Amazon TV review: Ripper Street Season 3, Episode 7
Uneven narrative arc6
Ivan Radford | On 19, Dec 2014
New episodes of Ripper Street Season 3 are added exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video every Friday.
Warning: If you haven’t seen any of Season 3, this will contain spoilers.
“Who would be a woman? Who would be a wife?”
After last week’s return to normal duty for Reid, this week sees him reminded of his responsibilities as a parent. While he’s off getting caught up in a backstreet abortion racket, his daughter, Mathilda, is running off to the station unchaperoned.
Reid’s response is, naturally, to get annoyed – in a post-Jack the Ripper age, girls wandering the streets of London is unthinkable to him – and then, inevitably, to call in Jane Cobden. It’s a pleasure to see Leanne Best’s councillor once again, not least because she’s one of the few who can talk sense into our Detective Inspector.
“You must forget this notion that the souls of Whitechapel depend upon you,” she snaps, after he presumes that she’ll be his babysitter. “In truth, there is only one.”
It’s a frustrating moment in what has been a fantastic season, as Richard Warlow’s writing team appear to do a U-turn: after five episodes that drove us towards Reid’s ultimate departure – through retirement or death – last week pulled a surprise reverse to instead rekindle his conviction in H Division’s campaign against the vices of London. Now, it seems, we’re back on the path we were before, driving Reid towards a final decision: family or fighting the good fight.
It’s a mildly head-spinning change of direction, but Episode 7 of Ripper Street Season 3 compensates by spending a solid amount of time away from Reid – and giving some much-needed screen time to its ample female cast.
While good old Uncle Bennett steps in with strawberry ices – Jerome Flynn is every bit the waffle cone of the show, containing even the messiest plot turns with a sugary roughness – women getting abortions are dropping all over the place.
The team’s investigations into the mysterious ablutions used to treat the patients might seem the perfect fit for Captain Jackson and his scientific methods, but the consequences they carry are of bigger concern to his counterpart, Dr. Frayn. Sherlock’s Louise Brealey more than rises to the plate when the script lands in front of her, ready for a home run. If services are being offered poorly to the women of Whitechapel, shouldn’t Obsidian be doing better by the women?
That dilemma leads us right into Long Susan’s backyard, which is getting bigger by the week. Ever since MyAnna Buring pulled the trigger on Reid and cast aside Capshaw, the question of how far she’s willing to go has been a genuinely fascinating enigma to behold: stretched out across the season superbly, she’s not only the most complex her character has ever been, but the best villain in show’s history.
Susan swans about London with all the ambition of a bad guy in a Bond film, refusing to capitulate to the posh-capped men around her, especially when they try to make a quick buck at the expense of the poor; Buring laps up the look on mens’ faces as she swans into a blokes-only club to do her thing.
That balance between male and female winds up the central point of the whole episode – underlined by its title, Life Free, Live True. “For fangs, I have none, but I have a mind and it is sharper and cleaner than any tooth, any blade,” declares Buring, the kind of woman you can imagine taking after her father. On the other side of the coin lies Reid, who is finding desperately that he needs to be a mother as well as a cop.
Everything fees back into that central juxtaposition of gender, from questions of abortion and contraception to abstinence and even sterilisation. In an age where sex is still a cause of uneven social standing, it’s a topical, satisfyingly meaty discussion of equality and individuality. Everyone in this ever-changing town has an identity crisis – and whether it’s Rose, who’s panicked about the notion of becoming someone’s wife, or Blake, who is shocked by his own apparent desire to play the dominant husband, the question is the same. Who would be a woman?
You can watch Ripper Street Season 3 online in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. Or, if you want unlimited free delivery in the UK, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership. Seasons 1 and 2 of Ripper Street are available too.