Ripper Street series 4 episode 5 review: No Wolves In Whitechapel

Jerome Flynn is exceptional as Drake in this series 4 Ripper Street episode, which traces a corruption at the heart of Whitechapel...

This review contains spoilers.

4.5 No Wolves In Whitechapel

After seeing Susan at her window, Rose becomes consumed by the knowledge that the Whitechapel murderess is still alive and intent on coming back for her son. However, Rose is the sole witness to Susan’s appearance so Drake does what any self-respecting Victorian husband would do and assumes his wife is going mad. His private life isn’t the only thing that’s rocking violently. The murder of Thomas Gower is swiftly discovered by the people of Whitechapel and a bitemark on the body leads Jackson to the conclusion that the Whitechapel Golem didn’t die with Isaac Bloom after all. When another body is brought to the station, bearing the Golem’s hallmarks, Lehman Street is thrown into chaos as Reid realises Drake’s seemingly watertight case against Isaac Bloom points to a corruption running through the very heart of the police service.

There were a few particularly lovely technical flourishes in this week’s instalment, particularly during Gower’s postmortem. The camera was at its most kinetic, whirling round the room and barely settling on anyone for too long to reflect the agitated state that another Golem killing had whipped our detectives into.That kind of dizzying effect permeated much of the episode, giving it an unsettling feel of detachment. Rose and Drake’s confrontation outside the police station felt fittingly like an intrusion on the workings of Lehman Street, taking place against a tableau of assembled lookers on. It was a clash of the public police officer and the domestic husband and in that moment, Drake looked like a man so out of control of his own life that he couldn’t quite believe it was all happening in front of his colleagues.

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Drake’s control, or rather the increasing lack of it, is the driving focus of No Wolves In Whitechapel. As we’ve seen throughout the series so far, he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his perceived authority, particularly in front of Reid who has undermined him at several points, and the killing of Thomas Gower and another killing later in the episode stand as very public examples of his failings. Jerome Flynn’s performance was exceptional, seeming to physically shrink as Drake’s authority becomes weaker and weaker over the course of the episode. By the time he tries to re-assert himself to Reid over the discussion of Augustus Dove, he feels almost inconsequential as the pressure continues to mount.

The comparisons between the Ripper and the Golem also build this pressure on Drake as well as drawing attention obliquely to Reid’s own lack of success in solving the previous infamous murders. I’ve been critical in the past of the way in which Ripper Street has used the world’s most famous serial killer as a fast way into this world, a hook on which to draw an audience in without really doing anything with it. Here, the references are much more successful, building into the general darkness around Whitechapel that has formed much of the undercurrent of the last few episodes. The shadow of the Ripper stands long over the detectives, a reminder of the shame that follows in the wake of failing to keep the people of Whitechapel safe. The angry mob that arrives on the steps of the station with a new Golem victim is a howling echo of the fear that once held sway and has returned again.

However, the clever trick here is that we now know who the Golem is, an opportunity not afforded to us by the Ripper case (despite various investigative efforts). The first episode drew a link between Croker and Dove, but it was left to linger until now when we learn that presumably Dove has been covering up the shadowy Nathaniel’s vicious crimes. Dove’s rise to power is built on the case of Isaac Bloom, framed for Ratowsky’s murder, something which also made Drake’s reputation. Jackson has worked it out, but can only share what he knows by also sharing how he came to be at the Customs House on the night of the theft. Everyone who has that knowledge is left with an impossible dilemma; attempt to keep Nathaniel at bay or stop him publicly, but in doing so, reveal the corruption at the heart of the supposedly squeaky clean and incorruptible Whitechapel police.

It’s an intriguing continuation of the themes of the series so far, the idea that the best of intentions can lead to the most horrible of choices to make. Even the people supposed to protect Whitechapel are complicit in its violence. The move back to the over-arching narrative rather than continuing with another murder of the week gives this episode a greater strength, its consequences for the characters more far-reaching and dangerous than the crimes they’ve faced in the past.

This review was originally posted in February 2016.

Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, Men Of Iron, Men Of Smoke, here.

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