Screens: BBC

And If Ye Suffer For Self-Righteousness's Sake

Detective Inspector Edmund Reid doesn't just bear the scars of a burn. He can dole out a pretty sick one, too.

Reid is tough to take sometimes. He's the hero of Ripper Street, in theory, a smart guy, what Bunk would call natural police. But let's face it: he's also a giant, chalky pill whose crusade to bring the justice that eluded him and his family to the streets of Whitechapel can feel more like superior scolding than investigating.

I don't take his daughter Matilda's word for it, mind you. Matilda goes by "Alice" these days, and has spent most of the last few years in a basement "pupa," waiting for her wings to grow and doing a metric tonne of rambling about faeries and the wicked king, whom she identifies as Reid. It's all very Manic Pixie Supposed-To-Be-Dead Girl, literally, and the scene takes about a week to establish what we'd already guessed the minute Matalice showed up, but the child is so annoying that the enemy of my butterfly is my friend.

That said, Reid is typically snotty in "The Beating Of Her Wings," starting with his despairing comments about needing Jackson's help: "Anyone but the American." Happily for those of us who don't really understand why Reid has a sheaf of unconditioned wild hairs across his 'hole about Jackson's drinking when it seems not to have diminished either his fitness for "forensicality" or his enthusiasm for background research (and not for nothing, but we haven't heard complaints about whisky dick either), Jackson makes Reid eat it in exchange for Jackson's help on the Buckley/usury case. Evidently the bad blood currently between them stems on Jackson's side from Reid heaping him with scorn about the booze. Like, there was an actual heap of epithets, several of them pretty creative (I think Reid calls him a shit-smear at one point? hee), but still: calm down, Barry Nation.

Reid also sends a squadron of bobbies out to harass legitimate businesses, for reasons I confess I don't quite understand. I think it's to rattle Capshaw's cage, which I get, but he could just as easily demand Capshaw's ring and prove he's the one who backhanded Mrs. Buckley to death, and he doesn't, which I do not get, and Drake has to point out that, after tsking Drake any number of times for thinking a knuckle sandwich on pumpernickel is a proper interrogation device, Reid is now taking the same sort of thuggish measures -- and he's now a hypocrite as a result, especially since he sends the beat guys to do it. I mean, thanks for the backstory on why we don't toast with water, but if you want to Boss Tweed the neighborhood, go out and knock on some doors yourself maybe.

Did I...mention the whole "locking Drake and Jackson outside Matalice's cell and methodically pulping Buckley's skull on a support beam after he'd told Reid everything he knew, not because he was a monster but because he had the cheek to suggest Reid might be one" thing? Very bad show, bro. And I can't say I'm too thrilled with Drake giving him a five-minute head start. First of all, he used two minutes of it slo-mo-ing pointedly under a darkened overpass in case we missed that he's gone all Reid Of Darkness. Second of all, he sucker-punched Drake earlier. Don't do that.

BUT with ALL of that said, every now and then, Reid's Clenched Jaw O' Variably Rigid Morality is a welcome addition to a Ripper Street scene. In tonight's, having figured out a connection between the Buckleys, the rent collector, and Long Susan and Capshaw, he pays Susan and Capshaw a visit, wasting no time trapping Susan in a lie of sorts and thundering -- not that loudly, for Reid; just a little rumbling a few miles outside the city -- about statements "oozing" from Capshaw's mouth. Capshaw, btw, is a really fantastic villain, a murderous and lickspittling striver whose unctuous face covers a core of steely confidence that, while he's better than exactly no one, he's much smarter and more committed to getting over.

So what happens when he tries to make socially nice with a guy who thinks he's better than everyone?

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Matthew Macfadyen's tiny "that's hilarious: no" nod is so brilliant -- almost as brilliant as John Heffernan's "that's cute; I'm still going to get you for that" lip-twitch. Ripper Street makes you sit through a lot of baroque speechifying and frustratingly self-destructive character arcs, and sometimes you wonder why. Reid smugly leaving Capshaw hanging is one reason.

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