Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Episode 15 Moriarty the Patriot



 Since Moriarty, the Patriot set up its timetable in the 1880s I've been sitting tight for a Jack the Ripper storyline. The five “canonical” Ripper murders occurred in Whitechapel in 1888, so the time and place are ripe for the series to provide its own take on things. This episode, the first of another multi-part arc, quickly establishes itself to be taking place in November of 1888 by opening with the discovery of the corpse of Annie Chapman, the second of the Ripper's famous five victims. (Amusingly this is reported in the “Dairy Londoner,” which inadvertently sounds like a newspaper for London-dwelling dairy farmers.) Apart from this setup, however, most of the episode stays away from the most famous of murder cases, using the killer's reign of terror to facilitate the introduction of a new character and Bonde's integration into the team.

What is fascinating, notwithstanding, is that now Moriarty the Patriot is acquiring from an assortment of British wrongdoing fiction sources. Obviously, Irene Adler's new identity as James Bonde is a reference to Ian Fleming's 007 stories, but we also get shout-outs to Bram Stoker's Dracula and the 2012-2016 BBC TV series Ripper Street, although this last may be more of a coincidence than a deliberate reference. But given that this episode introduces the Ripper murders and that the TV show took place right after them, the presence of a police officer named “Arterton” (“Artherton” in Ripper Street) feels a bit too close for pure coincidence, especially since it would have been easy to use real-life policemen Abberline and Reid here. In any event, alongside Arterton, this episode introduces Jack Renfield, a retired soldier who mentored the three Moriarty boys in fighting when he served as their guardian's butler after the fire. Canny viewers will have already noted that “Renfield” is the name of Dracula's associate in Stoker's novel – and while Moriarty isn't a vampire, having his teacher bear the same name as Stoker's zoophagic character still feels fitting. His design, which hearkens back a bit to Sidney Paget's original illustrations of Moriarty, is another nice touch.

As far as what happens this week, it generally feels like an arrangement for what's to come, with the plot working, for the most part, to set up the new characters and to show how Bonde finds a place with the remainder of Team Moriarty. The latter is probably the most fun, albeit with a bit of an edge, because Moran is not having an easy time thinking of Bonde as a man. While it can read as transphobic, that may in part be due to Moran coming from a time when no one understood “transgender” even a little, and the fact that Bonde is having so much fun messing with him initially takes some of the stings out, at least in the context of the show and its setting. More importantly, Moran and Bonde start to form an alliance that Moran never saw coming, with the soldier taking the team's newest addition under his wing and helping him to understand how they function as a unit. For Bonde, it becomes about trying to find the place where what he wants and what works for the group coincide – saving the hostages is clearly his priority, but how to do it in a way that won't bring Scotland Yard (and possibly Holmes) down on their collective head is the real crux of the matter. That Bonde manages to do it and impress Moran seems to set the two up as a new dynamic duo, and how that develops could be worth keeping an eye on.

In the interim, with the indicated Ripper running free, the arrangement appears to move things towards a confrontation between the police and the occupants of Whitechapel. Arterton's mention of Bloody Sunday (one of many days to be so designated; he's referring to the incident in November of 1887, almost exactly a year prior to this episode's setting) confirms this, as that was a clash between police and demonstrators that no one had come out of unscathed. If he's more willing to hunt down vigilantes than murderers, that says a lot about him as a person, to say nothing of opening the door for Moriarty's intervention. It also is interestingly aligned with the view of the Ripper murders presented by Hallie Rubenfield in her book The Five, which posits that history – starting with the police and press of 1888 – elevates Jack the Ripper to celebrity status while largely demonizing the women he killed as sex workers who somehow deserved what they got. Rubenfield aims to change the way we tell their story. I wouldn't be surprised if that's also Moriarty's goal in his own, special way.

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