This review contains spoilers.
3.6 The Incontrovertible Truth
Ripper Street has been rattling along nicely now for a few episodes, weaving through the streets of Whitechapel as the Leman Street trio continue to deal with the fallout from the locomotive disaster that opened the series. The Incontrovertible Truth pulls all of that back for a murder mystery set entirely within the confines of the station as Reid returns to work. After a woman is murdered in a Whitechapel room, the Lady Vera Montecute, found covered in blood in the same bed, is brought in and arrested on suspicion of murder. Given her connections to the ruling classes, Reid surmises that they have until dawn to crack the case and provide incontrovertible proof that Lady Montecute was the one wielding the murder weapon.
The Incontrovertible Truth is a darkly atmospheric tale. The rain pours down outside the station throughout the entire episode, the station lit by gas lamps and half in shadow. It creates something quite claustrophobic, particularly as the characters start working through not only the case, but also the various problems that they have been having throughout the series so far. Chief amongst this is the concerns around Edmund Reid’s health and his quick descent into that focus on work which first severed his relationship with his family and now threatens to do so again.
Reid’s return may feel a little rushed, but his return to Leman Street is cleverly done within the case. It is focus and determination that fuels everyone else to solve the murder, resorting to his bullish leadership skills to keep everyone within the limits of the station. His old tactics are brought back, using Drake’s intimidation tactics, as well as Jackson’s medical skills, uniting the three of them in their work. As the night continues, various other characters wander in, bringing with them their own troubles such as Jackson’s partner, Miss Morton and her brother, Rose’s fiance who promptly smacks Bennett for his affair.
The weaving of the smaller character moments within the wider confines of the case of the week has become a much stronger element of the third series. The knotty relationship at the heart of the murder case provides an interesting reflection of the two main relationships currently featured. Here, one person of the relationship is happy to sacrifice everything for her husband and her own morbid curiosity and it can’t be long before sacrifice becomes a feature for either Drake and Rose or Jackson and Hermione. Rose is absent, but her presence also keenly felt when Drake is asked if he can guarantee her happiness for the future. Jackson and Hermione seem fairly steadfast (despite his absence at her birthday party), but with Susan’s actions yet to be discovered, it can only
However, it is the central case that proves to be the episode’s greatest strength, thanks in large part to a charismatic performance from Laura Haddock as the Lady Montecute and Charles Edwards’ cowardly turn as her husband. She’s both enigmatic and alluring, capturing the attention of Reid and the poor Constable Grace who doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. The murder she is accused of committing is an intriguing one, involving drugs, body doubles and husband-wife sexual games, but with her feigning ignorance and her husband claiming not to remember anything, it poses a unique problem.
It’s Francis Galton’s Fingerprints that provides the solution as Jackson surmises that the blood on the handle of the knife used to stab the victim could have captured a thumb print. The use of early forensics has been an ongoing characteristic throughout Ripper Street, but this is perhaps the best usage of it so far. The end of the episode is frustrating as Aberline refuses to accept the evidence that Lord Montecute is actually the guilty party, despite his wife’s false signed confession. The dramatic irony of the situation gives the audience a sense of frustration equal to that of Reid, Jackson and Drake. It also potentially provides the catalyst for Susan’s eventual discovery and downfall.
The Incontrovertible Truth is an excellent episode and perhaps the best example of everything that Ripper Street is getting right this series. Setting it over the course of one night and on one location provides the perfect backdrop for some good old-fashioned detective work and an intriguing case at its heart.
Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, Heavy Boots, here.
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