When the episode “Men of Iron, Men of Smoke” begins, we see a flashback from 8 years previous. We flash ahead and see a group of men playing football. The men in blue win, yet one of the players, Wilbur Wren (Rob Compton) is unable with the circumstances. He grabs his teammate and head butts him, before a massive brawl breaks out. After the intro scene, we switch over to Susan (MyAnna Buring) and Jackson (Adam Rothenberg). The pair share a romantic drink on the water, while discussing their future. Susan remains adamant about fleeing the city and taking Connor along with her. Although Jackson doesn’t seem thrilled with the idea, he doesn’t refuse it either. Next, Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) head to the local ironworks and chat with the foreman, Felix Hackman (Owen Teale).
Felix invites the men into his office, before he is questioned about Charlie Tanner. Felix quickly learns that Charlie has been beaten to death with a hammer. Felix reveals he took Charlie in approximately 10 years ago and has raised him ever since. He admits to taking in all kinds of seedy people, but insists the ironworks made a man out of Charlie. He also reveals that he forces the men to refrain from alcohol, before admitting that they have their own football team. Reid scours through the man’s office and discovers a commemoration to St. Sebastian. Although Felix insists Charlie was his best worker and best player, Reid remains suspicious that all of the other boys would feel the same. The inspectors are given permission to speak with the boys. During their conversation, they run into the foul mouthed Wilbur, who attempts to convince them that the gasworks team had something to do with the murder.
Felix admits the two teams brawled, during their game yesterday. Drake looks through paperwork for the ironworks and identifies a memorable name, Thomas Gower (Jake Mann), but remains hesitant that Gower is the Thomas he knew. Of course, it is and the men run into their old comrade moments later. Drake admits he thought about the boy constantly and wondered, if he would thank him or curse him for putting him on the boat and shipping him to the army. Gower seems happy with the situation and admits he was honorably discharged. Gower admits the men changed his life. The conversation quickly turns to Charlie Tanner and Gower insists he was one of the good ones. Back in the dead room, Jackson and Thatcher (Benjamin O’Mahony) inspect Tanner’s body. Jackson is quickly able to identify the cause of death, thanks to the hammer protruding from the man’s head.
Reid and Drake enter moments later. Thatcher is sent to collect names from the gasworks boys, while Jackson is asked to look for fingerprints on the hammer. Jackson and Drake spar back and forth or Connor, while Jackson forcibly removes the hammer from Charlie’s head. Drake consults with Reid regarding the situation in private. Reid insists they shouldn’t do anything to convince Jackson to stop helping them solve murders. Moments later, Drake receives a visit from Gower. Gower opens up about Charlie and Wren’s tumultuous relationship and implies Wren might’ve had something to do with the murder. He also tells Drake about their fight at the football game. Drake dispatches one of his men to detain Wilbur, before inviting Gower to dinner. Next, Susan searches through Abel Croker’s (David Threlfall) warehouse and discovers some silk clothing.
Susan is confronted by Abel and Nathaniel (Jonas Armstrong). Susan inquires why the item hasn’t been documented and if Abel snatched it from the Queen’s customs house. The men remain silent and Abel insists Susan needs to keep her prying eyes closed. Susan speaks with Nathaniel outside and attempts to coax him into showering her his secret. Nathaniel admits he feels like he owes Croker a great deal, while Susan attempts to flatter him. Moments later, Gower shares dinner with the Drake family. He tells Rose and Bennet about his time in the army. During their conversation, Gower admits he wants to find something more useful than the ironworks. Drake attempts to convince him to join him at Leman Street, but he seems uninterested in the offer. Gower is adamant that he wants to be able to do something helpful, aside from killing people.
When asked if he would like wine or beer, Gower refuses and admits the ironworks makes them remain sober. Next, Wilbur Wren is captured by Thatcher and taken into custody. Wilbur quickly admits to his hatred for Charlie, but denies having a role in his murder. Instead, he insists he went to the gin shop and went home. Wilbur quickly acknowledges that Gower has ratted on him and insists Thomas is nothing, but a drunk. Back in the dead room, Jackson confirms he will be unable to acquire prints from the murder weapon. Drake quickly decides to travel to Tanner’s room and have Jackson inspect it thoroughly. Drake is adamant that Wren had to be there, but Jackson suspects Reid has other ideas. Upon arriving at the crime scene, Jackson mentions a doctor, Piotrowski, who has been studying blood splatter, by brutally killing rabbits.
While inspecting the room, Jackson discovers a floorboard, which is weak. He removes it and finds a bloody shirt, which is believed to be connected to Thomas Gower. Next, Deborah Goren (Lucy Cohu) pays a visit to Rachel Castello (Anna Koval) and discovers her chatting with Mathilda Reid (Anna Burnett). After Mathilda departs, Rachel tells Deborah about Mathilda and Edmund’s documents regarding Isaac’s case. Deborah belittles her judgment and insists she shouldn’t use Mathilda to gain intel on the case. Back in the dead room, Jackson asks Reid about his suspicion regarding Gower. Reid doesn’t answer, but does admit Jackson should proceed with the blood splatter patterning test. Jackson agrees and tasks Thatcher with acquiring a large number of rabbits. Reid returns to the ironworks and inspects Felix’s office. He discovers football game plans, as well as a strange necklace.
