After the emotional roller coaster that was The Weight of One Man’s Heart episode six of Ripper Street had a tough act to follow.
As per usual I declare right from the start that there may be anachronistic errors scattered throughout the episode but if I can't see them for myself then I honestly don’t care about them.
There are spoilers within – consider this your one and only back away now warning.
PLOT: After a suspected Jewish radical Joshua Bloom is killed in an explosion Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Drake (Jerome Flynn) discover that his death was caused by a former Russian spy who is leading a protest down at the docks. Reid forces a reluctant Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) to go undercover and unearth the Russian’s true purpose. Once undercover Jackson discovers that the trio have stumbled upon a Special Branch investigation in which the leading officer Constantine (Derek Riddell) cannot be trusted. END PLOT
At the heart of the episode is the investigation into the murder of Bloom however the fantastically named Tournament of Shadows branches out into an almost confusing tail of espionage and corruption within the police force.
There is always a high level of social context with the workers and their protest for higher wages being the key theme for this episode. Reid sympathises with the workers’ plight but it is Jackson who appears to support their cause the most. Their argument over Jackson’s role in the investigation being one of the highlights of the episode. This exchange was fast paced with Macfadyen and Rothenberg really striking up a rapport with one another.
The strike itself was led by Peter Morris (Peter Ferdinando) who had some of the episodes best quotes with gems like “Revolution begins with decapitation of the state - who wants to carve the pig?” and “freedom is not given it is taken”.
Episode six has the most complex plotting of the series so far and plays out like a political thriller with the scenes between Reid and Commissioner Monroe (Michael McElhatton) and Constantine and Jackson being filled with tension.
Tournament of Shadows is very plot driven but it is also the episode when we finally learn of Reid’s past and his daughter Matilda.
After a frosty exchange with Emily (Amanda Hale) Reid tries and fails to clear out their daughter’s room. It is only when he meets the wonderful Mrs Goren (Lucy Cohu) at the orphanage does he open up about his past. This is an emotional scene which is brought to a close with Reid and Mrs Goren sharing a kiss. The kiss was not unexpected but it still came as a shock.
We hear the story from Reid however Constantine had much to say about the subject in later scenes with Reid. There is still plenty of this arc left to be revealed and Reid’s line to Mrs Goren “It was my fault and they knew…. they knew” only makes the matter more intriguing.
Jackson’s past has always been a mystery but his ability under pressure to spin a yarn and think on his feet is impressive. Jackson told Reid and Morris the same story about his time in Chicago from opposing points of view with both stories being equally convincing. Adam Rothenberg had more screen time than usual and he made the most of it – Tournament of Shadows was a great episode for Jackson who got several of the big dramatic scenes and as per usual the darkly comedic ones.
Jerome Flynn was very much side-lined in this episode to allow Reid and Jackson to take centre stage. Flynn had some good moments with Jackson and his background interaction with the children at the orphanage added more depth to Drake. It’s little character moments like this that makes Ripper Street such a strong show.
Mrs Goren is the episodes lead female character and has quickly turned into another of my favourites. The scene between Reid and Mrs Goren is one of the few times that Reid gets to show a bit of humour - “we intend to riot all the way down Leman Street”.
Tournament of Shadows covers a lot of ground in a sixty minute running time but it never feels rushed. The episode is very fast paced and gets the balance between case of the week and the main story arcs almost perfect.
At the minute Ripper Streets only downfall is that the episodes never seem to deal with the three main characters on an even basis. Tournament of Shadows gets a 9/10.
Lines of the week:
Reid: “I need you, could you consider that just once before your shelter and your church” (Reid to Emily). It was an emotional episode for Reid topped off by the fact that his wife has now moved on from wearing her mourning clothes. Emily almost comes off as harsh in this scene by not offering comfort to Reid but we know it isn’t that simple.
Drake: “I know this must be a difficult time for you and Mrs Reid. I know a year does not begin to ease the pain of losing her” (Drake to Reid) Drake tries to offer Reid comfort but does so rather awkwardly. Drake's reaction to Reid kissing Mrs Goren later on in the episode was a great moment.
Jackson: “My names Homer Jackson and I am all flesh and blood” (Jackson to Constantine). Quick witted, cocky and at times downright bitchy Jackson usually gets the best one-liners. He gets a full on movie style moment of badassery in Tournament of Shadows with this line.