Ripper Street series 5 episode 4 review: The Dreaming Dead

After the previous episode's reflective calm, Ripper Street series 5 delivers an action-packed, dramatic instalment...

This review contains spoilers.

5.4 The Dreaming Dead

The news of two bodies in the fishseller’s cottage soon reaches Whitechapel, thanks to Robin Sumner who fled the scene of his mother and uncle’s deaths. Reid and Jackson head straight to the cottage only to find that Dove has already scoured the place of evidence. They instead devise a plan to find the bodies, dumped in the river, in order to connect the murders to Nathaniel. Neither of them are prepared for the revelation of to what lengths Dove will stoop in order to save his brother and reputation. Meanwhile, Shine continues his pursuit of Reid, now more determined than ever when it is revealed that the pain plaguing him is likely a fatal brain tumour. With careful manipulation of Mathilda and Drum, Reid and Shine finally come face to face.

After the more sombre and melancholic pace of the last episode, The Dreaming Dead comes crashing in like a thunderbolt of action, revelations, and dramatic moments. The contrast between the two instalments makes the payoff moments in this episode all the more effective for the set-up that has gone before. Nathaniel once again retreats to the background, but his loyalty to his brother is tested after he discovers from Jackson that Dove has gone back on his promise to keep Robin safe. It’s a small moment, but a potentially crucial one.

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Of the remaining cast members, it is MyAnna Buring who seems to have suffered most from the change to the status quo. Given her prominent role in the previous two seasons, she hasn’t had the opportunity to really sink her teeth into anything. The relationship between Susan and Reid has been a fascinating one to watch develop, the little jibes between the pair of them bringing the weight of their history to the fore, but beyond that, Susan has felt relegated somewhat. Hopefully, now that she is more in control of her life (goodbye, Mrs Chudley), the series will offer a satisfying ending to what has been by turns an infuriating and compelling character.

Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rothenberg are both so good that is often easy to overlook them amidst the showier performances of the other cast members. This episode feels especially like a showcase for them both as their objectives change and their enduring friendship is tested by Reid’s determination. The scene in which they discover Robin’s body is to watch the fight go out of two men who have spent their lives battling one way or another. For Jackson, it is the realisation that his family are the most important thing for him right now; for Reid, that he has no other option but to leave Dove alone. One proves to be more successful than the other.

The climactic scene between Reid and Shine is as dramatic as the series has produced, the grey daylight a sharp contrast to the last brawl witnessed between Drake and Nathaniel. It’s a brutal clash that finds Reid and Shine more than capable of matching each other blow for blow and the sound design emphasises the rough nature of their fight. Given the way the pair have circled each other since Shine’s return to Whitechapel, it’s a satisfying ending to their battle and for Shine’s character.

It is only in these moments that the audience is privy to the full extent of his self-loathing after his defeat at the hands of Drake, of the way in which his life was ripped from him. He remained a thoroughly nasty character right until the very end, but Joseph Mawle’s performance, like that of Armstrong’s, allowed us to have a moment of sympathy for the broken man that he has become. It is also interesting to see the effect that he has had on those around him; poor Inspector Drum succumbed to Shine and Dove’s influence and has now presumably lost Mathilda after he betrayed her father whilst Thatcher has discovered his conscience and realised where his true loyalties lie.

The Dreaming Dead takes the careful chessboard set up by Reid and Dove between them and scatters the pieces. With two episodes remaining, Reid locked up, and Susan and Jackson on the run with Connor, there feels like there is still plenty of story to get through before the curtain falls on Ripper Street for good.

Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, All The Glittering Blades, here.

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This review originally appeared in October 2016.