Ripper Street Series 2 Episode 3 – ‘Become Man’.

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I fell asleep last night before this episode started so I didn’t get a chance to catch up with it till now. Obvious episode spoilers contained.

The premise of this episode seemed a bit flat. The basic story was the abduction of a member of the city council, and the rush to discover the truth on behalf of the inspectors.
To begin with, we are introduced to a music hall scene. One man, a member of the London County Council, finds the display of the cavorting women onstage disgusting and swears that he will have the music hall closed down.

The counsellor is abducted and it is up to the police inspectors to discover clues. In this episode, the female characters are more developed and not just there to slake the lusts of the male characters. Their stories are more complex, and we get to see Susan (played by Myanna Buring) have more screen time and develop her story further also. This is also the episode that made me appreciate the American policeman, Jackson, a little more. Not for any reason or plot point, just because the actor plays him well.

Reid and the other inspectors discover that a night soil (excrement) cart was stolen. It is later discovered it was stolen by a group of women. I think the way the story usually works in these episodes is that there are many threads of a story and many of them are red herrings. You focus your attention on different storylines (WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POO CART?) and you don’t notice any other storylines approach until they do – in the dark way which Ripper Street excels in.

It is later revealed that the abducted man, Walter de Souza, opposed the work of Jane Cobden who was the voice of the oppressed women taken advantage of by men. She was also the first female member of the London County Council. Walter was a misogynist (disliked women) so that was more reason for his hatred and the reason of his abduction.

Rose, one of the prostitutes who was a big part of storylines in series 1, has buried feelings for Drake who is married to Bella. Her feelings are reduced mostly to longing glances at the older policeman, but it would be too complicated in my opinion for their unrequited love to be explored further.
Susan always believed that she was independent of a man but this episode shows that she is far from independent as she had believed. She takes orders from a policeman, lives with another man as his wife and is owned by another man who is keen for her debts to be settled by ways other than monetary ways. Even she profits from the girls – she takes a percentage of their earnings despite her claims they are well treated.

As previously mentioned, Jane Cobden’s supporters are women who have been misused by men in various ways. And soon murders begin to take place within the brothel, and important men such as lawyers are murdered. A brick is thrown through the window to act as a diversion. When I first saw the scene, I thought they threw a brownie through the window. As in a chocolate brownie. Not a sprite or a girl guide. Anyway, I digress.

Susan has been abducted and Jackson is worried for her safety. The audience is then brought deeper and deeper into the intriguing story. The female abductors are members of the group overseen by Raine, a woman with her own personal turmoil. When watching the episode, I thought Raine and Jane Cobden were the same woman – so I will apologize now just in case the paragraphs from now on are muddled. One of the women who abducted Susan reveals that she has a horrifying facial disfigurement.

Bella Drake is questioned about a man the police are trying to find. Even if at this point she is respectably married, at one point she was a prostitute in Susan’s brothel back in Series 1. They discuss the man who the police are looking for, and the women identify him due to his strange sexual habits.

The episode then brings up the issue of phossy jaw, a condition that came about because match girls working in the factories were affected by the matches and they developed severe facial disfigurement due to the phosphorus in the matches they produced. Raine was trying to help the affected women to recover from their ordeal at the hands of greedy men and bosses. Raine has her own scars, and can understand the women she helps. She also seeks murderous revenge on the men.

This results in several fingers being sliced off and Susan is choked by Raine, although the latter woman is shot dead by Jackson.
All in all, I was not keen on the plot when I first watched it but it turned out to be a well-fleshed episode which gives the women a chance to speak because in the episodes it is usually the men hogging all the scenes and the only women in it are prostitutes. The story will always try to weave relevant historical context in to it. No matter what the episode is about. Matthew Macfayden is again flawless as Edmund Reid. However, my only complaint on the episode is that I expected the evil policeman who killed Merrick in the previous episode to make another appearance because the storyline looked like it was heading that way.

And one more thing. I would love to have the series opening credits music as a ring tone on my phone.

MY RATING: 4.5 / 5.

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