Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Killian Scott, Jonas Armstrong, Anna Burnett, Gerry O’Brien, Joseph Harmon, Lydia Wilson, Joseph Mawle, Kye Murphy, Kahl Murphy, Benjamin O’ Mahony, Matthew Lewis. Clive Russell, Anna Koval, Ruairi Heading, Matthew O’ Brien, Patrick Drury.
One of the finest writers of the late 19th and early 20th Century declared in his 1903 work of realism The People of The Abyss, that, “Such verdicts are crimes against truth. The Law is a lie, and through it men lie most shamelessly”. The American writer who had clothed himself in rags and got lost in destitution whilst collating notes and the words of the East End just after the death of Queen Victoria, might have been writing about the world as he saw it at that time but it was a world not so far removed from the days in which the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper preyed upon the psyche of the citizens of the East End of London.
The law is a lie, one that some might hide behind lest they get caught in the glare of publicity or their own admission of wrong doing; it is a lie that some find they cannot absolve themselves from or wish to confess to. It is the series of lies and falsehoods that Whitechapel’s respected Detective, Edmund Reid, wishes to confront Augustus Dove with; the truth of his association with the killer Nathaniel and his own methods of dispatching those who threaten his hand as Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard.
The penultimate episode of the fifth and final series of Ripper Street, A Last Good Act, is one in which the edifice of lies built up, the strange myths, the morals of police and murderers alike are called into question and remarked upon as blurring the lines between the levels of evil that man is capable of. It is an episode that sees faith in the system carefully driven to shame, the same sense of guilt that was in evidence among the people who lived in the West of London’s sprawling city as they looked down upon the working class and the forgotten left to their own devices in around Lehmen Street, Brick Lane, Cable Street and Miller’s Court.
Yiddish theatre actor, Jacob Adler, once wrote, “The further we penetrated into this Whitechapel, the more our hearts sank. Was this London?” Such was the shadow like violence that hung around the streets of Whitechapel that the lie told to the people of this allowed slum and terror breeding ground in Victorian England, was one in which many hearts sank, not only because of the unequal society that surrounded them, the feeling of an unnatural order that stalked them but also the allusion that around them that the law was a lie, one that no matter how well meaning the likes of Inspector Abberline or Inspector Edmund Reid were towards their charges and the general public at large, still could be looked upon as above the law.
A Last Good Act is a gripping penultimate episode, one of great reveals and social commentary.
Ian D. Hall