Remember Rose? The prostitute that Drake was in love with for, like, the entirety of season one? Well, she’s now working as a waitress at a theater.
A bawdy play about Jack the Ripper is playing out onstage to the amusement of the majority of the patrons, save for a man named Walter de Souza who seems to be insulted by all the “depravity” he’s witnessing and resolves to have the place closed down.
The lights turn off during the final act of the play, and during it, Walter is snatched from his seat, and a bloody smear is left on his table partner’s shirt.
Long Susan and Homer Jackson were already at the theater, having shown up to support Rose, so it just takes Edmund Reid and Bennet Drake to show up to complete the set. Reid is disgusted that profits are being made off a play about the Ripper, but does his job regardless, questioning everyone who was there at the time of Walter’s abduction.
Because the cover of darkness was a big part of the kidnapping, the team deduces that whoever did it must have known the timing of the play very well and used that period to knock Walter unconscious and drag him out to the back where an accomplice waited. Jackson finds and tests some cigarette butts left by the accomplice – a new brand of cigarette marketed towards women.
Meanwhile, Detective Albert Flight finds the man who owns the cart they suspect was used to drag Walter off. He informs them that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping, and that his cart was stolen from him a few days ago. He didn’t report the theft out of shame of being beaten up by a crew of women.
Fred Best makes an appearance at headquarters to show Reid an advance copy of the next day’s headlines: “Missing de Souza Retracts Opposition to Councillor Cobden,” Cobden being a woman on the London City Council. Well, I suppose that answers why the guy was taken; he was a vehement sexist and women supporting Cobden – perhaps Cobden herself – saw fit to kidnap him and force him to withdraw his opposition. The team split to find out more about the Councillor.
Back at Susan’s brothel, Long Susan and Rose are having a heart to heart. Rose seems to be missing Drake’s attentions, but denies it when Susan brings him up. Once Jackson shows up, Rose leaves, and once Rose leaves, Jackson and Susan continue their episodes-long fight over giving money to Silas the unsavory landlord. Jackson needs to cut her some slack, man. She’s made a mistake and she’s obviously not over the moon about it, either – no need to rub more salt into the wounds.
In the morning, Susan pays Silas a visit and asks him to free her and Jackson from their debt, and she will give him her business. He refuses, because he’s a right little bastard, saying that the business will be his in due time the instant Susan fails to make a payment.
Councillor Cobden meets with Reid in his office. She agrees to send over lists of her supporters, so that Reid and his team may find out who’s forming that female gang. While they’re busy doing that, however, Susan’s brothel has been taken siege. A woman and a masked accomplice stab one of Susan’s clients, Eli, and when Susan and one of her girls walks in on the crime, they knock Susan out and drag her along with them.
Another prostitute, Charity, witnessed the kidnapping. She tells Reid, Drake, and a frantic Jackson everything – including that Ida, the girl who’d been with Susan when she was taken, had been part of the whole thing. She also tells them that Eli had been a frequent customer of Susan’s and usually stuck to the same girls, two of them being Rose and Bella Drake. Reid asks for Drake’s permission to interview Bella.
Susan wakes up in an unknown location, surrounded by her kidnappers who call themselves Raine and Max. Her feeble attempts at escape are thwarted, and then Raine reveals why she stabbed Eli; he’d been indirectly responsible for Max’s disfigurement – phossy jaw.
Bella and Rose are able to identify the man Max and Cobden abducted, and we’re given a full name: Thomas Eli, a lawyerman. Drake, Reid, and Flight figure out that the Matchgirls strike in 1888 is directly linked to this case, in that many of the women who’d been making the matches in poor conditions contracted phossy jaw.
Eli had prepared legal papers to settle the strike, papers that manipulated the women into agreeing to terms that would never be met. Some of the girls, championed by Cobden, refused to accept the scant settlement, and they presumably began to enact vigilante justice against the men who wronged them.
