to interact in Game of Thrones. Jerome Flynn does come into his own in this episode, he is a fantastic actor as is the enchanting yet intimidating figure of Glen’s Faulkner, a mentor type who reminded me of Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. Another character that I really like in the series is PC Hobbss, the young policeman who is given a lot of footwork but provides vital information to the lead characters; this week he was tasked with finding out the potential target of the thieves with only Sergeant Artherton’s strong Turkish coffee to aide him.

Jonathan Barnwell seems to have been a fantastic find for Ripper Street and portrays the character of Hobbs with a grace of realism that brings the idea of a cautious yet optimistic young officer trying to forge his way into the career, that is burdened with the high crime of the Victorian era and the legacy of Jack the Ripper, to life.

So that’s Drake’s past explained and with only three more episodes left in the series it is only a matter of time before Captain Jackson’s and DI Reid’s sordid pasts come back to haunt them.

 

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