Saturday, 19 September 2015

Ripper Street - Dramatic Farewell to Whitechapel.


Ripper Street reached it's climax with one of the most gripping, violent and ultimately emotionally satisfying, hours I have ever spent in Whitechapel with my good friends, Reid, Drake, Jackson and Abberline. Sadly it seems it might be the last.

The catalyst for all the horrors of this series, the architect of all the sorrow is of course Theodore Swift, played with cold calculation and steely evil eyes by Ian McElhinney, whose bearer bonds Long Susan formerly known as Caitlyn stole. Estranged Husband Matthew and she had run away to start a life together away from the Pall of his plans and machinations that normally leave practically everyone dead.

The episode begins with Chief Inspector Fredrick Abberline demanding Reid's Warrant card now that his head wound has left him inflicted with mind numbing migraine headaches, rendering him unable to discharge his duty as servant of the crown. Reid in an effort to delay the inevitable,draws them back across the years to the investigation of the first Jack The Ripper Murder and creating parallels with the current darkness threatening the streets of Whitechapel.

Fred Best, the porcelain eared Hack who has been chasing down Swift ever since he lost his ear, is collecting the final strands of the complicated  tapestry that reveals the true depth of everyone's involvement in this amazing story. He meets with the ill- fated Mr Ackerman, a fellow reporter who provides the pieces needed but sadly it meant his untimely death at the vicious and violent hands of Swift and his cronies. 

Homer Jackson is now certain that Susan shot Reid. His forensic work in matching fingerprints from the gun is worthy of any modern criminalist.

Bennett Drake is also certain that Susan is responsible for what happened to Reid. He, Reid and Grace swoop on the Obsidian estate and rip (rather fittingly) the place  apart in search of the remaining bearer bonds. Homer confronts her but the news of an impending Swiftlet halts him in his tracks.

Susan is reaping the whirlwind of her misdeeds and doing her best to leave even the smallest legacy of good.

Fred runs, but Homer finds him before Reid and Drake and rest of the boys in blue and gives him sanctuary at his surgery where Miss Morton happens upon them! Left with Fred for the time it took to go and see Susan, the reporter  has used his time well. She knows about Caitlin and he admits that he has spent all the time running about after her trying to save her and tells Miss Morton about the baby.

One of the best scenes of the episode is the showdown between  Bennett and Homer where, in an episode filled with pretty gratuitous violence, the fight between them is typical of two men who actually care a great deal for each other, almost Slapstick and knowing exactly just how much damage both men can do with fists, neither are mortally injured. 

Unfortunately poor Fred is not so lucky, caught and toured by Swift, he puts up a brave fight, arrogant to the last but sadly the cream of British weaponry proves his undoing. Reid comes to collect his erstwhile boys for the conclusion of this story.  To seek out his murderer. This final hit on the heart of Whitechapel galvanises our main players into audacious action..

Reid finally confronts Susan /Caitlin , in one of the most understated and delicately played scenes I have seen between them. In some ways he is just pleased to have untangled the threads that lead from Theodore Swift to bearer bonds, train robbery and wreck, ruined businesses, the discovery of a child thought long lost; and bullets straying. Those missed shots allowed Reid a chance at a life and not the empty existence of the intervening years, filled so assiduously with correct practice, moralising and mental breakdown. Although changed forever, the spark once again bright and at last hopeful. Reid offers Susan a way to cleanse her soul, if not her charge sheet. He offers her his forgiveness a thing she needs more than freedom.

All the friends of Whitechapel unite one final time to deal with Theodore Swift once and for all. His prison cell, one of his own making for being such a conniving evil man. It is genius! It is also erring just on the side of darkly macabre, this is Ripper Street after all! 

He  will not be able to wriggle out of this one with an expensive lawyer. His fate pretty much sealed the minute a door clanks shut.

And so begins a transition for everyone we have learnt to love in Leman Street and its surrounds. Not a life has been left untouched by these events. Edmund Reid has caught and brought justice on his last villain. 

Caitlin and Matthew, Susan and Homer no longer, are finally free of Swifts taint, but at an awfully high price. Their fate is uncertain, although I like to think that Matthew is treated with leniency as he has actually committed no crime once the evidence was known and let us not forget the awful events that led Reid to Run earlier in the season. 

The decision lies with Bennet Drake, (always my favourite character) as to what to do and as the decision burdens him, I  know he will give it due consideration. He at least gets his girl and makes an honest woman of her. 

Life turns and new chapters begin, not least for Edmund and Matilda whose suffering has been the most innocent and the most emotionally damaging. Together by the seaside they can help each other to heal.

This last season has been riotous ride and I feel oddly deflated after such an onslaught of visual violence and emotional turmoil. The Series had returned to it's brilliant origins, the plot was tight and taut, the story circling back to the great teaming of these three brilliant core characters, whose approaches to crime were so different and yet so complimentary. The deep divisions of past seasons  are forded and permanently bridged. 

The  excellent acting talents of Matthew McFadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg have been showcased by the subtlety and rawness of all the performances, each man travelling bitter roads before reaching resolution. Support was strong with all characters feeling authentic. No one played their part as a trope or stereotype, all were first and foremost humans strongly believing in the rightness of their actions, their motivations grounded in their morality, however flawed it seemed to us the viewer.

The Shading of the series was better this season with lightness and humour running alongside high melodrama and very gratuitous violence. I found some a little much for my taste, but it never detracted from the greatness of the acting on display. 

I had been trying to place why it was that Ripper Street felt so different to other shows and in this the final episode, I think I can describe it as a cadence and rhythm of language rarely seen in present day  costume drama. There was little effort to modernise and the conversation was poetic and lyrical, like when Shakespeare is performed well, it was a different structure of speech, but utterly relatable and appropriate to the characters speaking it.

Like the program itself, I leave you with the words of  the obituary written by Fred Best for the ailing Reid ... Thankfully never used for it's original purpose.

London will remember him for this, that he was the detective who, along with Detective Inspector Frederick  Abberline, led the pursuit of the man, we at The Star named Jack the Ripper. While this streets might in the years since have found some measure of recovery, it is this obituarists fear that Edmund Reid did not.  

If there is Justice where he now walks, it might be that the care he wore so heavily will be lifted from him. Those that knew him, those that did not, who may have only seen him stride past in pursuit of whatever villainy beset him that day, we might offer a prayer for himand this might be a a prayer for Peace, for his Peace.

We the Children of the East, of the dock sides , highways, rookeries and byways, We pray for the Peace of Edmund Reid.

A fitting goodbye . 


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