Ripper Street Season 5 Review (Spoilers)

  • Title:  Ripper Street
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Matthew MacFadyen, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Jonas Armstrong
  • Network:  BBC (Co-Produced by BBC, BBC Worldwide, Amazon Prime, BBC America)
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Spoilers

Season 5 of Ripper Street opens where the previous season ended, with Edmund Reid, Capt. Homer Jackson, and Long Susan on the run. Reid’s sergeant, Drake, had been killed by Nathaniel, which they witnessed. Nathaniel is protected by his police inspector brother, Augustus Dove. Jedediah Shine returns to run Leman Street.

The season is driven by two forces: police corruption and personal loyalty. Not only is Augustus protecting his brother, but he’s willing to go to great extents to do so, including murdering anyone who knows the truth. Meanwhile, Reid’s existence now depends on loyalty – Jackson and Susan (who also have self-interest at heart, they know Reid is their best chance at survival), but the few honest coppers – Drummond and Thatcher, and also Reid’s daughter, Mathilda.

The third episode of this season tells Nathaniel’s story – not his past, which we’ve known since last season, but his present. Augustus Dove smuggles Nathaniel out of Whitechapel, and sets him up in a small house out on the moors, alone. Nathaniel catches eels in the nearby river, which he sells to the fishmonger. When for several days the fishmonger fails to arrive, Nathaniel says something to Augustus. He is basically both concerned and desperately needs people. Augustus warns against contact. Nathaniel ignores his brother, meets the fishmonger’s family, and discovers the old fishmonger has died. In due course, Nathaniel helps the young widow and her son. But also in the household is Caleb, the widow’s brother, a loathsome, brutish man. He’s the one who got drunk and killed his sister’s husband. He also abuses his sister. And, when working in the market, he mistreats Jews and overcharges them. Nathaniel gets closer to the widow. The brother finds out about it. Nathaniel and the brother fight – with the result that Nathaniel kills both the brother and the widow. The young boy, Robin, sees the murder and runs away to Whitechapel.

Augustus covers everything up, and takes in the injured Nathaniel in his own home. Augustus is also now raising Connor, the son of Homer Jackson and Long Susan. They had left the boy in the care of Bennett Drake and his wife, Rose, but after she’s widowed, she leaves Whitechapel and gives the boy to her childhood friend, Augustus.

The boy escapes, briefly. He’s taken in by Reid, Jackson, Susan, and Mimi – an old friend of Jackson who is rebuilding her theatre. However, the boy finds a newspaper that shows Reid and company as fugitives. So Robin runs. He’s found by one of the loyal police officers. However, Augustus Dove quickly discovers the boy. Before Robin can tell all he knows to the police, Dove uses his personally loyal police from J Division to take the boy away. Dove kills the child and dumps him in the river.

Reid and Jackson find the body, and at that point Jackson decides, that’s it, it’s over. There is nothing Dove won’t do and nothing they can do to bring him to justice. At first Reid argues, but then he also accepts his fate, and buries the child.

Jackson (nee Matthew Judge) and his wife Long Susan (nee Kaitlyn Swift) decide to take Connor from Dove’s house and run. They burst in, guns blazing. They injure the police on duty, kill the governess, and confront Nathaniel who is holding Connor. Susan tells Nathaniel that Augustus killed Robin. Nathaniel gives Connor to her. Nathaniel asks Augustus about the boy’s death, and Augustus lies.

Drummond sets-up Reid, and he’s arrested. Shine is at the arrest and beats up Reid. Then Shine collapses and dies. Chief Inspector Fred Abberline returns to take charge at Leman St. Reid doesn’t talk much after his arrest, but does tell Thatcher (a loyal police officer) about Robin’s death and where he buried the body. Nathaniel, meanwhile follows Thatcher. He sees Thatcher recover the body and then witnesses Augustus shoot and kill Thatcher and dump him in the nearby river, before dumping the Robin’s body again. Once his brother is gone, Nathaniel recovers the body.

Nathaniel takes the body to Reid and company, and Susan convinces him to turn himself in. Susan also convinces Matthew that before they leave, she must tell Mathilda the truth. Susan confesses her sins, including murder, to Mathilda. One of the murders that she confesses to is one that Reid was blamed for. Susan convinces Nathaniel to turn himself in. The two do so together. Susan turns herself in to the police. Nathaniel turns himself in to the police. Augustus denies even knowing his brother. However, Jackson examines the body of the child, Robin. It turns out he had Scarlet Fever which now affects Mimi and Augustus Dove. Nathaniel and Susan are taken to Newgate Prison and eventually executed. Homor Jackson takes back his original name, Matthew Judge, and returns with Connor to the US. Reid goes back to policing, in Whitechapel.

The remainder of the final episode is a collection of Reid re-experiencing his memories of previous cases, including the unsolved Ripper murders. But also, everyone leaves Whitechapel. Mathilda marries Drummond anyway, and they move away. The two have a daughter. Mathilda excludes her father from her life. Mimi also leaves Whitechapel, but her theatre opens. Augustus Dove is arrested, sent to Newgate, and his paperwork intentionally lost. The police do not want to put him on trial because too much police corruption will be exposed. But they don’t want him loose either. Reid ends up, sitting behind his desk, at Leman Street, devoting every fiber of his being to policing and justice, as he had before when the series starts.

Ripper Street is still an excellent series. The episodes are intense. The entire cast, including Jonas Armstrong (previously seen in the BBC’s Robin Hood) as Nathaniel are fantastic. The themes of the season, police corruption and personal loyalty, intertwine in a dramatic fashion and play off each other. People switch sides. People try to serve justice, but make mistakes. At times, blind loyalty has high costs, but at other times, it’s the only way to solve the issues. Also, the costumes, lightening, sets, etc. are wonderful as they have always been in this series.

The only negative I had was I could not for the life of me understand the actor playing Jedediah Shine. I’m usually good with accents, but I found Shine’s mumbling impossible to understand and it wasn’t helped by his full beard and mustache. I ended up having to turn on the captions whenever he was on screen and turn them off when he was gone. As Shine is an important character, this wasn’t helpful.

Also, I missed the daily life in Victorian Whitechapel approach of previous seasons. Previous seasons of this show had really shown the darker edge of the Victorian Era, from disease to child labor. This season focuses entirely on the main characters, and our three main characters are on the run. While this laser focus helps the season itself, it also leaves a gap. We really don’t have any idea what else is going on in Whitechapel at the time. Still Ripper Street is an excellent series and I highly recommend it.

See also, My Review of Third Season Ripper Street and My Review of Fourth Season Ripper Street.