Elsewhere, Raine shows Susan a room full of the girls she’s saved from the match factory and businesses like it – girls that she then set on the path of thievery. Raine and Susan face off on whose girls have it better, but begin to connect once Raine asks Susan to help her stitch up an injury of hers. When Susan makes the mistake of mentioning Raine’s sister in an attempt at getting her to stop her revenge plot, Raine is stoked into fury, and drags Susan to witness her chop off Walter’s finger.
Well, at least we weren’t forced to actually watch the limb come off, unlike SOME OTHER SHOWS. Cough, Game of Thrones, cough. HBO has desensitized me to so much violence.
Anywho, the next day Reid and Drake come to Cobden with their suspicions of the Matchgirls. Cobden points a finger at a pair of sisters, Agnes – who has already died from Phossy jaw – and Raine Thornell.
Susan is returned to the police headquarters bruised and dirtied but otherwise unharmed. She delivers to Reid a bag with the fingers of the three men Raine kidnapped, and a ransom note stating that Susan is to bring to them a buttload of money by the next afternoon, or the old dudes will get it. Reid’s division is able to scrounge up the money, and with Susan in agreement, they begin their plan to capture Raine’s crew.
Susan meets with Raine at the arranged meeting spot, but Raine is way too clever for the po-po to handle; she dispatches several of her girls, dressed exactly as she is, to head in different directions as she escapes with the money. Susan takes it upon herself to follow, and offers her help as a friend. They return to Raine’s house, and Raine gleefully distributes the money amongst her girls.
The girls prepare to move out, but Raine is overcome by grief for her sister Agnes’ painful death, and her need for vengeance leads her to pour gasoline on the men she’s kidnapped, intending to burn them to death.
Meanwhile, Flight has managed to track down the cart that had been used in the beginning to drag off Walter, and surround the place just as Raine strikes the match. Susan tries to get through to her, begging her to cut the men loose. It seems to work; Raine gazes sadly around the room at the faces of the terrified men, then pulls a knife out from her belt. We never find out if it’s to set the men free or not, because Jackson runs into the room and shoots her in the back, assuming she meant to hurt Susan.
The police take the Matchgirls away. Later, Walter de Souza is brought to make a truce with Councillor Cobden, and instead shows his misogyny by showing his four-fingered hand off and snarling “this is how much damage women cause.” Le sigh.
The episode ends with Susan in the bath, telling Rose she’s to be her patron and support her acting career. Jackson enters and tries to tell Susan he thought he was saving her life, but Susan just wants him to leave her in peace.
Comments & Verdict
I’m confused, does this episode exist in a bubble separate from the events in “Am I Not Monstrous?” Why does there seem to be no repercussions, physical or emotional, for Joseph Merrick’s death, or for Flight falling asleep and letting Merrick die? Not that I want Flight to be fired or anything like that, mind you, since I’m enjoying having Damien Molony’s face on my screen again. But still, the lack of continuity bothered me through the entire episode.
The vigilante women-only gang story line, particularly Raine’s layered character and Neve McIntosh’s fierce portrayal of her, were the most interesting parts of the season thus far. I especially enjoyed the focus we got on Long Susan’s character, the likes of which we haven’t gotten since the first season (and even then her development was closely tied to Jackson’s.) This, overall, led to a much more compelling episode than we’ve been getting from Ripper Street.
Reid: I apologize, Councillor Cobden. He is American, and therefore lacking in manners or propriety.
Susan: You started with nothing and made all this. I started with everything and yet nothing is my own.
Jackson: Absolutely not, goddammit! She’s not going anywhere except home!
Reid: Does he speak for you?
Susan: He has never yet.
Susan: I do it for them, those girls, because perhaps this way they might find a way through this that does not involve a man and a rope.
Susan: I take orders from a man to come here. I service the needs of a man I call husband. And yet, there is another still, a man Duggin who owns me. He seeks to trade my debt for my flesh.
Susan: Life. It singularly fails to reward good intentions.