Ripper Street series 5 episode 5 review: A Last Good Act

Ripper Street's penultimate ever episode shows just how far this show has come over the course of five seasons...

This review contains spoilers.

5.5 A Last Good Act

Jedediah Shine lies dead in an opium den, Reid is locked in Leman Street, and Jackson and Susan are preparing to make their escape. However, Reid isn’t quite done with Dove just yet and recruits Thatcher to track down the body of Robin Sumner in order to provide proof of Dove’s homicidal activities. Susan acknowledges that she must fulfill her oath to Reid and calls Mathilda to the theatre in order to explain her past actions. In doing so, both Jackson and Susan realise that their work in Whitechapel is not quite done yet and make a plan to get Reid back. An old friend in Fred Abberline also returns to offer his assistance and the stage is set for them all to face Dove.

Come now, you never thought Jackson would truly desert Reid in his hour of need now, did you? That Reid certainly didn’t was a great moment of levity in a dark episode and also a reminder of the strength of the cast. Seeing the two of them in the cells is a small yet triumphant moment, a sign that our heroes might prevail after all, even with how dire the situation seems. Of course, in these moments, it’s hard to ignore the absence of Jerome Flynn’s Drake and it gives the scene an undercurrent of melancholy. However, with Nathaniel confessing to the murders, closure will be had for the departed officer.

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Nathaniel’s realisation, prompted by Susan, that he must finally face up to his crimes, is a key example of the ‘last good acts’ that the title refers to. The previous two series have focused largely on the way in which Reid and his companions have been haunted by the consequences of their more reckless and violent actions. Whitechapel, as Reid observes, has a mind of its own and threw forth an opponent in Dove who embodied those consequences and used them against each of the characters in turn. However, he’s a man who believed he had ensured the same retribution would not come for him, but he reckoned against both Reid and the betrayal of Nathaniel, who is finally aware of how alike he and ‘Gustus are.

The episode is not without its more permanent losses. Poor Frank Thatcher. He spent much of the fourth series swaggering through Whitechapel, largely untroubled and intoxicated by the power that being an inspector granted him. Faced with Shine, however, his conscience was brought forth and at that point, it felt as if the word ‘expendable’ had been stamped on the character’s forehead. He will likely prove the final nail in the coffin for Dove’s murderous career, another reason for Reid to ensure that the Commissioner falls and falls hard. Thatcher’s death is the most tragic moment of the series so far, a man offered his chance for redemption and cut short in the process of achieving it.

Returning to the ongoing battle between Dove and Reid, their confrontation scene in the middle of the episode, in which Reid is asked to betray his colleagues, talks of order and chaos. As he says of himself, he tried to keep order and found that Whitechapel would not allow it, pulling him towards chaos at all times. The key difference is that now, Reid is embracing it and using it to his advantage, whilst Dove struggles to maintain the order he desires to control. This not only proves to be a beautiful summation of the adversaries’ different worldviews, but of Ripper Street as well.

The first two, maybe three, series of the show embodied that order of which Reid spoke; Jackson, Drake, and Reid were the heroes, Susan their associate, and the murderers of Whitechapel the villains that they caught. As the series has continued, the lines between good and bad have, by necessity, blurred. Difficult decisions are taken, mistakes are made, and blood finds its way on to the hands of all involved. Susan took her turn as a villain and Reid becomes the villain in the eyes of Whitechapel. Their world has descended into chaos and it has ensured that the series has continually improved and surprised as it has gone on. It’s a clever conceit and introducing it towards the end of its run snaps everything into focus.

With one episode remaining and all the major players of the fifth series are locked inside Leman Street station. That final moment of the doors locking and everyone facing each other in a stand off is a great tease for the series finale. Loose threads must be tied, villains must be fought, and heroes must surely win. Could we see a snap back from chaos into order?

Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, The Dreaming Dead, here.

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This review was first posted in October 2016.