Next, he chats with Felix. Felix talks about his problems with the Unions. Felix talks about his father’s old profession of creating watches. He admits his hands were build for watch making. Felix eventually reveals that Thomas Gower was sacked that morning for showing up drunk. Felix also insists that Gower’s military records were nothing, but lies. Reid returns to the station and orders Sgt. Drum (Matthew Lewis) to acquire information about Gower’s military history. Drum agrees to do so, but only after Reid uses his daughter as leverage. That night, Drake receives a visit from a drunken Gower. Gower reeks of alcohol and tells Drake about his dismissal, before he is allowed inside. The men chat about Gower’s time in the army and the new machine guns. Rose ridicules Bennet’s decision for bringing the known murderer into their home, but he insists he saved the boy from the rope and it is his responsibility.
Drake allows the boy to spent the night at his home. Later, Susan and Nathaniel travel through the sewers and emerge inside of the Queen’s vault. Susan spots a sealed door, which makes her mouth water. Nathaniel insists they need to obey Croker and leave the door alone. Susan refuses to listen and approaches. She is nearly caught by guards, but makes her escape with a logbook in toll. When they return to Abel, Nathaniel is beaten for his betrayal. Susan steps in and insists Abel should be beating her. She shows them the log book and insists the jewelry inside of the vault is her escape. Although Abel doesn’t seem interested in getting involved, he does seem inclined to offer his assistance to a friend. In the morning, Drake attempts to comfort Rose, by insisting they’ll get better with Connor with time. He also prepares to wake Gower.
When Drake awakes the boy, he freaks out and attacks. He vomits on the floor, while Rose demands his departure. Gower rushes out. Back at the station, Reid gains information about Gower’s military record. He discovers that Gower was actually dishonorably discharged for fighting with comrades. He beat and blinded another fellow soldier. Reid confronts Drake with the information, while admitting that men do not change. Drake is upset with the fact that Reid conducted the investigation behind his back. Drake still remains adamant that the new information doesn’t mean Gower killed Tanner. Reid agrees, but admits it gives them enough reason to question him. With that, they need to track him down and Drake knows exactly where he could be. We see Deborah caring for Gower, before Reid and Drake arrive outside.
Drake and Reid take the boy into custody. On the way out, Deborah ridicules the inspectors for refusing to acknowledge Isaac Bloom’s innocence. She primarily targets Reid about his decision to return to White Chapel, yet failing to help Bloom. In the interrogation room, Reid manages to convince Thomas to tell the truth. He admits he was in the room, when Tanner was killed. However, he first insists he was attacked and was unable to see who killed the boy. After a little leading from Reid, Tanner confesses to the crime. Once they head back into the lobby, Jackson shatters Reid’s hope with his blood splatter evidence. Jackson reveals that, if the shirt is Gower’s, he isn’t the killer. He also reveals that Tanner had something around his neck, but it was torn off by the murderer.
Thatcher enters moments later and is granted permission to use Jackson’s dead rabbits for stew. Drake and Reid return to Gower. They attempt to convince him to help his friend now. Gower finally reveals that Tanner was offered a transfer and a new job with another company. He insists Tanner was given the opportunity to leave Whitechapel behind for good. He also confirms that Tanner wore a St. Sebastian pendant around his neck. Reid puts two and two together, before he and Drake head to the ironworks. They scour through Felix’s belongings and discover the necklace. They confront the man outside and he doesn’t deny his crimes. He admits he made Tanner who he had become and wasn’t willing to let him go so easily. When he is handcuffed, he reveals that his boys constructed the cuffs. Afterwards, Susan tells Jackson about her bright ideal for accumulating money and escaping the city.
Drake pays a visit to Gower. This time, Gower lashes out at Drake and admits sending him to the army was a big mistake. He tells Drake he is black wings towering over him and he may never feel the light again. Drake returns to the station and takes his frustrations out on Reid. He threatens to revoke Reid’s warrant card, if he oversteps him again. Gower attends church and admits he doesn’t believe in God, due to the things he has seen at war. He tells Deborah he should’ve never came here and rushes out. He heads down the dark street and gets drink, before being attacked by an unknown man. Gower is left on the ground to die and the man’s identity remains unknown. Next, Jackson agrees to take Susan to see Connor. They stare through the window at Connor, who eventually spots his mother. Jackson attempts to pull Susan away, but she stays. Rose enters and spots Susan just as she disappears.
Ripper Street Review
Men of Iron, Men of Smoke was yet another incredibly effective episode of Ripper Street. The fourth season has done a fantastic job of delving into past episodes and this one is no different. The return of Thomas Gower once again played up the role of parenthood, while also throwing a rift between Reid and Drake once more.
Susan has finally revealed her truth motive. Will Jackson really follow through with her plan to steal a large quantity of jewelry and escape with Connor? The episode also brought the Isaac Bloom case back into the picture. It is almost certain Edmund Reid hasn’t forgotten about his friend. What will he uncover? Again, another excellent episode, which deserves a 9 out of 10. Be sure to catch up with our other Ripper Street recaps immediately!