Amazon Prime Video UK TV review: Ripper Street Season 4, Episode 6 (No Wolves in Whitechapel)
Ivan Radford | On 14, Feb 2016
Read our interview with Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rothenberg here.
Episode 6 of Ripper Street Season 4 airs on BBC Two at 10pm on 12th September. This is a spoiler-free review.
After last week’s relatively low-key character study of Reid and Drake, Episode 6 pits the two directly head-to-head. It’s anybody’s guess who will come out on top.
Season 4 of Ripper Street started in grand style, introducing us to a new, modern London, complete with bad guys, migrants and shifting power dynamics. All of that meant one thing: a whole heap of loose ends. While we have since followed the aftermath of Long Susan’s rescue from the gallows by the gallant Captain Jackson, the show has allowed the other big mysteries to gently simmer in the background: Who is this Golem monster stalking the streets? Was Isaac Bloom really guilty? And what is Abel Croker up to?
No Wolves in Whitechapel drags them all kicking and screaming into the light and the result is a scorcher of an episode, which sees Drake under more pressure than ever. If the first half this fourth run has given Adam Rothenberg a chance to take centre-stage, this episode turns the spotlight firmly on Jerome Flynn, as his Whitechapel chief is pushed to his very limits.
On the personal front, he’s got Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) questioning the verdict of Bloom’s guilt, as he continues to investigate the supposedly solved killing of the rabbi. That’s the perfect excuse for a close-up of bite marks in the dead body, but Richard Warlow once again proves his series is brainy as well as bloody: when Reid and Drake clash over the Inspector’s findings, we’re treated to a rapid tour through all the evidence and witnesses, as both policemen plod through their past tracks.
It’s a cracking sequence, full of dramatic tension and good-old detective work. After all, with every old decision cast into new light, the relationship between the two friends becomes increasingly strained; if Macfadyen easily slipped back into the Whitechapel routine at first, it’s become increasingly clear that he’s not one to be second-in-command, especially as he begins to suspect corruption further up the chain of authority. It was a joy to see the pair gently interacting last week, debating the morality of young Thomas Gower – who once again brings them together – but their conflict is no longer veiled, as each man explicitly challenges the other.
But that’s not all Drake’s got on his plate. On the personal front, he now has to face the fallout of Rose’s sighting of Susan last week. Where that might once have sent Bennet charging into the fray to unmask a cover-up, it’s telling just how much his new position weighs upon him that his initial instinct is to doubt her entirely. That un-Drake-like move only drives the couple apart – she, fearful for her son’s safety and he, questioning her sanity.
Charlene McKenna is wonderful here, both hysterical and heart-wrenchingly correct in her conviction – and, as we know she’s right, her part is only set to become even bigger as the series continues. (One of the secrets to the show’s longevity is this ability to really flesh out its secondary leads. Case in point: Matthew Lewis’ Drum, whose courting of Reid’s daughter remains both cute and hilarious.) Jerome Flynn, meanwhile, has never been better, his face visibly sagging with the crap being poured down upon him.
And what of Long Susan? If the balance between the two narrative strands has weakened in recent weeks, Warlow’s right back at his peak here, expertly juggling the main plots; every development impacts the other half of the story, just as it also impacts our characters. And so Jackson and Susan spring into action to carry out their plan to steal some pricey pottery to fund a getaway with their son – and, while another show might have left us waiting for this spectacle, Ripper Street charges into the set piece right at the end of the episode, that rushed pacing reinforcing the emotional heft of the earlier scenes.
By committing the crime, though, our fugitives tie themselves closer to Abel Croker, making it harder and and harder to escape his clutches. David Threlfall remains marvellous as the cackling villain, running about with just enough energy to make him sinister but never enough to turn him into a pantomime figure. His ruthlessness becomes clearer, as things take a turn for the violent. Jackson, by contrast, shows his smarts by working out the Bloom case from a conveniently-placed apple, but is rendered powerless by his compromised position to say anything to Reid or Drake – a significant turnaround from the beginning of the season, when he was the one calling the shots.
Five episodes into Season 5 and the pieces are moving now at one hell of a lick, but overhanging it all is the knowledge that it won’t end well. Richard Warlow, after all, isn’t Richard Curtis. Mathilda and Drummond may have a long, romantic life ahead, but Susan, surely, must die in the end – once discovered, it’s hard to imagine how she would be cleared of her crimes. Jackson, too, is a guilty man. But it’s Drake who is the one set for the ultimate downfall: Reid had a tragic season last year, but Bennet is a tragic figure overall. A permanent talisman of bad luck, he got his happy ending at the start of Season 4 (married to Rose, head of Whitechapel) and look how that’s turned out. With the Golem’s gnashers still on the loose, Reid applying pressure from below, and Rose unravelling on the sidelines, how long until Drake’s seemingly moral superiors start to take bites out of him too?
Season 4 of Ripper Street is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. Seasons 1 to 3 are also available.