Ripper Street Recap: “Become Man”

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This week’s Ripper Street shifts focus from the Divison H headquarters onto the less macho—but no less hardscrabble—female realm. Things are still tense between Jackson and Long Susan following the revelation that she is indebted to her landlord, Silas Duggan—who’s been pressuring her for more than money. Susan refuses Duggan’s advances, struggling instead to pull together rent from her business, but a violent intrusion at the brothel threatens to unlace her reputation. While being serviced by a pretty new hire, an influential lawyer is kidnapped (leaving an ominous-looking bloodstain on his pillow), and Long Susan is taken with him.

The invasion is the second in a string of seemingly related attacks. Earlier in the episode at Blewett’s Theatre of Varieties, a member of the London County Council was nabbed from his seat during an on-stage blackout. After analyzing a pile of cigarette butts found in the alley outside the venue, Jackson determines that the culprits are likely women; the butts contain a brand of tobacco being marketed to ladies. Soon afterwards, Fred Best brings a letter to the station, supposedly penned by the abducted councilman, retracting any opposition he’d held to fellow councilmember Jane Cobden, an early advocate for women’s rights. Reid meets with Cobden, who says it would be political suicide to get involved with illegal activities. Her supporters, however, don’t have as much to lose.

As Long Susan gains deeper knowledge of her captors, led by the unmercifully rageful Raine Thornill, she is moved by their story of abuse and neglect, and sees parallels in her own situation. Raine watches over a group of London matchgirls, factory workers who suffered not only under brutal on-the-job conditions, but also from grave workplace-related illnesses. In Raine, Susan sees a level of autonomy beyond her reach as owner of a brothel. Despite the horrors she witnesses and the injuries she sustains while in the matchgirls’ keep, Susan is inspired. But her husband does not share or understand this point of view.