Ripper Street Season 2 Review “Threads of Silk and Gold”

Ripper Street Season 2 Episode 5 Threads of Silk and Gold (1)

This week’s Ripper Street took viewers into the secretive world of homosexual prostitution and international investment speculation. The episode incorporates facts and ideas from the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889 and the events leading to the Panic of 1890.

We begin with two telegram men, Vincent and David, fantasizing about how the will spend money they receive from their extortion plot. They have stolen a folio of documents from a Barings Bank employee, Quint, and are demanding payment for its return. They believe the documents are valuable enough that Quint will pay whatever they ask. They don’t know that Quint has enlisted a hired thug, who we later find out works for the bank’s manager, to retrieve the documents.

In the beginning, we see Reid’s officers arresting individuals participating in homosexual prostitution. With the exception of Reid, the officers have a derogatory opinion of homosexuals that they don’t hesitate to express. While the insults fly, Reid hangs back and doesn’t join in. He also doesn’t stop the slurs, though. This is an effective way to bring in modern sensibilities for our main character, without making him completely unbelievable.

The thug murders one of the telegram boys, Otto, because he mistakenly believes he is David. Reid and his men become involved in solving the crime. During this process, Reid and Drake learn that the telegram boys are being used for prostitution throughout the city. The prostitution of telegram boys has historical origins in the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889. The officers there learned that a man operated a male brothel for an aristocratic clientele. A young, telegram boy was arrested and confessed that he and several other telegram boys worked at the brothel.

Reid comes across the name Quint in a ledger. The police eventually arrive at Quint’s house and discover that he is dead of an apparent suicide. Alongside the body is a note that contains a confession for Otto’s murder. We know Quint didn’t kill Otto and that Quint was most likely murdered by the thug.

Jackson provides his valuable autopsy skills on Otto and Quint. As to the first body, he explains that the boy was strangled and that there was evidence the boy was involved in homosexual activities. Drake expresses his revulsion for such people, while Jackson has a more progressive attitude. Jackson’s attitude is consistent with his general disinterest in others’ lives. As to the second body, Jackson confirms that Quint was murdered.

From this point, Reid and Drake tease apart the connections between Quint, the bank, and the telegram boys. Franklin Stone is Quint’s former boss and runs Barings Bank. After eventually receiving Quint’s folio, Reid figures out that Stone has been engaging in unethical behavior with Baring’s Argentinian investments. This is also has historical origins in events leading up to the Panic of 1890. Barings’ investments caused a serious economic crisis in 1880s England. Barings engaged in risky underwriting in Argentina. When that country got to the brink of default on its debt payments, Barings was in trouble because it did not have the funds to cover the debt. Before Barings could fail, a group of banks got together and bailed Barings out. Sounds a bit like modern day banking. On Ripper Street, given Barings’ precarious position, it is unsurprising that Stone is willing to take so many lives to preserve the bank’s interests.

Still searching for the folio, the thug next targets Vincent. After a scuffle, Vincent is stabbed multiple times and Drake rushes in to arrest the thug. Reid knows that there is a connection between the prisoner and Stone, but neither man will disclose it. Fortunately, justice is done when David eventually kills Stone.

The economic turmoil has more casualties than just Otto, Quint and Victor. Ignoring Long Susan’s wishes, Jackson invests all their money in Argentine mining. When Reid reads from Quint’s folio, Jackson realizes that all the money has been lost. This is a rough episode for Jackson. Long Susan kicks him out of their home when she discovers what he’s done, he’s financially ruined, and Duggan beats him to a pulp. Jackson is becoming less and less of a sympathetic character with each bad decision.

The most remarkable part of this episode is the treatment of homosexuality. At nearly every turn, a modern, progressive view is presented. Reid is disinterested in targeting homosexuals for breaking the law and suggests to Drake that such relationships should not be criminalized. Quint’s wife explains to Reid that she loved her husband, even though she knew he was gay. She says that their relationship was built around companionship. Finally, Drake’s wife attempts to convince him that people should be allowed to love who they love, without sanction from the law. While these are all laudable opinions, I am not sure how accurate they are to that time period. I can see how maybe one of the characters would provide a more compassionate point of view, but the fact that so many did struck me as out of place with that time period.

In addition to the main action, we have some smaller stories set up for future episodes. A woman recognizes Drake’s wife on the street, who then panics. Reid visits Miss Cobden, who tells him that she will not be his mistress and he says he can’t divorce his wife. Long Susan will have to face the consequences of Jackson’s actions. There needs to be some sort of confrontation between Duggan and Long Susan. I worry that her financial ruin will make her resort to prostitution herself. If she has sex with Duggan, it will completely change her character.

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