Like many, if not all, Ripper Street episodes, ‘Dynamite and a Woman’ finished up as a very different episode to the one we all started watching. Good job it’s so clear and easy to follow then. Ahem.
When an Irish convict and bomber escapes from a police van seemingly by chance, with his police guard quite literally dropping dead on the spot, Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) have lots to investigate. Said convict, Aiden Galvin played with suitable fierceness by Stanley Townsend, subsequently murders a bigoted anti-Irish MP. Despite being put onto the trail of the Irish Republican Brotherhood by the ever-shouty Detective Abberline (Clive Russell), Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) sends conveniently Irish young newbie Flight (Damien Molony) off to gain the trust of Galvin’s daughter, beautiful redhead barmaid Evelyn (Charlie Murphy). Meanwhile, with the help of surgeon Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) Reid and Bennett (Jerome Flynn) discover that Galvin’s guard was killed not by a sudden, unprompted heart failure, but by, and here’s the twist, electrocution. This catapults the team into a world of ferocious competition between the camps of AC and DC currents, live animal demonstrations and shady deals. Things only get more complicated when it turns out Evelyn has been receiving letters from America, from another man also claiming to be her father.
Got all that? Not to worry if not, there’ll be a moment about 45-48 minutes into the episode, a moment
I have now come to recognise and refer to as The Scene, during which all will be revealed very quickly during a furtive conversation, typically between Reid and Bennett. Still spoken at a whisper, mind you.
Complications aside, this wasn’t too shabby an episode. The current Ripper Street trope of basing its storylines, at least vaguely, on fact, was carried off well here, with references to Eddison’s experiments with Topsy the elephant when working to promote electricity in the States. There was also a genuine, real life opportunity for new boy Flight to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING. Which I’m sure was rather nice for him, especially as it meant he got to hang around a raucous pub and snog the barmaid, which must have been infinitely more fun for a young lad than an afternoon in a dingy police station with Reid and Bennett. Their short lived relationship was actually rather touching, particularly in light of her eventual departure for New York, and his reaction to both this and her instinct that he wasn’t who he said he was. Jackson and Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) were noticeably rather absent from this episode, presumably due to their heavy storyline in the previous one. This was a shame really, as their story arc was progressing rather interestingly, given her new found views and questioned loyalties. Here’s hoping she doesn’t go the way of the show’s Joseph Merrick, just another swiftly dropped bit part.
This was an interesting hour of drama, playing on some intriguing and innovative themes, and showing some genuine character development. As usual, however, it got bogged down in the detail and complexities. A marked improvement, still it would do well to learn that the simplest way of telling a story is often the best.